The New Orleans Saints 2022 season hasn’t started the way they would have liked it to. If it weren’t for their furious rally in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, they would be staring down the barrel of an 0-4 start. They won that game, but their most recent loss in Week 4 at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings has ensured that their losing streak would be extended to three games.
The Saints have been bruised and battered early on in the season, and they went into this contest against the Vikings significantly shorthanded. Still, they stayed with a deep Minnesota offense throughout this game, and very nearly pulled out a victory. But Wil Lutz’s 61-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation did a double-doink before bouncing out, ensuring the Vikings would hold on for the win.
It was a tough way for New Orleans to lose, especially after they kept the Vikings offense quiet for long stretches of the day. And even with the loss, there are quite a few positives that came from this game. Let’s take a look at the three biggest takeaways from the Saints Week 4 contest and see why things could improve for them moving forward.
3. Saints WR Chris Olave is the real deal
The Saints wide receiver corps was expected to be led by Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry this season. Yet through four games, it’s clear that 2022 first-round draft pick Chris Olave has been the best pass catcher of the group. Olave had another big game against Minnesota, and is quickly emerging as one of the best rookies in the NFL.
Olave didn’t have nearly as big of a game as he did in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers when he hauled in nine passes for 147 yards, but he still posted a solid statline of four catches, 67 yards, and his first career NFL touchdown. Olave paced the Saints in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns on the day, despite playing with Andy Dalton under center rather than Jameis Winston.
Both Thomas and Landry have been dealing with injuries, and they could take targets away from Olave once they get healthy. But early on, Olave has proven himself to be a strong playmaker for a Saints offense that has been robbed of most of their top offensive players. He should continue to have some strong outings, even if Thomas and Landry can get healthy.
2. The Saints defense did all they could to slow down the Vikings offense
If New Orleans wanted to win this game, they knew they were going to have to keep a potent Minnesota offense quiet. And while they didn’t totally shut them down, they limited the Vikings to just two touchdowns on the day. They had to settle for five field goals from Greg Joseph, which obviously is less than ideal, highlighting the Saints “bend but don’t break” attitude in this one.
The Saints shut down the dangerous Dalvin Cook on the ground for most of the day, which was a big first step. Cook was dealing with a shoulder injury, but you don’t need your shoulder to run. Cook managed to gut this one out, and he still showed his burst, but he was limited to 3.8 yards per carry on the day, which is a huge win for New Orleans.
In the air, Justin Jefferson had a big game, but he’s usually going to do that. The Saints did a good job at disrupting Kirk Cousins rhythm throughout the day, which prevented them from making it to the end zone as often as they should have. New Orleans’ defense has had their fair share of injuries early in the season, but they proved against Minnesota’s deadly offense that they still have what it takes to stop their opponents when they need to.
1. If the Saints can get healthy, they could make some noise in the NFC South
Usually being 1-3 through four games wouldn’t be a great sign, but things aren’t as bad as they seem for the Saints. No team has a record above 2-2 in the NFC South right now, which leaves the door wide open for the Saints. When they are healthy, they are better than both the Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t looked great to open the season, meaning the Saints could emerge as a serious contender in their division.
In order to do that, though, they need to get healthy. From the get go, the Saints have been depleted on offense. Winston, Thomas, Landry, and Alvin Kamara have all been dealing with injuries, and that has limited their ability to move the ball. Dalton showed against Minnesota that he can hold down the fort while Winston recovers from his back injury, which is a pretty encouraging sign.
Winston may be able to take his time getting healthy, because if Thomas and Kamara can return to the field, the Saints will be in a good spot to make a charge up the NFC South standings. The door is wide open for them to make some noise, and if they can get healthy, it will be interesting to see what they can do, even with their slow start to the season.