Marshon Lattimore’s return was every bit the boost the Saints defense needed
The New Orleans Saints defied the odds Sunday with a 20-10 road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. A whopping 98% of experts chose the Eagles to get win for a third straight season when hosting the Saints on their home turf, even with MVP quarterback Jalen Hurts out and backup signal caller Gardner Minshew in.
For the Saints, it was their defense that set the tone against the NFL’s best offense and a huge part of their success was found in the return of star cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
We highlighted the importance of Lattimore’s return pregame when it was announced that he would be taking the field for the first time since suffering a lacerated kidney in their Week 5 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.
The four-time Pro Bowler had more interceptions against the Eagles than any other franchise throughout his career (3) and added to that total with his second career pick-six. That defensive score would be the turning point in what was proving to be a back-and-forth matchup despite the Saints’ early imposing of their will.
Marshon Lattimore has 4 interceptions in 5 games against the Eagles. He owns them. pic.twitter.com/0WaJ0NQ7Iv
— 𝙇𝙖𝙯𝙖𝙧𝙪𝙨 (@Lxzarus_) January 2, 2023
Lattimore stepped in front of a Minshew pass to star wideout A.J. Brown after picking up on the Eagles’ tendency in the first half. The quick slant was one the Philadelphia offense went back to consistently, particularly early in drives and in their own territory. Lattimore had surrendered a short catch on a similar route targeting wide receiver DeVonta Smith in an earlier drive. This time, when Minshew went to Brown deep in Eagles territory, Lattimore was ready.
“They had been doing it all game,” Lattimore said in his postgame press conference. “You know, I just picked up on it. And when it came to me, I had to get it. I told my team that I owed them from the first half. You know, I owed them that so I did it.”
MARSHON LATTIMORE PICK-6️⃣ IN HIS FIRST GAME BACKpic.twitter.com/BS1RLZV5Gq
— PFF (@PFF) January 1, 2023
That defensive score was the first of the Saints’ season and it came off of the first interception reeled in by a Saints cornerback. There have been only four other interceptions by the New Orleans defense this season, to by safety Marshon Lattimore, one by Pro Bowl linebacker Demario Davis, and one last week in Cleveland by safety Daniel Sorenson.
This has not been the season the Saints had hoped for by many measures but the defense was expected to be the strongsuit and identity of the team. While they struggled to find consistency early, they have been the model for it over the closing stretch of the season. The Saints’ defense has not allowed more than 20 points in their last seven games, allowing just 13.6 points per game over their last five. In a game where New Orleans also piled on six sacks, three of which by the franchise’s leader in sacks defensive end Cam Jordan, Lattimore’s big moment shows that the Saints defense can be but what many expected it to be all along.
Obviously, injury and availability has played a role this season as well. The Saints intended starting secondary of corners Lattimore, Paulson Adebo and Bradley Roby with safeties Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu have still not taken a single snap together in 2022. With just one game left and no participation from Maye throughout last week’s practice, that could mean they never will this season. But having Lattimore back in uniform on Sunday’s is a massive boost for this team and the defense that has turned things around.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, they won’t get a chance to take advantage of it beyond Week 18 having been eliminated from postseason contention. But the performance is one that should excite the organization and fanbase about what lies ahead of the offseason goes well.
All-in-all the return of Marshon Lattimore could mean much more than just one win late in a season against a very good opponent. It shows that when the team is full-strength, they are a force not the taken lightly. That could take them a long way in a division that could be getting even worse before 2023.
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Ross Jackson has been the host of the daily Locked On Saints podcast, covering the New Orleans Saints since 2018. Since then, his host role has expanded to include co-hosting Locked On NFL on Tuesdays with a focus on in-depth analysis on the biggest stories across the NFL and fantasy football. Ross is also a contributor for Saints Wire, part…