Saints Defense Leads Shutout of Dolphins in London

In two trips to London, England, the New Orleans Saints are 2-0 after a 20-0 win over the Miami Dolphins. The game started shaky for New Orleans after headset communication problems in the first quarter and the fact that the defense wasn’t as sharp as it had been a week earlier against the Carolina Panthers.

The Saints head into their bye week 2-2 thanks to a defense that vastly improved from the start of the season.

Miami took the opening kickoff and started a methodical drive down the field using a mixture of running and passing plays. On a first-and-goal from the Saints’ four-yard line, Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler floated a pass into the end zone that Saints cornerback Ken Crawley picked off.

The interception ended the best drive Miami put together all day long. The New Orleans offense put together a 14-play drive that stretched into the second quarter but ended in a missed 41-yard field goal from Wil Lutz.

Neither team did much with the ball after their opening drives until the Saints took possession with 1:10 left in the first half. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees worked the team down the field, grabbing a 3-0 lead off a 43-yard field goal from Lutz.

New Orleans offense stayed hot at the beginning of the second half. The Saints took the opening kickoff and went on an 11-play drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown pass from Brees to wide receiver Michael Thomas and gave New Orleans a 10-0 lead.

Miami wasn’t able to do anything on offense in the second half. The best Dolphins drive of the second half lasted just five plays. New Orleans added a 45-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter, going up 13-0.

The Saints put the game away for good when Brees found rookie running back Alvin Kamara with a shovel pass for a 12-yard touchdown pass. New Orleans touchdown made it a three-score game with under four minutes to play, basically ending any chance Miami had to make a comeback.

Miami’s offense could only muster 186 total yards as the New Orleans defense gained confidence all game. The Dolphins’ drive chart was one of the worst all Sunday: interception, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, end of game.

New Orleans didn’t need much offense but got 347 total yards with Brees throwing for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Brees and the offense avoided turning the ball over for a fourth straight game.

The Saints became the third team since 1933, the first year of the forward pass in the NFL, to not commit a turnover in four straight games at the beginning of the season. The other two teams are the 1995 St. Louis Rams and 2013 Tennessee Titans. Both the Rams and Titans finished the season 7-9, a fate New Orleans is trying to avoid for the fourth straight year.

Miami made some history with its performance in becoming the first team to fail to score in London. This is just the second shutout of the NFL International Series, with the first coming in 2011 in a Buffalo Bills 23-0 win over the Washington Redskins in Toronto, Canada.

This is the first shutout for New Orleans since the team beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41-0 at home in December 2012. By virtue of being the road team in London, this is the first road shutout from the Saints since a Christmas Eve 12-0 win over the New York Jets in the season final.

New Orleans enters its bye week with a 2-2 record in large part thanks to the improvement of its defense. The unit gave up 1,025 total yards and forced zero turnovers in the first two games against the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots. In the last two games, the defense has surrendered just 474 total yards and forced four turnovers against the Panthers and Dolphins.

Any team in the NFL can win giving up just over 200 yards on defense. But this is a major improvement for the weakest part of the New Orleans team. The defense will be tested coming out of the bye week in back-to-back games, first at home against the Detroit Lions and then a road trip to the Green Bay Packers. Both teams have strong offenses that can put up points quickly.