Landry provided Saints exactly what they expected of him

Published 12:46 pm Thursday, September 15, 2022

By John DeShazier

New Orlean Saints

METARIE, La — Perhaps the Atlanta Falcons secondary was taken by surprise.

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After all, Jarvis Landry’s NFL reputation hasn’t been one of a deep threat. He worked his magic in the intermediate and underneath routes for the better part of his previous eight seasons, never averaging more than 14.1 yards per catch in a season (in 2019), and once averaging 8.8 yards per catch while leading the league with 112 receptions (in ’17).

But that’s not the box into which Landry belongs, and he showed it in the season opener on the most important drive of the game for the New Orleans Saints. With 48 seconds left and the Saints trailing the Falcons 26-24, on first-and-10 from the New Orleans 20-yard line, Landry blazed past Falcons cornerback Casey Hayward and caught a 40-yard pass down the left sideline before safety Richie Grant could rotate over to help.

Two plays later, Wil Lutz kicked a 51-yard field goal that gave New Orleans a 27-26 lead, and the largest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history after the team trailed 26-10.

Landry, who had game highs in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (114) in his debut for the team he grew up watching, said he always have been capable of providing that kind of play.

“I think a lot of that comes with the style of offense that’s being played and the positions that coaches put you in to make plays,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m a firm believer in you create one-on-ones for guys to go and make plays.

“When they can’t make plays one-on-one – no matter if it’s intermediate, short or deep passes – you have to find a way to replace it. In my career, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities but in the opportunities that I have had, I think I have a pretty decent track record of making plays down the field.”

The Saints were cognizant of that when they signed the unrestricted free agent.

“We envisioned a player that was gonna make plays,” Coach Dennis Allen said. “And certainly, that’s what he did in this past game.

“I think he’s got the ability to get down the field vertically, to work underneath, to work intermediate. I think he’s got all the ability. He’s got the ability to block on the edge – he’s tough, he’s smart, he’s competitive. He’s exactly what we’re looking for.”

The play call in that situation, and the coverage, was exactly what the Saints needed.

“Me and (offensive coordinator) Pete (Carmichael) called that play on the sideline before we even went out there,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “I didn’t know, I didn’t expect that coverage. I just knew, I’ve got three weapons – him, Chris (Olave) and Mike (Thomas) – so I’m going to give one of them a chance.

“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time situations. Simple as that. That’s Jarvis’ game, he has some of the best hands in the league and I’m thankful that I get to toss him the rock. A lot.”

Landry lined up wide left, Olave was in the slot inside of him and Thomas lined up outside on the right.

“That play is put in for those situations,” Landry said. “We knew the ball was going to go up to one of the three of us, and a play was going to need to be made.”

Offensively, a buffet of plays was made in the fourth, when Winston completed 13 of 16 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Landry had two catches for 16 yards in the first half, but caught four passes for 92 yards in the fourth, adding a 31-yarder that helped set up a touchdown.

“The urgency was there,” he said. “It was all or nothing at that point for us. We began a two-minute type of offense, guys started to make plays, we were able to push the ball down the field, get some catch-and-runs and before you know it, we were scoring points and the defense was getting us the ball back.”

Two forced punts and limiting Atlanta to a field goal gave the offense a chance, and Landry helped the unit cash in. Winston said he didn’t expect anything less, having developed a rapport while working with Landry during the summer, before Landry became a Saint.

“It started in the offseason, and it started in Miami,” Winston said. “We got some great work there. He just knows when to turn it on and play football. He’s an elite football player, he’s been doing this for a long time. So when the lights come on, he’s ready.”

And when Landry visited New Orleans as a free agent, Winston turned pitchman.

“When I saw him walking in the building, I was like, ‘Oh, man, I can’t let this one get away,’ ” Winston said. “Because he’s such a prominent player. He’s such a great leader and his love for the game is similar to mine. I love him.”