The Saints make too many mistakes to be taken seriously
As always, for our novice readers or non-New Orleanians, welcome!
Let’s start with some definitions:
Beignets (English: /bɛnˈjeɪ/; French: [bɛɲɛ], ben-YAY literally bump) are distinctly New Orleans, a delicacy intimately connected to the city’s rich French heritage. Best enjoyed heavily powdered with sugar.
This is your “After-Saints-Game” brunch, where we talk about the state of the Black and Gold, we debate the goings-on with the team and talk about what’s next at this point of the season. So, sit back, take a bite and a sip while your brain slowly wakes up, and let’s catch up on some football.
What Just Happened?
If you are here reading this piece, then it is likely that you watched the game of the week on Sunday afternoon, the defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs taking on the still-NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints. The Saints lost 32-29, but it is still a wonder how they even got within three points of the Chiefs in the game, let alone lead by a point early in the third quarter.
Throughout the offseason, the 2020 New Orleans Saints were touted as a Super Bowl contender. The team’s overall talent is magnificent, and with a future Hall-of-Famer at quarterback in Drew Brees, there seemed to be no doubt that New Orleans would be right there at the very end, contending for a place in Super Bowl LV in Tampa. Well, I am sorry to burst your bubble New Orleans fans, but these Saints would be lucky to get out of the Wild Card round of the playoffs, which is where they are now headed, having lost the top seed in the NFC by virtue of an inexplicable loss to a bad Philadelphia Eagles team two Sundays ago.
Super Bowl contender? Not in my eyes. An NFC Super Bowl contender does not fail to score a single point in an entire half in Philly, falling behind 17-0. The Saints had eight penalties against Philadelphia, then they upped that to 10 penalties for 93 yards against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Linebacker Alex Anzalone failed to fall on a loose ball that was begging to be picked up in the Chiefs’ end zone for a touchdown, instead batting it out of the end zone for a safety. Rather than seven, the Saints settle for two, a five-point swing in a game they lost by three. All-pro defensive end Cameron Jordan, one of the team’s leaders, threw a punch and got ejected from the game early in the fourth quarter with his team trailing by only six points (21-15). On the very next play, the Chiefs exploited Marcus Davenport, Jordan’s replacement, and scored a touchdown to stretch their lead to 29-15 after a two-point conversion. Drew Brees threw a hideous interception and started the game 0-for-5 passing, the first time in his illustrious NFL career. The wide receivers couldn’t get open, the top tight end ran the wrong route. So many mistakes that an otherwise strong showing by the defense, which was on the field for 92 total plays and 41:14 minutes, went largely unnoticed.
This Saints team is not a Super Bowl contender, it is merely a playoffs contender. How far it can go in a postseason for which it has already qualified will be contingent on Sean Payton being able to make a lot of improvements in his team, and a little bit of luck in the health department, as New Orleans was without its top wide receiver yesterday, Michael Thomas, who is back on Injured Reserve with the ankle injury that has hampered him since week one.
Beignets and Café au Lait Awards
Stale Beignets, Lukewarm Café au Lait: Drew Brees
To his defense, the Saints’ starting quarterback hadn’t played any competitive football in about a month and boy, it showed. Were you like me in the first quarter, wondering whether the man wearing number 9 in the black jersey was an impostor, some kind of doppelganger impersonating one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history? Brees started the game missing on his first five passes (an NFL first for him). The Saints had zero first downs on their first four drives, the first time the team had done so since 2004, when Brees was playing in San Diego and Sean Payton was with the Dallas Cowboys. He then threw a terrible pick, although he wasn’t helped a whole lot by the ragtag team of wide receivers New Orleans trotted out last night, apart from Emmanuel Sanders who was the lone bright spot.
All that said, Brees said he was ready to play, and as such, his performance left much to be desired. New Orleans was (take a deep breath) 1-for-11 on third down against the Chiefs. They punted eight times. We have seen great quarterbacks make average, covered wide receivers look good. Last night, Drew Brees was not a great quarterback, let’s hope that improves.
Tons of Beignets, Unlimited Café au Lait Refills: The Saints’ Defense.
I know: for a team that gave up 32 points, 411 total yards, 9-for-18 (50%) on third down, this may not make sense when taken at face value. But when you consider the fact that the Saints’ offense gave them literally no help, New Orleans held Patrick Mahomes to just 26 of 47 passes (55%) and 254 yards. Mahomes had come into the game with six consecutive games of 300-plus yards passing. They sacked the unreal Chiefs’ quarterback four times, turned him over once, and safety Marcus Williams should have had an interception. The Saints’ defense is as advertised and apart from a hideous hiccup against the Eagles in week 14, unlike the whole of the team, this is a championship defense. Now if the rest of the team (looking at you, offense) would just catch up, maybe then we could start talking Super Bowl again.
Now being 0-for-2 in attempts to win a fourth-straight division titles, the Saints will have yet another chance when they welcome the beleaguered Minnesota Vikings (6-8) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Friday afternoon at 3:30 ET. New Orleans needs only one win out of its remaining two games to claim the NFC South crown. After a surge that saw them win five of six games, the Vikings have now lost two in a row, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and to the Chicago Bears (at home!). Minnesota is all but out of contention for a playoffs berth, and injuries have decimated their defense. But then again, who is the Saints’ offense really scaring these days? Maybe the children.