Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Five Saints numbers you might not believe, yet they are true
“Someone said: “numbers never lie.” And that was a lie, because sometimes numbers lie. But they don’t lie all the time, and that’s the truth.” – Anonymous.
The New Orleans Saints (1-0) won their season opener for the second consecutive year after beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-23 on Sunday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. You have to go back to the 2009 and 2010 seasons for the last time the Saints won their season-opener in consecutive years. Incredible isn’t it? Even in 2011, one of the most successful seasons in Saints’ history, New Orleans lost 42-34 on the road at Green Bay en route to a 13-3 record and a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs.
After only one game in the 2020-2021 season, there are already some very interesting numbers regarding the Black and Gold. Here are five of them:
And counting! But for now, that incredible figure is the number of passes attempted by Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees during his illustrious, and still ongoing NFL career. Brees holds so many NFL records that most of us have lost count of them. This is the latest in a long list that will accompany him right into the pro-football hall-of-fame when his career is over. In case you were wondering, Brees passed former NFL quarterback Brett Favre on Sunday, as Favre sits at 10.169 pass attempts. Brees’ opponent this past Sunday, Tom Brady, ranks third on the list with 10,024 attempts. Rounding out the top five are retired quarterbacks Peyton Manning (9,380) and Dan Marino (8,358). By the time they’re enshrined in Canton, one can expect that Brees and Brady will be sitting atop this list well clear of everyone else.
The total net yards for the Saints offensively on Sunday against the Buccaneers. This is an interesting number for several reasons: the last time that the Saints gained less than 300 yards in a regular season game was November 28, 2019 in a Thursday night 26-18 Saints win against the Falcons in Atlanta. That night the Saints had “only” 279 yard in a win that took them to a 10-2 record and a near insurmountable lead in the division. Despite that win last year, Saints fans lamented the lackluster offensive effort, something that sounds pretty familiar to what I’ve heard after Sunday’s win against the Bucs. This is always a reminder to me that although football is a game designed to gain yards and get to the end zone, total yards are a very tricky metric. There are plenty of instances of empty yards (garbage yards, long drives that end with no score, etc.). Yards only truly matter if they lead to a score, and ultimately to a win. In the end, the number that truly matters is the 1 in the 1-0 record the Saints now have after winning the game. I’ll take a win over a ton of yards every Sunday.
Now this is bad. While beating the Bucs, the Saints managed to give away well over the length of a football field in penalties. New Orleans was penalized six times for 119 yards, several pass interference penalties that greatly helped Buccaneers drives. It is a mild miracle that the Saints won the game by double-digit while playing rather sloppily on offense and committing so many penalties. But it’s the first game of an unusual season, so let’s give them a pass huh? Okay but just for this one game!
These were the total net rushing yards by the Buccaneers during Sunday’s loss at the Saints. Why is this remarkable? Because rushing yards are only empty yards for the team that is winning. The Bucs came into the game armed with the fearsome duo of Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette, determined to run the ball and keep the Saints’ defense honest. It didn’t work. Tampa Bay attempted 26 running plays and could only muster 3.3 yards-per-rushes. Its only rushing touchdown was a Tom Brady sneak at the goal line.
But wait, all of that is great, but here is what is even more incredible about this number: the last time the Saints allowed a single player to rush for more than 100 yards against them was on November 19, 2017, when Samaje Perine of Washington ran for 117 yards in a game that would end with a 34-31 Saints overtime win. Yes, it has now been over two full seasons since the once-maligned Saints’ defense has let a single back run wild against them. This Saints’ defense has been good for a while now, it’s time we acknowledge and appreciate that.
What??? Yes, Michael Thomas, the greatest wide receiver in Saints’ franchise history and one of the best in the entire NFL was held to only three catches on Sunday against the Buccaneers. The three catches tied for the lowest amount of receptions in Thomas’ professional career, which is just astounding. But “held” to three catches might not actually be a very accurate representation of what happened: Thomas was only targeted five times by Drew Brees. Gasp! Alvin Kamara was targeted eight times, Jared Cook seven times, Emmanuel Sanders five times. So, wait: this may actually be good! Yes, it looks amazing to see Thomas have a zillion catches in a game, but for the Saints, it is much more beneficial to have opposing defenses start wondering whether they will now have to game-plan for other Saints pass catchers too. I welcome the change, and I know that sooner or later, Thomas will get his. No need to panic, little grasshoppers.