1. Brees The Magnificent
Just days after inking a new deal with the Saints, Brees reminded a lot of NFL pundits who had already buried his NFL career, that he was still among the very elite of quarterbacks in the NFL. A day that started inauspiciously with a sack and a fumble for the Saints’ quarterback, ended up being a four touchdowns game, with a 131.3 quarterback rating. Brees was magnificent, hitting eight different receivers, while throwing for 423 yards and a franchise record 98-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. Brees may not be a young player anymore, he might even be on the decline, but if Sunday is any indication, there’s still plenty of gas in his tank and count me among those who believe that he could play at this high a level for another four years.
2. Voodoo Offensive Line
Ok, so this offseason all we’ve heard is how the Saints offensive line was a disaster: there are no guards!!! We heard about Andrus Peat being a useless bust. But, wait it was preseason, wasn’t it? Oh I forgot: in preseason, if you’re the Saints and you suck, the world is ending. Because you know, preseason is such a great indicator of everything. I remember how those Colts teams who won 12 games every year with Peyton Manning used to go 0-4 in nearly every preseason. So if I’m to believe what I read during the preseason about how putrid New Orleans’ O-line was, the Saints must have made some kinda deal with Marie Laveau, because on Sunday against the Raiders, the much-maligned protecting unit gave up only one measly sack, and really that was more of a coverage sack than anything else, one where Brees held on to the ball a bit too long. Even better from the Saints’ line, New Orleans rushed for 88 yards on 22 carries, a solid 4.0 yard-per-carry average. You’d have hoped that Payton/Carmichael would’ve called for more running plays, but hey, it’s the Saints we’re talking about here. As awesome as Drew Brees was yesterday, his offensive line was a big part of a great offensive day for the Saints.
3. Plus ça change, plus ç'est la même chose
Literally, that means "the more it changes, the more it’s the same." Simplified defense…new players, new schemes. Yet, the Saints’ defense still gives up loads of yards, tons of points and a deluge of fourth quarter leads. On Sunday, after teasing us by holding Oakland to 13 points through three quarters, the Saints gave up 22 points in the fourth quarter. They also surrendered 486 total yards. I am not a superstitious man, but I’m starting to believe that Sean Payton had made a deal with the devil to win the Super Bowl and now the debt has come due and good ol’ Satan is hitting Payton where he’s most helpless: the defensive side of the ball. If you have a ritual that we can perform to help Dennis Allen and his crew, share it, because just practice and hard work don’t seem to make a difference at all.
4. Jimmy Graham or Benjamin Watson He is Not
I’m trying not to be unfair to tight end Coby Fleener, after all this was only his first game in a Saints’ uniform. But on Sunday, Fleener was targeted four times by Brees and had one catch for six yards. The number of receptions is poor, but maybe even more telling is how few targets Fleener got from Brees. The Saints’ quarterback is known to target the players he trusts the most, and to illustrate that, both Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead led the Saints with nine targets a piece. True, Fleener seemed to stay in for blocking assignments quite a lot during this game, but his debut in New Orleans was quite underwhelming. Let’s hope he can quickly prove that he belongs in this Saints’ offense and make an impact.
5. Starting 0-1 in the Sean Payton Era: A Bad Omen
If you had high hopes for this season, you probably should stop reading here. In the Sean Payton era, the Saints have made the playoffs only once after losing the season opener and that was in 2011, when New Orleans had what was arguably the best team Payton has ever had in NOLA. Every other year (2007, 2012, 2014 and 2015) that the Saints started 0-1, the team did not make the postseason. Fun fact: the only time that the Payton-led Saints started 1-0 and missed the playoffs was 2008, when after beating the Bucs 24-20 in week one, New Orleans proceeded to lose three of their next four games and ended the season 8-8.