Your New Orleans Saints are NFC South Champions, even if they did it with the help of other teams. Still, in what was another roller-coaster of a game with plenty of ups and downs along the way, here are a couple that stood out.
Even in a Saints loss, there were still plenty of positive statistical outcomes from the game. Drew Brees was able to break Sam Bradford’s record for completion percentage that was set in 2016 (a record Bradford set by beating a previous mark held by Brees). Michael Thomas was able to become the first Saints receivers to finish with 100 catches. Cam Jordan set a career best single-season sack total (earning a cool $250,000 in incentives along the way). And Alvin Kamara joined incredible company after returning the Saints opening kickoff for a TD early in the game:
#Saints RB Alvin Kamara is the 1st player since Gale Sayers (HoFer) to have 6+ Rushing TDs, 5+ Receiving TDs and 1+Return TD in a season.— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) December 31, 2017
(Per Fox Metric)
Down: Pass Rush
While Cam was able to get his, the rest of the Saints defensive line had trouble putting pressure on Jameis Winston in spite of the fact that Cam was consistently drawing (at least) double-teams. This led to the Bucs converting nearly every third down they faced with Winston having plenty of time to scan the field and find an open receiver. The losses of Nick Fairley, Alex Okafor, Trey Hendrickson and Hau’oli Kikaha are really being felt at the worst possible times.
Down: A Loss that Shouldn’t Be
There was no reason on paper that the Saints shouldn’t get the win against the Bucs to close out the 2017 NFL regular season. Instead, a long TD late in the 4th quarter set up Tampa Bay to end their losing streak. The Saints are full of young and inexperienced players on all three sides of the ball, so it’s hard to fault the team for getting caught up in the moment and looking ahead to the postseason. Still, we have to hope that Sean Payton and Company will have his team better prepared for their third meeting with the Carolina Panthers.
Up: But it really didn’t matter
I know, I know, momentum heading into the postseason can be huge. We’ve all heard it before. [Insert comment here about no team losing their final three games in the regular season and winning the Super Bowl before the 2009 Saints here.]
And yes, because the Rams were practically gifting the Saints a shot at the #3 seed in the NFC (with a shot at potentially hosting the NFC Championship game if the Saints could advance that far), this loss did indeed matter for seeding purposes.
In any event, the Saints should still be commended for being in a position in Week 17 where they were still able to clinch the division, even if it took having the Falcons win to do so. The Saints now get to match up against the Carolina Panthers a team they have already beaten twice in the season and that struggled mightily in Week 17. Had the Saints gone on to win, they would instead be hosting the Atlanta Falcons, a team that split the season series and that matches up much better against the Saints.
Without trying to get ahead of ourselves, if the Saints are able to win on Sunday, and if the Rams beat the Falcons, that would mean it would be the New Orleans Saints - not the Los Angeles Rams, despite their efforts - that would head to Philadelphia to face the Carson Wentz-less Eagles.
All in all, Saints fans should be A-OK with how things turned out.