Things had not been going well for the Saints by the end of the 1st quarter.
Mixed in with an entertaining 4th down stop by the defense that saw safety Marcus Williams and corner Ken Crawley combine for perfect coverage on Chargers receiver Mike Williams was a Drew Brees interception on a throw into double coverage to Ted Ginn Jr. and some shoddy run defense that allowed the Chargers to march their way to a 7 point lead.
Then the fun started to happen.
It's a fake! Taysom Hill converts on 4th down to keep our drive alive #NOvsLAC pic.twitter.com/Nt0fVBRDYS— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 26, 2018
On 4th and 3 from their own 32, Sean Payton in typical Sean Payton fashion would call for a fake punt that saw Taysom Hill take a direct snap for 7 yards on the way to the Saints first 1st down of the night with 1:59 left to go in the first. It not only showcased a talent for making plays with his feet that the QB would put on display later in the game but more importantly is showed us the type of trump card that Payton will have at his disposal during the regular season.
This would lead to a drive that culminated in the Saints trio of playmakers, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas touching the ball 6 times on 7 targets for 58 yards culminating in a 2 yard score by Kamara from the goal-line. Sean however wasn’t finished being aggressive and called for a 2 point conversion to Thomas that capped the entire momentum swing off with, you guessed it,
Saints take an 8-7 lead off a TD by Alvin Kamara and a successful two-point conversion from Brees to Michael Thomas.— Hayley Elwood (@ChargersHElwood) August 26, 2018
Drew Brees would finish his night 7-9 for 59 yards and an INT but with a one point lead over the Chargers on their home field. Had the game for whatever reason ended at that moment, he would have been a winner even if his statistics didn’t inspire that assessment.
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn would later confirm something we already knew.
“Now the second half, that’s a whole different story. I thought our reserves go outplayed.
The Saints defeated the Chargers because they have a middle class! Guys like Taysom Hill, David Onyemata, Chris Banjo, Austin Carr, and Tre’Quan Smith all role players come week one, made plays tonight well after the starters had left the field that highlighted the overall depth of a team that didn’t have that same luxury during three consecutive 7-9 win seasons.
Meanwhile a defense fueled by the aforementioned 4th down stop and an interception returned for a TD courtesy of corner Marcus Williams provided excitement and a snapshot (literally and figuratively) of what you can expect from them once the real bullets start to fly. Including Philip Rivers, New Orleans limited San Diego quarterbacks to under 100 yards passing combined as they collectively went 14/23 for 95 yards and an INT. The overall play of the unit brought back memories of another effort from a different era - a different team that also had coordinator Dennis Allen on it’s coaching staff.
Marcus Williams picks off Geno Smith, takes it to the housepic.twitter.com/54nBRO0644— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) August 26, 2018
There was just a dramatic flair about how this team went about winning last night that stood out as the window for another championship that Payton and Drew keep referencing looked to be in clear view last night.
They’ve got a big play offense lead by Brees and a play-caller with gargantuan kahunas along with an opportunistic defense that can force turnovers and get stops when needed in key moments. When you think about certain teams throughout NFL History that did a lot of winning they were usually a joy to watch and on a microscopic level the Saints showed bits and pieces of being that type of team vs the Chargers.
The 2018 version of the New Orleans Saints appear to have a bit of razzle dazzle about them that makes for good TV, just like the team Sean Payton fielded nine years ago that won Super Bowl XLIV