Rumors of the death of New Orleans Saints offense are greatly exaggerated.
Just look at this graphic from Fox Sports One’s Colin Cowherd:
Misleading graphic much? To quote our friend, Mark Ingram, “Look at the details!”
For one, look at the text under “Remaining Teams.” It says, “Since Week 15 with starting QB.” Why Week 15? No reason in particular. Why “with starting QB?” Because they’re trying to be fair and exclude the game Drew Brees didn’t play in Week 17. That means for the Saints, you’re looking at a three-game sample size (Week 15, Week 16, and the divisional round). For the other three teams, it’s a four-game sample size, as each starting QB played in Week 17 for those clubs, and each has only had one playoff game thus far.
But let’s take a look at some of those details behind the numbers.
For one, in Week 15, of the four teams listed above, the Saints were the only team to actually go on and win their game. The Chiefs lost - at home - to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Rams lost - at home - to the Philadelphia Eagles. The New Orleans Saints played on the road at Carolina, and beat the Panthers. The Patriots were the only other of the four teams to play on the road, and they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In Week 16, that same Steelers team that beat the Patriots the week before, took the “L” against the Saints back home in the Dome. The Chiefs lost back-to-back games, this time to the Seattle Seahawks on the road. Sure, the Patriots and Rams were able to win their games, but it was against the mighty juggernaut Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills.
Week 17 is largely irrelevant for the graphic because Drew Brees and the starting Saints offense didn’t play (outside of Michael Thomas), but this graphic includes the games from the other three teams. Again, sure, those teams won, but the Chiefs, Patriots, and Rams faced off against the Raiders, Jets, and 49ers respectively. It’s not like they were putting up big numbers against world-beaters.
Bottom line, here is what you need to know about the Saints offense:
Yes, the New Orleans Saints “only” put up 20 points of offense up against the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round. Understand, though, that the Rams offense (an offense the graphic is not trying to dismiss) “only” put up 23 points against that same Eagles teams, at home in Week 15, in a loss.
The Saints offense did enough to win the game last week, and they played exactly the type of game they needed to to win. After the momentum swung back to the Saints midway through the second quarter, the Saints absolutely dominated the ball. The Eagles could do nothing on offense, and the Saints offense was able to wear out the Philadelphia defense. On the back of an 18-play scoring drive to take the lead in the third quarter, the Saints offense held the ball for a whopping 37 minutes and 50 seconds. The Saints didn’t want to, or have to, score quickly in hopes of winning a shootout. They played exactly the game they wanted to play.
In the Rams’ loss to the Eagles in Week 15, the Rams - who scored 23 points - held the ball for only 28:24. That is half of an entire quarter of football less than the Saints in the divisional round. The Rams offense couldn’t put in work against the Eagles defense, couldn’t sustain drives, and couldn’t come out with the win.
I know the law of syllogism (if A > B, and B > C, then A > C) doesn’t apply in the NFL. Just because Team A beat Team B, and Team B beat Team C, doesn’t not guarantee Team A will beat Team C. But consider this:
The vaunted #Bears defense held Nick Foles and the Eagles offense to 16 points at home in the divisional round. The #Saints were even better, holding PHI to only 14 points Sunday. That same Bears D held the Rams offense to only 6 pts just over a month ago.— Christopher Dunnells (@dunnellz) January 16, 2019
The Saints defense was able to do something the Chicago Bears defense, for all their credit, couldn’t do: hold the Eagles offense to under 15 points at home. Granted, weather was a factor, but those same Bears held the Rams offense to only 6 points at home in Week 14 (yeah, Cowherd didn’t include Week 14 in his graphic). If the Saints defense can perform in the playoffs to the same caliber as the Bears, why couldn’t the Saints run a similar game plan against LA as they did against Philadelphia - dominate on defense and control time of possession?
Frankly, I’m not worried at this point about the Chiefs and Patriots. Only one of them will make the Super Bowl, and the Saints have to beat the Rams before that even matters. But as far as the Rams go, Rams fans - not Saints fans - should be the ones worried about the Saints offense.