Your New Orleans Saints are resting up as they prepare for their divisional round opponent to be determined. While they await the results of this weekend’s games, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to look at some of the odd or interesting similarities of the 2018 season and the 2009 Super Bowl season.
Sure, it would be easy to say: “Sean Payton was the coach in 2009 and he’s the coach now!” But that one is too obvious. Or what about, “Five Saints were elected to the Pro Bowl in 2018 and five were sent to the Pro Bowl in 2009?” Yes, that’s true, but the Saints sent five to the Pro Bowl in other years too. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more intricate and nuanced similarities between the two seasons.
10. 13-3 and the #1 seed
The Saints have finished with a 13-3 record twice in franchise history where it was enough to be the #1 seed in the NFC both times: in 2009 and 2018. Those were the only two times the Saints have been able to get that coveted one seed.
9. Losses to the Cowboys, Bucs, and Panthers
Those three losses in 2009? They came at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Carolina Panthers. In 2018? You guessed it. The Saints’ only losses were against those same three teams.
8. Winning streak snapped by Cowboys
That loss to the Cowboys in 2009 was significant - it snapped the Saints’ 13-game winning streak, the longest winning streak in franchise history. What is the Saints second-longest winning streak? Ten games, set in 2018, broken by... yep, the Dallas Cowboys.
7. NFC East Standings
The 2018 Cowboys are a good team. Their win over the Saints showed that. They won the NFC East, beating a talented Philadelphia Eagles team that still made the playoffs as a last-minute wild card. Want to know the last time the Cowboys and Eagles both made the playoffs? I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with two thousand and mime.
6. NFC South Standings
Here’s something crazy that might surprise you. In 2018, the Saints won the NFC South and were the only team in the division to make the playoffs. The rest of the division shook out look like this: the Atlanta Falcons finished in second place, the Carolina Panthers took third, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in the basement at fourth place. The only other time this same result has happened in the entire history of the NFC South? In 2009.
5. Back-Up Brawl
But back to the Saints’ record, the loss to the Panthers is also interesting. In 2009, the Saints lost to the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. The Saints already had the #1 seed locked up, so they played their back-up quarterback in Mark Brunell. In 2018, the Saints faced the Panthers again in Week 17, again with the #1 seed already locked up, and again choosing to start a backup QB for Drew Brees, this time in Teddy Bridgewater. But what’s even more interesting is that the quarterback for the Panthers was also a backup in each game: in 2009, the Panthers started Matt Moore for an injured Jake Delhomme, battling an injury to his throwing hand. In 2018, the Panthers started Kyle Allen for Cam Newton, who was battling an injury to his throwing shoulder.
4. Best of Brees
Drew Brees might not have played 16 games in either 2009 or 2018, but he still had fantastic years in both season. Now don’t get me wrong: Brees has had plenty of great years in his 18-year career - he’s led the league in passing yards seven times. He’s led the league in completion percentage five times. He’s led the league in average yards per game six times. But did you know he’s only led the league twice in total quarterback rating? Care to guess which years? That’s right - 2009 (109.6) and 2018 (115.7).
After Zach Strief retired this past offseason, that left Drew Brees as one of only two current Saints players who has been on the team every year since 2009 (Jermon Bushrod is on the team, but he was with the Chicago Bears for a stint in between). The only other player was Thomas Morstead. In 2018, Thomas “Legatron” Morstead has averaged exactly 60 yards per punt. The only other time he’s averaged exactly 60 yards per punt was in 2009, Morstead’s rookie season.
2. Defensive Leader
Now we’ll start to get a little specific. In 2009, the team leader in tackles finished the season with 110 total combined tackles. Who was that player? Former New York Jets LB Jonathan Vilma. The only other time in the Sean Payton era the team leader finished with 110 total tackles? 2018. And who was that player? Former New York Jets LB Demario Davis.
1. Run, Drew, Run
Drew Brees is known for his golden arm, but he’s also given plenty of credit for his ability to step up in the pocket and extend plays with his footwork. But he can also punch the ball in the end zone himself if needed. Drew Brees has rushed for a total of 22 touchdowns, but would you be surprised to know that he has rushed for more than one touchdown in the same game only twice in his entire 18-year career? Once in 2009 and once in 2018.
But look closer into where those rushing touchdowns were scored. In 2009, Brees rushed for two touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. What is so interesting about that stadium? It is the same location the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLIV) would take place later that same year. The same location Drew would later go on to hoist the Lombardi. In 2018, Brees rushed for two touchdowns in his Week 3 game against the Atlanta Falcons, in their new Mercedes-Benz Stadium - the site of Super Bowl LIII in a little less than a month.
What does all of this mean? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Maybe it’s just a series of random coincidences and obscure similarities researched by an expecting father with too much time on his hands. Or maybe it’s a sign that the New Orleans Saints are once again a team destined for the promised land. Or maybe I’m just giving you a person you can yell at for jinxing the season when the Saints come up just short.
Maybe all of those things. Maybe none of them.
What do you think? Did I miss any similarities between the 2009 Super Bowl and the 2018 season so far? Let me know in the comments. Send me presents.