Good morning Y’all
As always, for our novice readers or non-New Orleanians, welcome!
Let’s start with some definitions:
Beignets (English: /bɛnˈjeɪ/; French: [bɛɲɛ], ben-YAY literally bump) are distinctly New Orleans, a delicacy intimately connected to the city’s rich French heritage. Best enjoyed heavily powdered with sugar.
This is your “After-Saints-Game” breakfast, where we talk about the state of the Black and Gold, we debate the goings-on in the NFC South, and paint the playoff picture in the NFC up to this point of the season. So, sit back, take a bite and a sip while your brain slowly wakes up, and let’s catch up on some football.
What Just Happened?
The 2019 New Orleans Saints might be better than the 2018 New Orleans Saints, who were a blown call away from playing in Super Bowl LIII.
You know the story by now: since week two of the 2019 NFL season, the Saints have been without their heart and soul, quarterback Drew Brees, who has been out with a thumb injury on his throwing hand. Most pundits would have forgiven the Saints for throwing the towel on the season at that point. After all, their backup quarterback hadn’t played live NFL football since 2015, and the defense hadn’t shown much promise either in allowing 28 and 27 points to the Texans and Rams respectively in the first two weeks of the season.
The most optimistic thought that New Orleans perhaps could manage a 3-3 record in the six games that Brees was supposed to miss, with his return anticipated to be after the Saints’ bye week, two weeks from now. Instead, in five games since Brees’ exit, New Orleans has gone 5-0 and has a 6-1 record on the season. In the last five games the defense has been stellar, allowing only 18.4 points-per-game (many of which have been garbage time scores), 67.8 rushing yards per game and a paltry 3.3 yards-per-rush. Teddy Bridgewater has played within himself, efficiently leading the offense in a workmanlike fashion. At times he has even shown flashes of the talent that made him a first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings back in 2014.
Yesterday, the Saints defeated the Bears 36-25 in Chicago, but New Orleans led 36-10 into the fourth quarter until the Saints’ defense started playing to bleed the clock and get out of the horrendous playing surface that is Soldier Field. What is most remarkable about the Saints’ five-game winning streak is that four of those wins came against teams that are either contending (Seattle, Dallas) or were expected to contend (Tampa Bay, Jacksonville). And even more, three of the wins were on the road (Seattle, Jacksonville, Chicago). With the Arizona Cardinals coming to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Sunday, the Saints have a chance to get to 7-1 going into their bye week. On September 15, as Drew Brees walked off the field in Los Angeles, no one thought this was possible.
Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie
· 119: The number of rushing yards by Saints’ running back Latavius Murray against the Bears yesterday, his first 100-yard rushing performance in a New Orleans uniform. Murray had been a bit of a ghost in the Saints’ offense until last week in Jacksonville, where he started showing glimpses of what he is capable of. With starting running back Alvin Kamara out against Chicago with an ankle injury, Murray rushed 27 times, averaged 4.4 yards-per-rush and had two touchdowns. He wore down a stingy Bears defense and showed the yards-after-contact power that one would expect from such a big, physical back. It was great to see Murray rise to the challenge in Kamara’s absence and what’s more, with such a great display, Sean Payton and the coaching staff do not have to rush Kamara back from his injury.
· 29: The number of games since the Saints last allowed a 100-yard rusher in the regular season. The last time a running back had at least 100 yards rushing against the Saints was November 19, 2017, when Samaje Perine had 117 yards for the Washington Redskins in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints won that game 34-31 in overtime in what was their eighth win in a row at that point of the season. If New Orleans manages to keep this streak up for another three games, it will be the equivalent of two full NFL seasons (32 games) without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Absolutely incredible.
· 17: Speaking of the Saints defense and rushing yards, this is the number of rushing yards allowed by the Saints to the Bears yesterday. Even more significant, Chicago averaged 2.4 yards-per-rush and Latavius Murray outrushed the entire Bears team by himself. I am utterly speechless at the display by the Saints’ defense since they realized that they couldn’t just count on Drew Brees to bail them out of deficits late in games. Kudos to Dennis Allen and his defensive coaching staff, and kudos to the Saints’ defensive players who individually and collectively raise the level of their game. This is a unit that is playing like the very best in the entire league right now.
· 9. The number of receptions by wide receiver Michael Thomas yesterday. Thomas caught nine of his 11 targets for 131 yards. He leads the NFL in catches (62) and yards (763) and he is doing that while being one of the few truly reliable receiving targets on his team. Thomas is the new Marques Colston, only better. And few people love “The Quiet Storm” more than yours truly. Thomas chirps more than Marques ever did, but that is a product of the era he (Thomas) lives in. However, when you look deeper, Thomas, like Colston before him, just does his job. He is fearless, just like Colston was. He can do it all, and will catch the intermediate pass, the deep one, the slant and the lateral at the goal line. He has incredible hands and if he stays healthy, Thomas will end up being the most prolific receiver in the history of the Saints franchise.
· 2: The turnover differential for the Saints on Sunday in Chicago. New Orleans came into yesterday’s game tied for 10th in the NFL in turnover differential at plus-two. The Saints forced and recovered two fumbles against the Bears on Sunday, taking their turnover differential to plus-four on the season. On top of limiting opposing offenses in the running and passing game, the Saints’ defense is starting to take the ball away. New Orleans however has only recorded three interceptions on the year, as many catchable balls have been dropped by defensive backs. Overall, the encouraging sign is that the Saints are flying to the ball and the more they give themselves opportunities to take the ball away, the more turnovers they will get.
Beignets and Café au Lait Awards
· Fresh Beignets with Hot Coffee: Steady Teddy. While we praise the Saints’ defense as we should, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention how well Teddy Bridgewater played yesterday. “Teddy Two Gloves” was money in Chicago: 23 of 38 for 281 yards and two touchdowns. There were a few sightings of “Hesitant Teddy” and a few inaccurate throws as indicated by the 15 incompletions. But as he has shown since taking the reins of the Saints’ offense, Bridgewater played composed, and never made the crucial mistake that would lose a winnable game for his team.
· More Fresh Beignets with Tasty Coffee: The Saints’ Offensive Line. With Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith and the fearsome Bears’ defensive line bearing down (pun intended) on him, Teddy Bridgewater was sacked only once yesterday. And if you ask me, that sack was more on the quarterback than it was on the offensive line. Special mention to right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who several times was one-on-one with Mack and flat-out stonewalled him at the point of attack, or rendered him ineffective by leading him past Bridgewater in the backfield. Among the units that have stepped up their game, the Saints’ offensive line is certainly one.
· The Saints are back home next Sunday after two successful road trips to Jacksonville and Chicago. Opposite them will be the surging Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 12:00 CT. Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury will be bringing their innovative, college-like offense to the Superdome riding a three-game winning streak. And although those three wins were against the Cincinnati Bengals (0-7), the Atlanta Falcons (1-6) and the New York Giants (2-5), Arizona will not be taken lightly by Sean Payton, Dennis Allen and the Saints’ coaching staff. New Orleans is riding its own winning streak and the Saints will want to head into their bye week on a winning note. This promises to be a good one.
Following their win against the Bears yesterday, according to fivethirthyeight.com, the Saints remain with the second-best odds of winning the Super Bowl at 17%, behind only the Pats (26%). Rounding out the top five are the still-undefeated San Francisco 49ers (8%), the Kansas City Chiefs (8%) and now the Green Bay Packers (8%). New Orleans odds of winning the NFC South increased from 78% to 86%, followed by the Panthers (14%). Both the Bucs (< 1%) and Falcons (< 1%) have virtually no chance to win the division or to make the playoffs.
Hey, how come you’re still here? Get some work done! Unless you’re still drunk from celebrating yesterday’s slaying of the Monsters of the Midway in the Windy City, in which case, carry right on.
Are the Saints the best team in the NFC right now?
This poll is closed
Yes, yes they are! Championship!!!
They are close, but when Drew returns, they will be!
No, the 49ers are 6-0 and you are what your record says you are
The Packers are not too shabby at 6-1 either
The quadruple bacon with bleu cheese is the best burger man!