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Beignets and Café au Lait: The Buc Stopped Here

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Saints quickly rediscovered their winning ways in 34-17 road-win over the Buccaneers

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even Bucs defenders are just marveling at Michael Thomas’ catches
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

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.

Café au lait (/ˌkæfeɪ oʊ ˈleɪ, kæˌfeɪ, kə-/; French: [kafe olɛ]; French for “coffee with milk”) is a delicious New Orleans way to start your day.

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.

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What Just Happened?

Hey look who is stepping off the ledge! Throngs of Saints fans who were brought to the brink of despair after a shocking 26-9 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons on November 10. Yesterday the Saints looked like who we thought they were, in a 34-17 win over the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay.

The most encouraging part of the win was how complete New Orleans looked at Raymond James Stadium: the offense scored in the red zone, going 2-for-3 (67%) in goal-to-go efficiency and 3-for-4 (75%) in red zone efficiency, totaling 27 points on the day. They went 7-for-13 (54%) on third down and held the ball for 37 minutes, 14 minutes more than the Buccaneers.

The defense forced four turnovers (four interceptions) and scored seven points of its own on a pick-six by safety Marcus Williams. They limited the Bucs to 36 rushing yards on eight attempts and harassed Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston repeatedly, sacking him twice.

On Special teams, placekicker Wil Lutz made both of his field goal attempts and all four of his extra point attempts. In the absence of kickoff and punt returner Deonte Harris, the Saints return game was serviceable, with Alvin Kamara returning three punts for 32 yards.

At 8-2 now, the Saints are tied for the second-best record in the NFC with the Green Bay Packers, behind only the once-beaten San Francisco 49ers (9-1). Green Bay is the current number two seed in the NFC based on conference record (5-1 for the Packers, 6-2 for the Saints), but with a lot of football to be played, the Saints are in prime position to vie for one of the two top seeds in the conference and that all-important first round bye in the playoffs.

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Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie

· 415: The number of career receptions by Saints’ wide receiver Michael Thomas. Yes, I am about to gush about Thomas again, because too often we fail to properly acknowledge greatness while it is staring us in the face. In catching 13 passes against the Falcons last week, Thomas became the fastest wide receiver in NFL history to reach 400 receptions, as it took him only 56 games. Fun fact, the second-fastest wide receiver to reach the 400-reception mark is Julio Jones, who needed 59 games. Another win for the Saints over the Falcons!

Yesterday Thomas caught eight passes, which gave him 94 receptions on the year. That established him as the first player in NFL history to have at least 90 receptions in each of his first four seasons. Oh wait: his 94 receptions are also a record for highest number of receptions through the first 10 regular season games in NFL history. With 1,141 receiving yards, Thomas is a lock to shatter his career-high of 1,405 receiving yards from last season. Enjoy what you’re witnessing, Who Dat Nation, you’re witnessing history.

· 401: No, we’re not talking about savings here, but rather the number of career receptions by wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. With an 8-yard reception early in the game yesterday, Ginn Jr. who is in his 13th NFL season, became the 250th NFL player to reach 400 receptions. Ginn finished the game with two receptions for 14 yards. This puts what Michael Thomas is doing in perspective, when you realize that it took Ted Ginn Jr. 181 games to reach the same 400-reception mark that Thomas surpassed in 56 games. However, Ginn Jr.’s accomplishment is worth celebrating, because at 34 years old, his longevity is remarkable, and it makes it even sweeter that he has reached this milestone in the Black and Gold uniform.

· 123: Let move to the other side of the ball for a while, shall we? Following Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers, this is the number of consecutive regular season games started by Saints’ defensive end Cameron Jordan. Jordan has also played in 138 consecutive regular season games (he started only one game during his rookie season in 2011). What this means is that in his 9th season, Jordan has not missed a single game during his NFL career.

Jordan had 1.5 sacks yesterday against Tampa, bringing his season total to a team-high 9.5. At age 30, Jordan is right in the thick of his prime and showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. In the Sean Payton-era, the Saints have not always drafted well on the defensive side of the ball. Cameron Jordan was an absolute homerun pick.

· 49. The number of career games with three passing touchdowns and zero interceptions by Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees. Yesterday against the Bucs, Brees threw exactly three touchdowns and no picks. Interestingly, this was the first such game for Brees this season. We may forget, but yesterday’s game in Tampa Bay was only Brees’ fourth full game of the season and the signal-caller looked in rhythm.

· 1: Hold on to something. When Drew Brees threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas in the first quarter yesterday, it marked the first time Brees has thrown a touchdown pass in the first half of a regular season game since November 2018. Yes, you read that correctly. To be more precise, the date was November 22, 2018, when Brees hit Tommylee Lewis for a 28-yard touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter to give the Saints a 7-0 lead. Since that date, Brees had not found the end zone via the pass in the first half until yesterday.

This statistic is obviously aided by the fact that Brees missed five games this season with a thumb injury, and sat out the season finale of the 2018 season when the Saints had clinched their playoff seed. However, there were seven games that he started between that Falcons game on November 22, 2018 and November 17, 2019. For those of you who have had the impression that the Saints’ offense has been starting slow or has not been the same since last season, you may be on to something. But the streak is dead, long live the streak, one in which the Saints hopefully can start fast and finish strong.

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Beignets and Café au Lait Awards

· Fresh Beignets with Hot Coffee: Alvin Kamara. Didn’t it feel good to have Kamara back? Yes, he played two Sundays ago against Atlanta, but clearly was not himself. Against the Falcons, Kamara at 74 total yards (rushing and receiving). Yesterday, he accounted for 154 total yards rushing, receiving and returning punts. But it’s not just the numbers, as sometimes the good old “eye test” still tells a good part of the story: Kamara was his equilibrist-self yesterday, not going down on first contact, explosive through his cuts and making defenders look silly trying to tackle him. Welcome back, Alvin.

· More Fresh Beignets with Tasty Coffee: The Saints’ Secondary. One of the biggest concerns for the Saints going into the Bucs game was the absence of shutdown cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. Despite throwing for 313 yards, Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston had to heave 51 passing attempts and was intercepted four times. Linebacker Demario Davis picked off a pass as safety Marcus Williams tackled the intended target, tight end O.J. Howard. Safety Vonn Bell recoded the second interception, as the former Ohio State buckeye is having a stellar season. Marcus Williams got the third pick, taking it 55 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, and cornerback P.J. Williams capped the interception-fest by picking off a fade pass from Winston in the end zone to thwart the final scoring attempt by the Buccaneers. Great depth is the mark of a championship team and that’s exactly what the Saints have.

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What’s Next?

· The Saints return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday at 12:00 PM CT to face the slumping Carolina Panthers (5-5). Carolina has lost two in a row to the Green Bay Packers (8-2) on the road, and Atlanta Falcons (3-7) in Charlotte. Yesterday’s loss to Atlanta shouldn’t exactly be a shock to Saints’ fans, as we all saw what a motivated and desperate Falcons team did to the Saints eight days ago in the Superdome. The Panthers are likely to come to the Superdome with the same desperation, so the Saints will have to match their energy to not only increase their division lead, but keep pace with the leaders in the NFC.

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Super Bowl Odds

Following their win against the Buccaneers yesterday, according to fivethirthyeight.com, the Saints are third in odds of winning the Super Bowl at 12%, behind only the Pats (25%) and Ravens (19%). Rounding out the top five are the San Francisco 49ers (10%) and the Minnesota Vikings (8%). New Orleans’ odds of winning the NFC South are 97%, followed by the Panthers (3%). Despite their two-game surge, the Falcons are still at < 1%, just like the Bucs.

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Hey, how come you’re still here? Get some work done! Unless you’re still drunk from drinking all that ale on the pirate ship. In which case, carry right on, shiver me timbers!

Poll

What Saints’ unit most impressed you in yesterday’s win?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    The O-line: Gave up zero sacks against Suh and Co.
    (45 votes)
  • 17%
    The D-line, harassed Jameis Winston all game, sacked him twice
    (37 votes)
  • 48%
    The secondary: picked off 3 passes and contributed to another pick
    (101 votes)
  • 3%
    The "Michael Thomas wide receiving corps."
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    The linebacking corps, led by Demario Davis
    (14 votes)
  • 1%
    The Whopper, Big Mac and Portobello Mushroom burger make a great unit
    (3 votes)
207 votes total Vote Now