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Beignets and Café au Lait: Division Champs!!!

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Saints are 10-2 and haven’t played their best game yet

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
When you’re the champs, you feast!
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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?

The 2019 New Orleans Saints are nothing if not perplexing. This team has simply had a weird season: it started with Drew Brees getting hurt in week two and missing five games, then the team winning games all the games he missed by scores like 13-6 or 12-10. Then after Brees’ return, they would get blasted at home by the Atlanta Falcons despite being a heavy favorite. After righting the ship with two wins against the Buccaneers and the Panthers, the Saints were on the road again yesterday in Atlanta, where they defeated the Falcons 26-18.

But it didn’t happen the conventional way. The Saints’ offense was hot and cold all night, with drops. The defense found different ways to keep Falcons’ drives alive with penalties. The special teams unit allowed the Falcons to recover three onside kicks (one recovery was denied by a questionable offside penalty).

The Saints led the game 26-9 with 6:27 left in the fourth quarter following a Wil Lutz’s 45-yard field goal. From that point on, the offense would not see the field again, as the Falcons would score a touchdown to make the score 26-15, failing on a two-point conversion. Atlanta would then kick and recover an onside kick, but be forced to re-kick after wide receiver Russell Gage was called for a phantom offside penalty. The Falcons would re-kick and recover again, as Alvin Kamara made a business decision, not going after the ball which was recovered by Atlanta’s linebacker Foyesade Oluokun.

After settling for a field goal and trailing 26-18, the Falcons would kick their third onside kick of the night and once again recover as the front line failed to block Oluokun, who tipped the ball away from Michael Thomas. This time however, the Saints’ defense would sack Matt Ryan on fourth down from the Falcons’ 48-yard line to end the game.

There were some positives from last night however, ones we should not lose sight of: With the win, New Orleans won its third consecutive NFC South crown. The defense forced three turnovers and sacked Matt Ryan like he stole something from them. The Saints have clinched a playoff berth by week 13. The last time they accomplished that feat was back in 2009, and we all know how that season ended. Good omen? Let’s hope so.

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Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie

· 10,023: The number of career regular season passes thrown by Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees through last night’s game. Against Atlanta, Brees became just the second quarterback in NFL history to reach the 10,000 passes mark. Brett Favre retired in 2010 having thrown 10,169 passes, which means that Brees needs only 146 passing attempts to tie the record. With four regular season games left this season, Brees would need to average 37 attempts a game to catch Favre. For the Saints’ sake, let’s hope he doesn’t need to throw that often and breaks that record next season.

· 60: The completion percentage for Drew Brees last night. Emblematic of a night that saw the Saints drop at least five passes, Brees was 18-of-30, with 184 yards, one touchdown and no interception. The stat line is deceiving however, as tight end Jared Cook (2), Michael Thomas (1), Alvin Kamara (1) and Ted Ginn Jr. (1) all dropped very catchable passes. 23-of-30 would’ve looked much more Brees-like.

· 7: As disappointed as the Who Dat Nation has been at times with the Saints not blowing teams out this year, New Orleans is 7-0 in one-score games this season. Here is what the Saints have done in one-score games in 2019: 30-28 (Texans), 33-27 (Seahawks), 12-10 (Cowboys), 31-24 (Buccaneers), 13-6 (Jaguars), 34-31 (Panthers), 26-18 (Falcons). There is something to be said about a team that knows how to win close games, and the Saints have been masters at it through 12 games in this NFL campaign.

· 4. The number of sacks recorded by Cameron Jordan against the Falcons last night. In doing so, Jordan tied the single-game franchise record, last accomplished by Saints’ legendary defensive end Wayne Martin, who had four sacks in a 35-17 Saints’ win over the Detroit Lions on September 21, 1997. With his performance on Thursday night, Jordan now has a career-high 13.5 sacks on the season, with four regular season games to go. Jordan also ascended to second on the Saints’ all-time sacks list with 85, passing Martin (82.5) and behind only Rickey Jackson (115).

· 1: The number of NFL interceptions by Saints’ rookie cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson. A fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Gardner-Johnson is starting to look like another one of those smart picks that the Saints have made the past three years. With 11:55 left in the fourth quarter of yesterday’s game and New Orleans leading 20-9, Gardner-Johnson stepped in front of a Matt Ryan pass intended for Russell Gage at the Falcons’ 43-yard line and recorded his very first NFL pick, returning the ball to Atlanta’s 29. The Saints would add a field goal to go up by two touchdowns, as the defense controlled the game in the second half, with the offense doing just enough to keep the Falcons at bay.

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Beignets and Café au Lait Awards

· Fresh Beignets with Hot Coffee: Marcus Davenport. For the second time in a row, the Saints’ second-year defensive end gets my fresh beignets award. Davenport has been coming in the second half of the season, and last night he had two sacks and a forced fumble. But much more than those palpable statistics, Davenport put constant pressure on Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offensive line. His athleticism is a nightmare for offensive linemen and once he develops better rushing move, he will be impossible to handle. Davenport now has six sacks on the year, a career-high after he had 4.5 sacks his rookie year in 2018.

· Stale Beignets with Lukewarm Coffee: Alvin Kamara. I am having a hard time explaining what is going on with Alvin. I love Kamara as much as the next Saints’ fan, but he has been a disappointment so far this season. Injuries have certainly played a part, but what I find most lacking is his desire right now. Have you noticed how Kamara does not fight for that extra yard and quickly jumps out of bounds as soon as defenders get near him? That move has cost the Saints a few first downs this season. Last night, on the first two onside kicks recovered by the Falcons, Kamara made absolutely no attempt to “attack” the ball as the last line in the formation. Instead, he played tentatively, allowing Foye Oluokun (who clearly wanted that ball more than Kamara did) to recover the ball. Here’s to hoping that during film review, Saints’ head coach Sean Payton can get his gifted running back’s mind right.

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What’s Next?

· The Saints will have a much-needed mini-bye to rest-up before welcoming NFC defensive juggernaut San Francisco 49ers (10-1) on Sunday December 8, 2019 at 12:00 PM CT in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. San Francisco has a challenge on their hands this Sunday in Baltimore, facing leading MVP candidate Lamar Jackson and the streaking Ravens. It is quite likely that the Niners-Saints contest will determine who gets the number one seed in the NFC playoffs.

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Super Bowl Odds

Following their win against the Falcons yesterday, according to fivethirthyeight.com, the Saints remain third in odds of winning the Super Bowl at 14%. The Ravens are now in first (25%), followed by the Pats (22%). Rounding out the top five are the San Francisco 49ers (12%) and the Minnesota Vikings (7%). Having already won their division and thus qualified for the playoffs, the Saints have the best chance at winning a first-round bye in the NFC at 74%, followed by the 49ers (53%), Seahawks (33%), Vikings (25%) and Packers (15%).

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Hey, how come you’re still here? Get some work done! Unless you’re still enjoying a nice tryptophan-induced stupor after gorging on all that turkey yesterday. In which case, carry on, but don’t forget to vote on the poll.

Poll

Saints are 10-2, division champs for 3rd time in a row, yet Saints fans are gnashing their teeth. Why?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    The team doesn’t look as good as the other contenders
    (185 votes)
  • 17%
    We are spoiled by all the 50 burgers the offense used to put up
    (72 votes)
  • 15%
    We’re not used to winning with defense, aka "neanderthal football"
    (67 votes)
  • 19%
    We forget that in the NFL there are no style points
    (84 votes)
  • 3%
    Did someone say burgers?
    (13 votes)
421 votes total Vote Now