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Beignets and Café au Lait: Backs Against the Wall

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After yesterday’s loss to the 49ers, Saints have to win out for a chance at a bye

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-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?

If you’re a Saints’ fan, you’ve had your heart broken before. Many times, in fact. Yesterday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers did not disappoint in that department. The Saints came out of the gate swinging, taking a 20-7 lead on the 49ers in the first quarter, in a game that looked like a shootout from the opening whistle.

But then tight end Jared Cook, who looked like he was about to have the game of his life, was hit hard on the head by a 49ers defender (what’s new?) while catching his second touchdown of the game. Cook would leave the game with a concussion and not return.

From that point on, the Saints’ offense would sputter. Do not be fooled by the final number of 46 points, as New Orleans left a bevy of points on the field: from two failed two-point conversion attempts, to a failed fake punt when they had started their drive at midfield.

On the other side of the ball, one could’ve sworn that we were watching Jason David, Fred Thomas and Brandon Browner reunited in the Saints’ secondary. At halftime, Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers had scored 28 points and tallied 319 yards. They would finish the game with 48 points and 516 yards.

Despite rallying late to take a 46-45 lead, the 53 seconds left on the clock gave every living Saints fan the eerie and terrible feeling of 2011 all over again. That’s the year the Saints lost a heartbreaking divisional playoff game to the Niners on the road. In that game the Saints had taken a 32-29 lead with 1:37 left on the clock, only to lose 36-32. Yesterday, watching from my couch, I almost wished that Tre’Quan Smith had been tackled short of the end zone before he scored the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown. That would’ve given the Saints the ball inside the five-yard line and eaten more clock. You know the Saints were going to score. Alas, with the defensive effort of Dennis Allen’s crew, there was just too much time on the clock for yesterday’s 49ers offense against yesterday’s Saints’ defense.

New Orleans is now the third seed in the NFC, with the 49ers claiming the number one seed thanks to their win in New Orleans and the Seahawks’ loss to the Rams on Sunday Night Football. Don’t look now, but the Rams are finding their rhythm. The Green Bay Packers are now the second seed, with a 10-3 record like New Orleans, but they own the tiebreaker on conference wins. Should the 49ers, Packers and Saints all win out, New Orleans would fall short of the coveted bye week.

All is not lost for the Saints however, as the Packers still have two winning foes on their remaining schedule (Bears and Vikings) while the 49ers will be challenged by the Rams and Seahawks. New Orleans has Indy, Tennessee and Carolina to finish the season and the Saints have to win out and hope for some help if they want one of the two top seeds in the conference come postseason time. However, their destiny at this point is out of their hands.

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Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie

· 162: The number of rushing yards the Saints allowed to the San Francisco 49ers yesterday. Although the number of yards isn’t astronomical, the average per rush (6.9) is what truly hurt the Saints. The 49ers did it many ways, on end arounds, reverse plays and up the gut. The Saints’ had been one of the best teams against the run all year, but yesterday the 49ers used the running game efficiently to keep several drives going.

· 121: The number of receptions for the amazing Michael Thomas through 13 games. Thomas caught 11 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown yesterday against San Francisco, which came in as one of the best defenses in the country. The Saints’ number one wide receiver lead the NFL in both catches and yards (1,424) and is just three off the lead in touchdown receptions with seven. Thomas is on pace for 149 receptions, an NFL record that he will likely beat.

· 35: As disappointed as the Who Dat Nation is right now, Drew Brees tied Peyton Manning yesterday when he threw four touchdown passes. This was Brees’ 35th NFL game with at least four touchdown passes. Against a fearsome 49ers’ pass rush, Brees was 29-for-40, with 349 yards and five touchdowns. Brees was responsible for six touchdowns overall, as he also had one of his patented leaps into the end zone in the first half of the game.

· 8. The total number of giveaways for the Saints this season, which is the best mark in the entire NFL. Despite the sour feeling of the loss to the 49ers, this is an encouraging statistic, as the Saints have been both very good and lucky when it comes to turnovers this season. New Orleans has fumbled eight times, but only lost two (the second coming yesterday when Alvin Kamara fumbled in the third quarter). The Saints have also thrown just six interceptions, between Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater. On the year, New Orleans is +11 in turnover differential.

· 5: The number of penalties on the Saints yesterday against the 49ers. This is yet another encouraging sign, as the Saints had shown a propensity for a ridiculously-high amount of penalties. What still killed New Orleans yesterday was the inopportune times at which their penalties occurred. Rookie cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson had two crushing penalties in the fourth quarter that sustained the drive that led to the 49ers last touchdown of the game. Safety Marcus Williams, instead of going low to tackle49ers tight end George Kittle on the penultimate play of the game, grabbed a handful of facemask and in effect gave the Niners a chip shot field goal to win the game.

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Beignets and Café au Lait Awards

· Fresh Beignets with Hot Coffee: Deonte Harris. By losing the game yesterday, the Saints wasted a fantastic performance by their diminutive kickoff and punt returner. Harris returned two punts for 37 yards (an outstanding 18.5 average) and returned five kickoffs for 155 yards. He also had one rushing attempt that went for eight yards and a 13-yard reception. Let me do the math for you: Harris on his own, accounted for 213 yards. That is absolutely wonderful. Let’s hope we see that again many more times.

· Stale Beignets with Lukewarm Coffee: C.J. Gardner-Johnson. It is tough being a rookie in anything. In the NFL, it is even harder, because there are millions of eyes scrutinizing your every screw-up. There are writers like me, chronicling your biggest failures. Gardner-Johnson is a good player and has a bright future ahead of him with the Saints. But yesterday was not his finest day in the Black and Gold. With the 49ers leading 35-33 in the fourth quarter and driving, twice New Orleans had San Francisco stopped, only for a penalty by Gardner-Johnson to keep their drive alive. First a defensive holding on George Kittle when Garoppolo had gotten sacked on third down at the Niners’ 48-yard line. Then later on the same drive, an unnecessary roughness penalty on fullback Kyle Juszczyk when San Francisco had stalled again on third down and was going to settle for a field goal. The Niners would score a touchdown two plays later and go ahead 42-33.

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What’s Next?

· The Saints will face the slumping Indianapolis Colts (6-7) a week from today in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday Night Football. The Colts are coming off a 38-35 home-loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, their third loss in row, and they figure to be desperate as their faint playoff hopes are dwindling. The Saints on the other hand can not afford any more slip-ups in they want to keep alive their chance at one of the two top seeds in the NFC.

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Super Bowl Odds

Following their loss against the 49ers yesterday, according to fivethirthyeight.com, the Saints remain third in odds of winning the Super Bowl at 13%. The Ravens have created some separation in first place (36%), followed by the Niners (16%). Rounding out the top five are the Pats (9%) and the Chiefs (8%) who won in New England yesterday. Here is something that will make you smile: The Saints still have the second-best odds of getting a first-round bye in the NFC (61%) behind only the Niners (64%). Rounding out the top five in the conference for those odds are the Seahawks (35%), Packers (33%) and Vikings (7%).

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Hey, how come you’re still here? Get some work done! Unless you’re still drunk on the sorrow of yesterday’s loss, in which case I’m sending you a virtual hug. And don’t forget to vote on the poll!

Poll

Are you more encouraged by the offense or discouraged by the defense after yesterday?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    46 points scored on that Niners’ defense means Saints can beat anybody!
    (76 votes)
  • 40%
    48 points allowed to that Niners offense means Saints can lose to anybody!
    (116 votes)
  • 25%
    Hey Football Gods, can the Saints win one of those crazy games just once please?
    (75 votes)
  • 7%
    I need more burgers and whiskey to drown my sorrow
    (23 votes)
290 votes total Vote Now