“Someone said: “numbers never lie.” And that was a lie, because sometimes numbers lie. But they don’t lie all the time, and that’s the truth.”
Raise your hand if you thought the Saints would win this game against the Lions with 10 minutes left in the first quarter. And if you truly did, you’re one of the most optimistic fans I’ve ever met and should open an Optimism Therapy practice.
In a game that seemed doomed before it even began, things couldn’t have started worse for the Saints on Sunday in Detroit: a long drive by the Lions for a touchdown, then Drew Brees’ first pass tipped and intercepted deep in New Orleans territory. Before you could blink it was 14-0 and the Saints were 1-3.
But wait they weren’t! 35 consecutive points later, New Orleans would hold on and improve to 2-2 with a 35-29 win against the Detroit Lions. How did they do it? Here are some remarkable numbers from the game:
Monday, September 26, 2016: The 0-2 Saints were playing the Atlanta Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints would get beat 45-32, and go to 0-3, en route to a miserable 7-9 season. Little did we know that night, that it would be a while since we saw the Saints lose three consecutive regular season games again. Against the Lions on Sunday afternoon, New Orleans was trying to avoid suffering its first three-game losing streak in 65 regular season games. Sixty-five!!! Remember the pre-Payton Saints? When we were thankful for only 5-game losing streaks? In this golden era of Saints football, most of us do not even remember the last time New Orleans lost three games in a row, because such things have become an anomaly. That is damn awesome!
Jackie Robinson’s number? Yes, but also the number of rushing attempts by the Saints on Sunday in Detroit. I can see your mouth agape. A Sean Payton’s team ran the ball 42 times? Yes, for a whopping 164 yards (3.9 yards-per-carry) and three touchdowns. I am not an NFL coach, and likely neither are you. But if we can see it, then Sean Payton must see it too, right? If the Saints commit to running the ball, they’re nearly unstoppable. Brees and the Saints’ passing game are good without a running game. With one, they are lethal. At this point in Brees’ career, less (passing) is more. Against the Lions, Drew attempted only 25 passes, completing 19. And yet the Saints scored 35 points in the game and were in complete control for over three quarters. Run the ball, coach. Run the ball!
Alvin Kamara’s all-purpose yards for the Saints through four games. I keep joking about the fact that barring injury, Kamara will easily top the 2,000 all-purpose yards mark this season, but I should be getting more and more serious about that. Kamara is the MVP of the Saints thus far and is not yet in the league MVP conversation simply because he is not a quarterback. The Saints’ gifted running back is leading the team in rushing attempts (50), rushing yards (236) and rushing touchdowns (4). He also leads the team in receptions (30), receiving yards (321) and receiving touchdowns (3). Kamara is tied for second in the entire league in rushing touchdowns (4) and leads the NFL in total touchdowns (7). Some players get paid and rest on their laurels. Alvin Kamara through four games this season is rewarding the Saints for their confidence in him.
This is the number of receptions by wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on Sunday in Detroit. I can hear you go: what? That’s it? Yes, and it’s big! Sanders caught 3 passes for 15 yards in the season opener against Tampa Bay. He then had a lonely one catch for 18 yards against the Raiders. But then, he recorded 4 catches on five targets for 56 yards and a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers. In Detroit, Drew Brees targeted Sanders 9 times, the most he has all year. Sanders snagged six of those passes for 93 yards, and even though he didn’t score a touchdown, every one of his catches had a positive impact on a drive during the Saints 35-point eruption. Chemistry is everything between a quarterback and a wide receiver. That intangible trust of where the receiver is going to break his route, or when the quarterback is going to throw. That thing that Michael Thomas and Drew Brees have had so many games to develop, it appears that Brees and Sanders are slowly building, and that is outstanding news for the New Orleans Saints.
We take a lot of crucial things for granted, that is a staple of human nature. Simple things, like being able to breathe clean air, or drink clean water. For people like me who live in Northern California, when wildfires start raging every summer and the air gets filled with smoke, that’s when we realize just how lucky we are the rest of the year. Right now, through four games, Saints’ kicker Wil Lutz has a cool 100% conversion rate on both field goals (6 for 6) and extra points (15 for 15). Against the Lions, Lutz went 5-for-5 on extra points, in a game in which he didn’t have to attempt a field goal. When the Saints signed Lutz on September 5, 2016, he had just been waived by the Baltimore Ravens, who had brought him in to provide some kicking relief in camp for Justin Tucker. The legend has it that John Harbaugh recommended Lutz to Sean Payton, saying that he wasn’t keeping him simply because he already had the incredible Justin Tucker on the roster. On March 13, 2019 the Saints signed Lutz to a five-year contract extension, and for anyone who knows how Sean Payton treats placekickers, that’s an indication of how good Lutz has been in his tenure in New Orleans. We take crucial things for granted when they’re working well. Right now, Lutz is working perfectly.