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Saints at Bears: Five Numbers That Do Not Lie

The Saints are winning ugly and it’s beautiful

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Someone said: “Numbers Never Lie.” And that was a lie, because sometimes numbers do lie. But they don’t lie all the time, and that’s the truth.

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The 2020 New Orleans Saints are an interesting team: the past three seasons, the Saints peaked fairly early. They quickly became a contender in the eyes of the fan or the pundits, only to fizzle, or flat out crash and burn in the playoffs. This year, not so much. Sure, New Orleans came into the season as an expected contender in the NFC, but with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks garnering all the attention from the media, the Saints have been an afterthought. In many ways, this is a best-case scenario for a 5-2 team, sitting just a half-game from the lead in its own division, a team that has already beaten its current division leader.

No, the 2020 New Orleans Saints are not flashy and crushing every opponent by 40 points. Instead, they are grinding out games, winning by three points and bringing out what I believe to be head coach Sean Payton’s best: patience. Don’t believe me? check out the numbers:

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199

The total number of rushes attempted by the Saints so far this season. You know how narratives sometimes spring out of thin air or from the eye test? Well, in the case of Saints head coach Sean Payton, one of those narratives is that he doesn’t like to run the ball. Well, through seven games this year, the Saints are averaging 28.6 rushes per game. Did you expect that? I bet not. In the 2019 regular season, New Orleans rushed the ball 405 times. At the pace they are on so far this year, the Saints would have 457.6 rushing attempts this entire season. With Drew Brees’ arm not being what it used to be, Payton has realized that he needs a complementary running game for his team to be successful. Not flashy, sure. But efficient, certainly.

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987

The total number of yards from scrimmage by Saints running back Alvin Kamara following New Orleans’ 26-23 win in Chicago. Kamara leads the Saints in receptions (55), receiving yards (556), rushes (87) and rushing yards (431). He is on pace to amass 2,256 yards from scrimmage, which would rank 15th all-time in NFL history, and would be an absolutely incredible feat. For those who didn’t believe that he wasn’t healthy when he “struggled” last year, Kamara is responding emphatically this season with a masterpiece of a year. One in which the Saints have needed everything he has given them to build a 5-2 record and remain in contention in the NFC South and in the NFC in general.

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1

When Saints’ kicker Wil Lutz missed a 27-yard field goal during the first half of the Saints contest in Chicago, it was the first time of Lutz’s career that he had missed a field goal of 30 yards or less. Lutz has been masterful since signing with the Saints in 2016, making 134 of 152 field goal (88.2% success rate), while converting 219 of 225 extra point attempts (97.3%). It was no surprise that in overtime on Sunday, once the Saints reached Chicago’s red zone, Sean Payton did not hesitate to put the ball at Lutz’s feet to win the game, despite the play being on first down with 1:40 left on the clock. Lutz nailed a 35-yarder, sending the Saints home to New Orleans with their fourth straight win.

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53

Drew Brees does not need more NFL records, yet he just keeps either establishing them, extending them or getting close to them. On Sunday when the Saints beat the Bears in overtime, it was Brees’ 53rd game-winning drive of his career (regular season and playoffs), which brought him one shy of retired quarterback Peyton Manning (54). Reaching this kind of statistical heights requires playing for a long time, but more importantly it shows how consistently clutch Brees has been in a career that is somehow still a bit underrated in that department. Just behind the Saints’ quarterback with 47 career game-winning drives is, you’ve guessed it, Tom Brady. The Buccaneers quarterback is tied with another retired quarterback in Brett Favre. This coming Sunday night when the Saints travel to Tampa to face the Bucs in a crucial contest that could decide the NFC South, we could have a chance to witness one of these all-time greats leading his team to yet another game-winning, season-defining drive.

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1

In a season that hasn’t been great for the Saints’ secondary through seven games, one of the key members of that unit finally got off the schneid and recorded his first interception of the season. Marshon Lattimore is a good cornerback. For a while, the fourth-year pro was viewed as a budding great cornerback. Unfortunately for Lattimore, after a lights-out rookie year in 2017, his career has been very good, but not exactly great. The start of the 2020 season didn’t get much better, with Lattimore being beat one on one at times by some of the elite wide receivers the Saints played against, the likes of Mike Williams of the Chargers or Allen Robinson of the Bears. But on Sunday, after Lattimore’s interception of Nick Foles, the Saints’ number one cornerback could get a confidence boost he will need ahead of facing a fearsome armada of Buccaneers wide receivers that includes Mike Evans, and likely the intergalactic mercenary extraordinaire Antonio Brown. Here’s to Lattimore getting his second interception of the season on Sunday night.