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Beignets and Café au Lait: Saints make history, fitting for a crazy year

Saints clinch fourth-straight division title, tie 91-year old NFL record

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Hi 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” brunch, where we talk about the state of the Black and Gold, we debate the goings-on with the team and talk about what’s next at 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?

Even the pass-crazy Sean Payton couldn’t help it. His team was gaining 5.9 yard-per-rush against the helpless Minnesota Vikings defense on Friday night. So, the Saints’ head coach ran the ball, again and again for a total of 45 times for 264 yards and seven total touchdowns. Six of those came from one man: Alvin Kamara. The Saints’ explosive running back is healthy, and when he is feeling good, he is football poetry in motion. Kamara rushed for 155 yards on 22 carries (7.0 yard-per-rush) and found the end zone for six rushing touchdowns, equaling the NFL record previously held alone by Hall-of-Fame fullback Ernie Nevers. Then playing for the Chicago Cardinals, Nevers scored six rushing touchdowns on November 28, 1929 against the Chicago Bears, in a 40-6 Cardinals’ rout. For the anecdote, Nevers scored all 40 of the Cardinals’ points that day, an NFL record that still stands for most points by one player in a single game.

In pacing the Saints with 36 points of his own yesterday, Kamara helped the Saints (11-4) defeat the Vikings 52-33 and clinch their fourth consecutive NFC South title, a first-time accomplishment in the history of the division. With the loss, Minnesota (6-9) is eliminated from playoffs contention and it is sweet revenge for New Orleans, which the Vikings eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last year.

At 11-4, the Saints still have an outside chance to regain the top seed in the NFC, with only one game remaining in the regular season on January 3, 2021 against the already out of contention Carolina Panthers. For that to happen, New Orleans would need the Green Bay Packers (11-3) who currently hold the top spot in the conference to lose both of their remaining games against the Tennessee Titans (10-4) and the Chicago Bears (7-7), with the Saints winning against the Panthers. Another more convoluted scenario would be that the Packers lose only to the Bears and finish the regular season with a 12-4 record. In that case, if both the Saints and Seahawks win out to finish 12-4 as well, the Saints would get the number one seed by virtue of having a better conference record.

While that goal is a bit far-fetched, the Saints could get a de facto bye week at Carolina should Seattle (10-4) lose against the Rams (9-5) on Sunday, and the team needs it. Injuries have piled on, as is often the case late in the season. Last night marked the next significant injury with linebacker Kwon alexander suffering an Achilles tear (per report) and being out of the season. The Saints’ ultimate goal is a deep postseason run, and health will be a crucial factor in attaining it. For now, New Orleans can celebrate its fourth consecutive division title and the history it made while crushing the Vikings all the way back to Valhalla.

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Beignets and Café au Lait Awards

Tons of Beignets, Unlimited Café au Lait Refills: Alvin Kamara.

This one was a no-brainer now, wasn’t it? Alvin Kamara was the undisputed MVP of yesterday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. The usually excellent receiving Saints’ running back caught only three passes for 17 yards. But he exploded on the ground for 155 yards on 22 carries and the now oft-mentioned six touchdowns. Kamara, let’s be fair, could’ve broken that record had Sean Payton elected to give him the ball when Taysom Hill ran into the end zone with four minutes left in the fourth quarter to make the score 45-27 in favor of the Saints. At that point of the game, Payton was probably thinking: “let’s put this one out of reach.” Although then Vikings’ defense was missing key pieces, these were NFL players that Kamara made to look foolish, swirling and displaying his uncanny balance to stay on his feet and evade tackles. He played with a confidence that the Saints will need moving forward and it was a blast to witness.

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Some Beignets, A Half-full Cup of Café au Lait: Drew Brees.

As the title of this section indicates, last night’s game left me a little bewildered when it comes to Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees: on one hand, I was excited to see Brees play another game for the Saints this season, something that has obviously not happened a lot lately. On the other hand, I was left wanting. So, what did I like? Brees looked less hesitant yesterday night. Although he finished the night with only 19 completions (out of 26 attempts), most of his throws were decisive, and he completed several passes the Saints had to have, as illustrated by his 3-for-3 passing on third down, the biggest one coming on a 44-yard catch and run by tight end Jared Cook on third-and-six from the Saints’ 37-yard line when New Orleans was nursing a slim 31-27 lead.

What I didn’t like was obviously the two interceptions, although blame for both of those could be shared by Jared Cook and Emmanuel Sanders respectively, as one ran a not-so-great route, and the other tipped a catchable ball to a Vikings player. Brees would have had a third pick, hadn’t it been for intended receiver Marquez Callaway turning into a defensive back and wrestling the ball away from Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson. The Saints starting quarterback also looked more animated and angrier when things went awry, displaying some unusually strong signs of frustration, maybe triggered by the realization of his own football mortality.

It was Brees’ second game back from ribs injuries, and apart from showing some rust, the Saints’ quarterback is clearly not 100%. For that reason, there is optimism that Brees will get better and better and be ready to lead the Saints to the only place they really want to go to and win when this season is over and done: Tampa Bay.

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What’s Next?

The Saints how have a chance to catch their breath a little bit, with the NFC South in their pocket. New Orleans plays the Carolina Panthers (4-10) on January 3, 2021 in Charlotte. the 12 PM CT affair will pit either a Saints team trying to earn the top spot in the NFC, or a team resting a bunch of starters to be healthy for the start of the postseason. Either way, New Orleans is in the postseason, and in this COVID year, homefield advantage may not be as big a deal as it has in previous seasons. Just get healthy and get ready to bring home that Two Dat.

Poll

With one regular season game to go, how do you feel about the Saints?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    We are fine, we are going all the way! Championship!
    (40 votes)
  • 59%
    The injuries worry me, but this team has the pieces to win it all
    (138 votes)
  • 9%
    I am under the blanket, waiting for the other shoe to drop in the playoffs
    (21 votes)
  • 12%
    The referees worry me. Has Goodell already instructed them to screw us in the playoffs?
    (28 votes)
  • 2%
    The same way I feel about the McRibs: Awesome!
    (6 votes)
233 votes total Vote Now