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.
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.
What Just Happened?
Reports started surfacing during the week preceding the New Orleans Saints’ regular season finale against the Carolina Panthers, that quarterback Drew Brees would be starting and playing in his last NFL regular season game in Charlotte. This was not exactly groundbreaking news, as reports had it that Brees almost retired last offseason, before reconsidering and playing in 2020, his 20th season in the league. Should the 2020 NFL season be Brees’ last, it is fitting that the Saints’ quarterback will have another shot at winning a second Super Bowl, one that would only add to an already glittering NFL Hall-of-Fame legacy.
Last night, Brees played into the fourth quarter, as the Saints (12-4) still hoped to wrestle away the top seed in the NFC from the Green Bay Packers (13-3). Despite a 33-7 rout of the Carolina Panthers (5-11), New Orleans was forced to settle for the second seed in the NFC for the playoffs following Green Bay’s 35-16 demolition of the Chicago Bears (8-8). These aforementioned Bears, aided by the Arizona Cardinals’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams yesterday will be coming to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Sunday afternoon to face the Saints in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, in what will be the second matchup between the two teams this season.
In Week 8 of the regular season, the Saints went to Chicago and beat the Bears 26-23 in overtime. New Orleans rushed 30 times for 122 yards in that game, while Brees completed 31-of-41 passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The vaunted Bears defense sacked Brees only once in the game, but the Saints were dreadful on third down, going 2-for-13 (15%).
On the other side of the ball, New Orleans played the ferocious brand of defense it has become famous for during this regular season, sacking then-starting quarterback Nick Foles five times and intercepting him once. New Orleans held Chicago to 5-of-15 (33%) on third down, while limiting the Bears and running back David Montgomery to 96 rushing yards as a team.
The Saints are going to need this level of performance when they face Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears in the Superdome on Sunday afternoon. Chicago’s quarterback, who was once replaced by Foles after struggling earlier in the season, has now regained his starting position and led to the resurgence that allowed the Bears to back their way into the playoffs. In the postseason, it is a one-game, win-or-go-home scenario, and the Saints know too well after last year’s home-playoffs exit at the hand of the Minnesota Vikings, another NFC North team, that they will need to bring their A-game to advance to the next round.
In what was an unexpected bit of good news, New Orleans will play its first playoffs game on Sunday, which could allow All-World running back Alvin Kamara to rejoin the team. Kamara missed the Panthers game after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. Based on the NFL’s COVID protocol, if the Saints’ running back does not display any symptoms and is negative in follow-up testing, he will be allowed to play as early as Sunday, albeit without practicing. The Saints are also hoping to get wide receiver Michael Thomas and dynamic returner Deonte Harris back from Injured Reserve. Thomas missed the first meeting between the Saints and the Bears in Chicago with the ankle injury that has hampered him all season long, while Harris has been sidelined by a neck injury.
For Drew Brees, the player who for 15 years has quarterbacked the Saints into the NFL’s elite, the quest for that elusive second Super Bowl ring starts on Sunday afternoon, in what the New Orleans Saints hope will be a long playoff run ending victoriously on February 2, 2021 in Tampa Bay.
Beignets and Café au Lait Awards
Tons of Beignets, Unlimited Café au Lait Refills: Sean Payton
The Saints’ head coach has his detractors, and to be entirely honest, it is not always undeserved. Payton is a brash coach, on and off the field. He once made the choke sign to then-Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, in a game the Saints eventually lost. He did the “Skol” chant sign to the Minnesota Vikings fans seconds before the “Minneapolis Miracle.” But he also started the second half of the Super Bowl with an onside kick by then rookie punter Thomas Morstead, and his team recovered the ball and won the game. He has made quarterbacks like Teddy Bridgewater get a second big NFL contract, when most people believed Bridgewater to be done. He has designs to do the same next year with backup quarterback Jameis Winston, after Drew Brees retires.
Payton’s Saints went 12-4 this season and are making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, and have won 49 regular season games since 2017, the most in the NFL in that span. He has gone an outstanding 8-1 the past two years without Drew Brees in the starting lineup and has transformed a New Orleans Saints franchise that was in the doldrums of the NFL for decades into a franchise that is widely regarded as one of the best in the NFL.
He now gets a chance to further cement his legacy with a second Super Bowl win with Drew Brees this postseason. However, past this year, Payton will have a chance to continue adding to his lore, especially once Drew Brees, the man with whom he has built this Saints’ empire, retires. Who would have thought that this relatively unknown head coach the Saints brought in from Dallas in 2006 would today be one of the best coaches in the entire NFL? Not many.
Tons of Beignets, Unlimited Café au Lait Refills: Trey “T-Rex” Hendrickson
With a sack of Teddy Bridgewater yesterday, Hendrickson saw his tally go to 13.5 sacks to close out the regular season. That number has the Saints’ defensive end tied for second in the NFL with the Rams’ Aaron Donald, and only 1.5 sack behind regular season lead T.J. Watt of the Steelers (15). I am glad that I am not the Saints’ front office, who now has a big decision to make, with Hendrickson set to hit free agency this upcoming offseason. New Orleans has a number of players contract/contract extension that they need to address once the season is over, and Hendrickson has placed himself firmly in the middle of the discussion, while making himself a ton of money in the process. In a strictly on-the-field aspect, the Saints could not have asked for better production this season, and will now give opposing offensive lines a ton to think about in the playoffs, with Hendrickson on one side and Cameron Jordan on the other. You then bring in wild cards like David Onyemata, Marcus Davenport and Carl Granderson, and the Saints figure to continue feasting on quarterbacks in the playoffs.
Duh: beat Duh-Bears, beat whoever comes after them and then beat the next one, then beat Kansas City in Tampa. Right? Okay, back to some modicum of seriousness: The Saints play the Chicago Bears in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday afternoon at 3:40 CT in the second Wild Card game of the day. With a win, New Orleans will face the highest remaining seed in the divisional round of the playoffs, while the lowest remaining seed will pay a visit to the top-seeded Green Bay Packers who have a bye during Wild Card weekend. With a loss to the Bears, the Saints’ season would be over in the Wild Card round for the second consecutive year, in what would be a massive disappointment. My hunch is that Sean Payton, Drew Brees and company will be ready to erase the stench of last year’s premature playoffs exit, and the Bears are in for a rude welcome in NOLA.
How far do you think the Saints will go in the playoffs?
This poll is closed
They will exit in the first round again. I has a sad.
They will beat the Bears, but lose in the divisional round.
They will lose to Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game.
They will lose in the Super Bowl
Get ready to party with the Lombardi, New Orleans!