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5 Numbers You Need to Know: All Good Things Come to An End

An inauspicious and unusual October start for the Saints

New York Giants v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Five numbers that will make you shudder after the Saints’ 27-21 loss against the New York Giants.

15 - Another Streak Bites the Dust

Coming into the game against the New York Giants, the New Orleans Saints were the Kings of October. The Saints had won 15 straight games in October, dating all the way to October 23, 2016, when New Orleans lost a 27-21 road-decision to Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Saints’ 15-game winning streak in October was the longest in the NFL since a similar feat was achieved by the Green Bay Packers from 1960 to 1963. Oh, and yes, you read that right: the Saints’ last October loss before Sunday was by the exact 27-21 score as the one from two days ago against New York. History has a funny way to wink at us sometimes.

27 - Coffee is for Closers

How does the old cliché go again? “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” Well, so far this season, the New Orleans Saints’ defense is having issues finishing. The Saints start halves great but end them poorly. Through four games, the Saints have given up their most points in the fourth quarter, with a total of 27. The third quarter isn’t great shakes either, with 23 total points allowed. By contrast, New Orleans has given up only 7 points in four first quarters, and 6 points in four third quarters thus far this season. This pattern could indicate something troubling: either Dennis Allen’s defense isn’t in great shape and runs out of steam in the second part of each half, or New Orleans’ defensive depth just isn’t where it should be, and the unit runs out of gas late in halves. Either way, this is a trend the team will want to reverse if it wants to go anywhere this season.

3.66 - Dead Last

The 2021 Saints’ defense is good, in fact it is very good. The Saints are third in the entire NFL in rushing yards allowed per play (3.11) and third in interception rate (4.27%). They are tied for first in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on only 33.3% of opponents’ possessions, and second in goal-to-go touchdowns allowed with 40.0%. And finally, they are fifth in points allowed per game, at 17.3.

But your New Orleans Saints also have a 3.66% sack rate per passing attempt, which ranks 32nd out of 32 teams in the NFL, through four games. A striking illustration of this horror is the fact that on Sunday, Daniel Jones dropped back 40 times to pass, behind an offensive line that isn’t remotely close to being one of the best in the NFL, and Jones was sacked exactly zero times by the Saints. If there is a glaring weakness in New Orleans’ very good defense, we’ve found it. The question now is: can they fix it?

100 - Leader of the Pack

Before you try to gouge your eyes out, let’s talk about something positive: Yes, the Saints’ offense has looked anything like the Sean Payton’s offense we’ve come accustomed to. New Orleans is 28th in the NFL in yards-per-play (4.81), 22nd in passing yards-per-play (6.40) and 27th in first downs per game (17.0). Wait, I am supposed to talk about good things: the Saints are also first in the entire NFL with a 100% goal-to-go rate in terms of scoring. In other words, when the Saints have a first-and-goal against you this season, they will score on you and there is nothing you can do about it. Add to that the fact that New Orleans is second in the league in red zone efficiency with a 91.7% scoring rate in the red zone. So, it’s not all bad, Who Dat Nation.

4 - Keeping a Tight Leash

Don’t squint: the New Orleans Saints are averaging 22.5 passing attempts per game through four games in 2021. In other words, they are averaging what used to be like a Drew Brees’ half in terms of throwing attempts not so long ago. But if you want to be even more astonished at just how much Sean Payton is trying not to see Jameis Winston “mess up,” well fathom this: Winston threw only four pass attempts in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants. After going up 21-10 with about 12:09, the Saints forced a punt. On New Orleans’ first possession started in the fourth quarter, Alvin Kamara ran twice for 8 yards. Taysom Hill then ran on 3rd-and-2 and was stuffed for no gain and New Orleans was forced to punt. On the very next play, Daniel Jones threw the bomb touchdown to Saquon Barkley, which after a two-point conversion brought the score to 21-18. On the Saints’ ensuing possession, a run by Kamara was followed by a Winston a successful 16-yard pass to Callaway (pass number one). Three more runs and a delay of game later, the Saints faced a 2nd-and-14 at their own 38 and New Orleans was forced to pass. Winston threw two incompletions (passes 2 and 3) and the Saints punted again. After the Giants tied the game, Winston threw a meaningless pass to Deonte Harris with 22 seconds left, before another meaningless run by Kamara ran out the clock in regulation.

A Sean Payton quarterback, throwing in effect three meaningful passes in a quarter...I never thought I would see the day, but now I have.

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