The New Orleans Saints tried to answer the question, “How bad would the Saints have to play to lose to the 15-point underdog New York Jets who were without their starting quarterback?” The answer was, “Apparently not as bad as they played Sunday.” Although it was way too close for comfort for Saints fans.
The Saints, 10-4 and in complete control of their playoff destiny, are two wins away from a division title, and by Wednesday the only thing we’ll remember from this game is the score and maybe Mark Ingram’s run. Lots of people will want to use this game to predict the rest of the Saints season and use it to forecast the playoffs – don’t do that (more on this later.)
The Saints won 31-19, had three turnovers, only converted three third downs, and until Mark Ingram ripped off a 50 yard run to ice the game, ran for 80 yards on 27 carries. All’s well that ends well or something.
Sean Payton wasn’t feeling that way after the game though and was SALTY saying, “We're gonna put on the film and we'll be disappointed. [Mental errors], penalties. I just thought it was sloppy."
I’m guessing Payton won’t be having ‘Victory Monday’ where players get extra time off.
Sure, Sunday was kind of a mess for the Saints, but give them credit for picking the perfect week to play perhaps their worst game of the year. Timing is everything in life and in 2017 the Saints seem to be exquisite in the right time department. If you are going to commit horrible red zone turnovers, doing it the week you face a team playing a backup quarterback is marvelous.
Sean Payton needs to worry about penalties, turnovers, horrible third downs on offense and all the bad stuff, but as fans, can we just take a moment and breath in the fact the Saints got to 10 wins looking like my two-year-old son trying to drink soda out of a can. Both were a gigantic mess and only the ending was nice. For the Saints, it’s another victory. For my son, it’s an adorable picture of him covered in Coca-Cola. The 2017 Saints are fun, even when they’re terrible.
The defense, besides one drive in the second quarter and one in garbage time, did exactly what a playoff team does to a team playing a backup quarterback. Bryce Petty finished 19 of 39 and except for one fantastic throw never looked capable of doing anything against the Saints through the air.
The defense bailed the Saints offense out after each and every turnover. Cam Jordan should use Sunday’s game as his main evidence if he gets snubbed in Tuesday’s Pro Bowl selections. Jordan had five batted passes, including one on a two-point try.
Sheldon Rankins summed up Jordan, “He's as good as it gets.”
Besides the drive where the Jets ran seven straight times on their way to a touchdown, there isn’t much to complain about with the Saints defense. They created two turnovers, held Jets to 33 percent on third down and the Jets seemed to have nothing easy all day.
While the defense was performing against the Jets pretty much like we expected, the offense after jumping to 17-7 lead, suddenly put all its flaws on display. It’s strange talking about an offense’s flaws when the Saints are third in points and first in yards but flaws the Saints do have.
The Saints struggle to throw the ball deep and create a vertical threat in the passing game and they lack any above average wide receiver or tight end who is not named Michael Thomas. This might be an issue come playoff time against elite defenses but ‘playoff problems’ are the best kind of problems. It’s like a millionaire complaining about property taxes on their summer house in the Hamptons. Lots of teams would love the Saints offensive ‘problems’.
It’s Christmas week so the Saints offense isn’t going to conjure up some magic solution to be better on third down or complete more deep passes. They are what they are. The most important thing for the Saints offense is to get healthy on their offensive line. Larry Warford got a concussion and suddenly the Saints are without both starting guards. If the Saints are going to do something special in the post season they’ll need a healthy offensive line, but there’s still plenty of big games left in the 2017 regular season.
The Saints are going to play the Atlanta Falcons on Christmas Eve in the biggest game in this rivalry’s history since a 1991 playoff game. If I asked you in August, “How do you feel about the 10-4 Saints playing the Falcons on Christmas Eve in the biggest Saints-Falcons game in a generation?” You’d have signed up no questions asked. Christmas plus biggest Saints-Falcons regular season game ever? 2017 football is as good as it gets my friends.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at iTunes.