The 2017 New Orleans Saints are winning football games now where they score only 20 points, commit multiple egregious fourth quarter turnovers, and Drew Brees doesn’t throw a touchdown pass? What world is this?
The Saints beat the Chicago Bears 20-12 in a game they were mostly outplayed and caught so many breaks it’s sort of hard to keep track all of them. Let’s count up the Saints good fortune for fun.
-The Bears gifted the Saints their first touchdown when Chicago lined up offsides on a field goal attempt and gave the Saints a first down.
-The Bears kicker missed a 48-yard field goal.
-The Bears had a touchdown taken away when tight end Zach Miller caught a score but set the ball down because his leg was broken. How that wasn’t a touchdown I’ll never know.
It was as if all the Saints' bad luck and bad breaks from the last three years of 7-9 got paid back in full, with interest Sunday. 5-2 is still beautiful and in a month none of us will remember anything about this game, except for maybe Mark Ingram’s fumbles. After 16 weeks nobody asks “How," they only ask, “How many?”
The Saints defense since getting lit up by Tom Brady has allowed, 13, 0, 24, 17, and 12 points. Pretty damn good. The defense basically saved the day Sunday since the offense was incapable of closing the game out.
Besides two long runs, the Saints defense didn’t allow the Bears and rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to do much at all. Take away those two runs and Chicago had just 211 yards of offense. The Saints defense had two sacks and a game sealing interception from rookie star Marshon Lattimore. Is he officially a star? I feel like he is.
Don’t let that stat line of 157 rushing yards for the Bears fool you, the Saints main goal was stopping the Chicago ground attack and they did it. The Bears aren’t a bad football team, but we should thank the heavens we don’t have to watch a team like that every Sunday. The Bears are as appealing as watching someone do laundry.
While the Saints might have the most consistent defense they’ve ever had under Sean Payton the offense is showing some cracks we’ve never seen before. The Saints managed to win a game for the first time since 2009 without a Drew Brees touchdown pass, which probably deserves a second line through the quarter, because it’s so rare and such a great sign for the 2017 Saints. The thing is the Saints were awful on third down again, converting just two of nine attempts, and that means the offense stalls out more than we’ve ever seen under Drew Brees.
I’ve joked many times over the years about the Saints South Park Gnome theory of passing. It’s basically:
Step 1: Drew Brees throws a pass
Step 3: Touchdowns.
It didn’t matter who Brees and Payton had at receiver or tight end because they were always going to figure things out and the Saints would be really great on offense. The 2017 Saints receiving corps might be pushing my theory to the limit. Brandin Cooks is gone and Willie Snead and Coby Fleener have been non factors during the five game win streak. The Saints are 19th in converting third downs which is the worst under Sean Payton by a wide margin. They are amazingly 5-2 anyway and I’ll just give Drew and Sean the benefit of the doubt and believe they’ll get it fixed.
Despite having to count on the defense to save them, the Saints basically had complete control of the football game, and were two Ingram fumbles from winning their fifth straight by more than a touchdown.
Mark Ingram didn’t mince words about his fumbles "The bottom line is I sucked at the end of the game."
The Saints shrugged it off and won anyway.
How delightful and wonderful is it to think how much more fun the 2017 Saints can be when they get their offense really humming to expected levels?
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at Saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.