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Mouton: New Orleans Saints remain in playoff chase

This game is the example of why you just want to get into the playoffs.

NEW ORLEANS — Nobody has made Tom Brady as sad since he got to Tampa as the Saints. 

Give Dennis Allen credit, in his one game as Saints head coach he dialed up a brilliant defensive scheme, but he also made smart decisions when it counted.

Early in the second quarter, he opted to let Brett Maher kick a 35-yarder instead of going for it on 4th-and-2, recognizing early that it might not take a lot of points to win. He was right.

#4 Cloud Nine

In the last two games, Maher is 9-for-9. Kicking has been a huge problem all season, but not lately. Brett Maher got three chances and hit all three. 

The longest was 42 yards. I know kickers are supposed to hit kicks less than 42 yards, but t he Saints have missed seven kicks of less than 40 yards this season.

If Maher had missed one of those three kicks, the last four minutes of that game would have looked very different.

On the current two game winning streak, Brett Maher is perfect. And for a team struggling to find offense, that’s enormous.

#3 Four Man Scramble

There’s one way to beat Tom Brady: Get four man pressure.

That’s easier said than done.

Tom Brady has a super quick delivery, so if you have to rush five or more to get pressure Brady will find your man-to-man weakness and kill you.

And if you rush four and don’t get pressure, it doesn’t matter how many DBs you have, Brady will pick you apart.

Sunday night, the Saints got four sacks. That’s the most allowed by Tampa Bay this season. And all four came when the Saints were rushing just four guys. Marcus Davenport was in on all four. He’s playing at an exceptionally high level.

David Onyemata was in on all four. He played his best game of the season Sunday night.

And the player of the game was clearly Cam Jordan. Jordan was dominant. Take a step back — Cam Jordan is the best defensive lineman in Saints history. Only two players have been to more Pro Bowls as a Saint: Willie Roaf and Drew Brees. Cam Jordan has been to six.

This was his first two sack game of the season — the 20th of his career. Plus, he caused the Tom Brady fumble which was the biggest play of the game. And Jordan’s two sack game last night came against 22-year-old Tristan Wirfs, one of the best young tackles in football.

Since joining the Bucs, Tom Brady’s two worst games have been against the Saints IN TAMPA. Actually, the Saints did a better job against him LAST year!

Four sacks is the most the Bucs have given up this season. Tampa Bay is second in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed. The Saints four man pressure was the difference in the game Sunday night.

#2 An Injury Flip

It didn’t hurt that somebody else had injury problems.

This season has been defined by the Saints offensive injuries. They played Sunday night without Mike Thomas, their quarter back or three starting offensive linemen. But in the course of this game, the Bucs lost Chris Godwin (who’s now out for the year), Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. 

Without three elite weapons, Tampa Bay became instantly less scary, especially against a very healthy Saints defense.

#1 It’s Not Over Yet

This game is the example of why you just want to get into the playoffs.

The Saints are talented enough that it is possible to go on the road against a really good team and win. Football outsiders now says the Saints have a roughly 55% chance to get into the playoffs.

Next up, Tua and the Dolphins at home on a post-Christmas Monday night.
Sunday night, Who Dats got a Christmas present and the Saints will carry playoff implications into the new year.

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