NEW ORLEANS — If you told me in August the 2019 New Orleans Saints would:
- Be without Drew Brees for 6 weeks.
- Alvin Kamara would battle injuries and go 12 weeks without scoring a touchdown and wouldn't have 800 yards rushing.
- Sheldon Rankins coming off an Achilles injury wouldn't contribute much and be on injured reserve.
- Marcus Davenport would be put on injured reserve in December.
- Michael Thomas would have 119 more catches than the Saints second leading wide receiver.
I'd have said they'll be lucky to be 8-8. In the most improbable season in their history, the New Orleans Saints went 13-3 again in 2019, just like the did in 2018.
It's one of the most remarkable achievements in Saints history and was capped off with a 42-10 route of the hapless Carolina Panthers. The Panthers looked as interested in working Sunday as a teenager who just gave their two-weeks notice at a fast food restaurant. My 4-year-old son has more interest in eating vegetables than Carolina's defense had in tackling the Saints offense.
The Saints responded accordingly and jumped on top 35-0 so we could give the Detroit Lions the opportunity to disappoint not one, but two fan bases.
Thanks for nothing Lions and Seahawks, I hope to never have to care about either of your football games again the rest of my life. Before the Lions eventually gagged up a two touchdown lead, the Saints delivered us a lovely Sunday afternoon by knocking Carolina out in short order.
The Saints offense scored touchdowns on two of their first three drives and the defense held Carolina to 14 yards combined on their first three offensive series.
When A.J. Klein returned an interception for a score to make it 21-0 he should have just run up the tunnel and started the Saints bus to the airport. Since allowing 48 points to the San Francisco 49ers the Saints defense has responded by allowing 45 total the last 3 weeks. I'm old enough to remember the 2012-2016 rotten Saints defenses so if the Saints are only allowing 15 points a week I don't care if it's against a dozen puppies, I'm gonna get enthusiastic about it.
Things went so well for the Saints Sunday Sean Payton even won a challenge where the officials decided Michael Thomas was indeed interfered with even though they didn't initially throw the flag.
“That’s like a hard eight in Vegas, right?” Payton said after the game.
When Saints are getting good officiating on pass interference you know the day is going smooth.
Before you discount the Saints putting Carolina to the sword swiftly because they are terrible and had nothing to play for, I'd remind you the Packers had to escape against the three win Lions and the New England Patriots lost to the four win Miami Dolphins at home and cost themselves a playoff bye.
Showing up and handling your business against a disinterested team is what really great teams do.
The Saints finished the season averaging 40 points the last four weeks of the season and ended the season top 5 in points scored. Despite Brees missing six weeks and the offense looking pedestrian for long stretches of the season, the Saints end the year where they seem to always to under Payton and Brees; one of the best offenses in football.
If that isn't evidence of Payton's greatness I don't know what is. The coach of the year trophy should already be in Sean Payton's office waiting for him to return from Charlotte as a birthday present, but slighting the Saints isn't just a job for the national media, it's a lifestyle choice.
This feels different than last year's 13-3 doesn't it? In 2018 the Saints offense looked injured, tired and like a unit whose best football was behind it. Drew Brees mentioned how the Saints feel like their best is still ahead.
“Down the stretch here, I think we've been an ascending team," he said. "We've been playing a little bit better each and every week.”
I'm guessing Drew Brees took it even more personal than Saints fans did about him being left off the list of 10 greatest quarterbacks on NFL's 100 year anniversary team. Hopefully we are in for a January where Brees is destroying defenses, taking names, and conducting his own “Everyone has to pay for this disrespect” tour.
That the Saints managed to put the no call in the NFC Championship behind them, overcome all the adversity they did during 17 weeks, and grind out another 13-3 season has just been on some level absurd.
We'll have plenty of time to work through our fears, scars, and trepidation about the playoffs and we don't yet know the ending for the 2019 Saints, but this 17 week journey was to me the most fun Saints ride I've ever been on. I don't know if the 2019 Saints are the best one in franchise history, but they sure were the most resilient.
Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the NSFW Saints Happy Hour Podcast.
(Warning: The Saints Happy Hour Podcast may contain language that is not suitable for all audiences)