NEW ORLEANS — It wouldn't be 2020 New Orleans Saints football without finishing the regular season facing massive adversity and overcoming it in style. The Saints were missing Alvin Kamara and his backup Latavius Murray because of COVID plus had 3 safeties out and still beat the Carolina Panthers 33-7.
The list of things the Saints have overcome in 2020 is LOONG. From Drew Brees missing a month, to Michael Thomas having as many touchdowns as me, to multiple key players testing positive for COVID; it's hardly been noticed by the national media the Saints fought through it all to go 12-4.
By the way, they are only the 3rd NFC since 1970 to win at least 12 games 3 years in a row. The only other teams are the 49ers and Cowboys teams in the 1990s.
Sean Payton didn't want to talk about all the guys missing from COVID or the rumors swirling around Alvin Kamara, "I’m not gonna talk about COVID tonight. I’m gonna talk about the game we just played."
No running backs? No problem, just have Ty Montgomery rush 18 times for 105 yards. I'm guessing the Saints haven't had a guy wearing #88 ever run so many times for so many yards. Give massive credit for the Saints for stashing the versatile Montgomery all year and then using him when they needed him the most. Montgomery was the Saints version of a fire extinguisher; they might only really need him 1 time but like a fire extinguisher, when you need it nothing else will do. Montgomery goes on the Saints Mount Rushmore of crazy fun one time great games. Ty, you shall live in our hearts forever.
The other great news for the offense was Drew Brees is looking really good 3 weeks back from 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung. He was 22 of 32 with 3 touchdown throws and even had enough chemistry with Emmanuel Sanders to make sure Sanders caught 9 passes and collected his $500,000 bonus.
Drew didn't even play coy about making sure Sanders got his money.
"All I know is we were trying to get Emmanuel 8 catches."
That's the definition of a great teammate.
It's great to know Brees has developed enough confidence in Sanders to feed him the ball. If Michael Thomas returns healthy for the playoffs, good luck stopping this passing game Chicago Bears.
I'm trying to not think about the fact we just watched Drew Brees' final regular-season game as a Saint. Let's just move along before I get too emotional.
While the offense was looking like it was getting back to form, the defense was creating an avalanche of turnovers that would make the 2009 Saints defense jealous. The Saints intercepted 5 Carolina passes, including 1 by Grant Haley, a guy 90% of us wouldn't know who he was if he came up to us and said, “Hello, I'm Grant Haley, and play for the Saints.”
Carolina isn't any good, but that's not our or the Saints' problem, and no one cares about a team's COVID or injury issues. The Saints defense held the Panthers to 320 yards and added 3 sacks to top off a fantastic end to the 2020 season.
Of all the wild and incredible things about the 2020 Saints, Trey Hendrickson finishing the year with 13.5 sacks might be my favorite. He ended 2019 with an incredible playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings and he hasn't stopped being spectacular since. Trey, go absolutely savage in the playoffs, help the Saints win a Super Bowl, and get $100 million from the New York Jets. We won't even be mad about you leaving us.
Another marvelous regular season is over and now we must enter our house of horrors. We all know how the last 3 playoffs have ended, but the Saints actually caught a couple of breaks before this year's postseason even begins.
First, the Saints play at 3:40 p.m. Sunday, which at least gives Alvin Kamara a chance to play if he can clear the COVID protocols. It's still unlikely, but a chance is better than no chance. The NFL giving the Saints a break with scheduling lets me know 2021 is going to be better than 2020!
The second break the Saints caught is facing the 8-8 Chicago Bears. The Bears beat exactly 1 playoff team (Tampa 20-19), and if not for 3 absolutely charmed finishes, they wouldn't be a playoff team.
It's the postseason, so I will all be nerves, booze, and anxiety, but if the Saints can't beat an 8-8 Mitchell Trubisky quarterbacked team, there isn't anything else to say really. The Saints since 2017 are 49-15. It's been wonderful, fascinating, and as fun as football can be. Now we just need 4 more wins to make it perfect.
Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.