METAIRIE, La. — Sunday’s playoff loss by the Saints was completely upside down and four team stats illustrate how weird this game was.
We start our takeaways with just how upside down the game was: For instance, the Saints were good all season at stopping the run – 4th in the NFL, allowing just 91 yards a game. The Vikings rushed for 136.
The Saints were third in sacks allowed with 1.6 per game. The Vikings got to Drew Brees three times and they had 7 quarterback hits. The Saints offensive line as a unit struggled.
And, on third down, the Saints were top 10 offensively in converting third downs AND top 10 defensively in preventing them. On the season they picked up 42 percent.
Sunday, they under-performed with 36 percent. Even worse, on defense, during the season, they allowed a conversion rate of 34.8 percent and the Vikings hit on 56 percent of those situations.
If you give up 136 rush yards and 56 percent third down conversions, you will rarely win.
The Saints most dominant offensive and defensive players were completely neutralized: Cam Jordan did get a sack late in the game but for most of the contest you didn’t hear his name and the eyeball test will tell you the Minnesota defensive line played far better than the Saints offensive line.
I think the losses of Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins were really felt in this game. The Saints need them both back next year and they need Davenport to take that next step forward. He was better this year, but the Saints need him to be significantly better next year.
But not just Jordan, Michael Thomas was also neutralized. On the season, Thomas averaged 108 yards per game – against the Vikings, when they needed his production the most, he caught passes for just 70 yards, but, honestly I don’t blame him. He needs a running mate.
CBS Sports lists eight wide receivers among the top 50 players in this April’s draft, including Destrehan and LSU wideout Justin Jefferson. At the top of the list are Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CD Lamb. They need a guy like that, perhaps two of them. They need more dynamic playmakers.
And the final takeaway is the Brees question.
Will No. 9 be back in the Black and Gold? I know he wasn’t great in the playoff lose. The Saints need to figure out how to player looser in the playoffs, but Brees had a terrific season with a bad thumb. He finished second in the NFL in quarterback rating, behind only Ryan Tannehill and comparing him to the other, older quarterbacks – Aaron Rodgers was 12th in quarterback rating, Philip Rivers was 17th, Tom Brady was below average at 19th.
Drew Brees can still play. In the nine games after he came back from injury, he outplayed the opposing quarterback eight times – only Tannehill had a better quarterback rating in games against Drew Brees. I think the Saints and their fans should want Brees to return and I think he will return. I don’t think the window is closed on Brees or this team yet.