The 2019 New Orleans Saints are so good, deep, and talented they can overcome almost anything and still win games. Sunday's 34-31 victory over the Carolina Panthers might have been their most impressive display of overcoming adversity yet. The Saints overcame Carolina, their own mistakes, AND the officiating.
Were the Saints a bumbling mess the second half and lucky to win? Or were they a resilient champion showing toughness under pressure? The answer was YES.
“It wasn’t our best game, it wasn’t their best game, and quite honestly it wasn't New York's best game.”
Why is Sean Payton so much fun as a coach? Because of post game quotes like that.
Don't ever change Sean. The only thing that would have made that quote more perfect is if Sean was wearing the Roger Goodell clown shirt under his hoodie and we could see JUUST enough to know he was winking at us through wardrobe choices.
The Saints jumped on Carolina 14-0 and I won't lie, I thought being up two scores against a Panthers team that struggles when behind meant Sunday was going to be a stroll to warm us up for Thursday's rematch with Atlanta, except the Saints while leading 17-9 decided to mash the self-destruct button with both hands until Carolina was right back in the game heading into the half.
The Saints had the ball leading 17-9 and had a 4th down conversion wiped out due to offensive holding. Then on the ensuing Carolina possession Cam Jordan got called for a personal foul after the 3rd down play where the Saints had forced a Panthers punt. Carolina was given a gift first down and drove down and scored as half ended. The Saints had given away two separate chances to be up multiple scores heading into the half. It was like watching someone shoot themselves in the foot and then wander into oncoming traffic. The Saints after a great start were suddenly giving a horrified sold out Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd a TED Talk on how to give away a victory to a division rival.
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The Saints seemed to have order restored in the second half when they had a 31-18 lead. Drew hit Michael Thomas for short touchdown and I was expecting to write a fun column about how the offense was suddenly looking much better with Jared Cook delivering what we expected when the Saints signed him and Drew Brees looking more confident throwing down field. Unfortunately the next two Saints offensive drives only contained seven plays and one of those was an interception.
The Saints defense, like the rest of the NFL, had major struggles containing Christian McCaffrey. The Saints defense wasn't great, but penalties made life very difficult for them. They did sack Kyle Allen four times and the reversal on the pass interference call overshadowed a heck of a goal line stand. Carolina only had a chance to miss a field goal late because the Saints defense stiffened up.
If I may, a word about the officiating. The 2019 Saints are officiated a different way from other teams.
The Saints had yet another day with 10 plus penalties called against them. I believe 2 Saints got called for illegal hands to the face while you are reading this column. Call it a conspiracy, or whatever you like, but I'll just add it to the list of things the Saints have to defeat every week in 2019.
There will be lots of worry an anxiety over the Saints playing sloppy and not winning comfortably but I saw much more to like than not.
Drew Brees was throwing the ball deeper and with greater confidence than he has at any point since he returned from a thumb injury. Michael Thomas continued his year long campaign to embarrass every defense he faces. Let's hope Santa delivered Drew Brees an early Christmas present of a consistent third receiving option for defenses to worry about with Jared Cook's 6 catches for 99 yards and a score.
The 2019 Saints are one of my favorite Saints teams ever. They have had to overcome the heartbreak of the 'No Call' in the NFC Championship, an injury to Drew Brees, injuries to two offensive linemen (Andrus Peat and Terron Armstead), no All-Pro Marshon Lattimore, and a down pour of penalty flags that should come with a weather advisory every week, and yet they are 9-2.
The 2019 Saints shall overcome every obstacle while delighting us and delivering weekly heart attacks. Expect the same Thursday night.
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 Saints Happy Hour Podcast.
++note++ no Saints-Falcons post game column. Holiday travel y'all. You can RSVP for Saints Happy Hour live show at Tracey's on December 14th and get free t-shirt here.
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