NEW ORLEANS — The Saints ended up getting a week one win over Tampa Bay Sunday 34–23, and it was kind of a weird game day experience inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with no fans allowed.
The only cheering that was going on was from the practice squad Saints players that were in the stands cheering on the team. Many of the players after the game were saying it was just a unique experience, but they were able to navigate all of that and be able to perform.
Saints' offense struggles
Looking at this game, the big storyline coming in was the battle between two 40-year-old quarterbacks: 43-year-old Tom Brady and 41-year-old Drew Brees. Brees got the upper hand because New Orleans won, but there were some issues on offense.
After the game, New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said he called an awful play — his words: He called an awful game, and he wants to look to improve on that.
They offensively struggled in those first two drives, but during that third drive, they kind of woke up and had an 11-play drive, ending with an Alvin Kamara touchdown.
Alvin Kamara's two touchdowns
Alvin Kamara ended up with two touchdowns in the game and he's coming off that new contract extension that he got on Saturday: Five years; $75 million. He certainly showed his value to the Saints.
Despite not being there in person, Saints fans watching the game also got to see another new weapon for the Saints get utilized: Emmanuel Sanders late in the fourth quarter. He ended up with two catches, the second catch ended up being his first touchdown for the Saints.
Jared Cook performs 'in the clutch'
However, the one offensive weapon that really came through was Jared Cook. This guy was the person that Drew Brees went to on those third downs for third-down conversions, and in that fourth quarter, Brees connected with Cook on a 46-yard touchdown pass, for what was possibly the biggest play of the game.
The Saints offense in that second half was struggling. Throughout the third quarter, a couple of three-and-outs, but when they hit that 46 yarder to Cook that led to Sanders' touchdown, that was a play that got the offense rolling.
They got Drew Brees off the mat, and actually showed that Drew Brees can complete passes over 20 yards, which was a concern going into the 2020 season. Some people just didn't think Brees would have the arm strength to do that.
He certainly looked back when he was able to complete that pass to Jared Cook.
Saints' defense keeps them in the game
The defense played so well in this they kept the Saints in the game while the offense had his struggles.
Janoris Jenkins had a pick-six, Trey Hendrickson come up with a couple of sacks. Cam Jordan was dominant against the run. Demario Davis also had a good game.
Marshon Lattimore shut down Mike Evans through almost the entire game. Evans was held without a catch until his touchdown late during garbage time, but the otherwise Marshon Lattimore did another outstanding job against the Buccaneers No. 1 receiver.
When the defense plays well, when the offense plays well — oh yeah, by the way— the special teams those came up with a blocked field goal and recovered a big onside kick later in the second half — that's a recipe for the Saints to win, and this may be the new formula for the Saints if they struggle on offense.
The Saints have always been known as being a prolific offense, but when they get contributions on defense and special teams, that's going to be the winning formula.
I think we're gonna see a lot more of those type of wins this season, but a good start for the Saints as they begin the a weird season in 2020.