NEW ORLEANS — Beating the New York Jets is the NFL equivalent of still being able to get out of bed in the morning. If you are unable to do it, death is probably going to visit you soon.
So, the 2021 New Orleans Saints proved capable of getting out of bed and their 2021 season isn't dead yet.
The Saints defeated the Jets 30-9, and while it wasn't spectacular, they looked like the superior team on Sunday from start to finish.
The Saints were in the middle of the longest losing streak of Sean Payton's time as head coach of the Saints, and we were all asking, “How bad are the 2021 Saints?”
The answer was, “Not as bad as the Jets.” For my self-worth as a Saints fan, that was VERY important.
A loss Sunday would have meant the 2021 Saints hit the warp speed button to maybe finishing 5-12 and their streak of 4 straight seasons of making the playoffs needed to be measured for a coffin.
Instead, the Saints are – believe it or not – in the thick of the NFC wildcard race. The Saints snapped their 5-game losing streak by simply not helping the Jets have any chance of winning Sunday.
The Saints didn't turn the ball over and ran for 203 yards.
It was simple football brutality of, “We are better than you, and as long as we don't step on rakes or shoot off our feet, you can't win.”
The game Taysom Hill had is about as good as we can hope from him for the rest of 2021. He threw for 175 yards, ran for 73 more, didn't turn the ball over, although his fumbling issues remain.
Sean Payton seemed pleased after the game, though he did talk about Taysom fumbling like I talk about my son's refusal to wash his hands consistently.
“I thought he threw it pretty well, secured the ball, there's always a little bit of an adventure with him that we'll keep working on,” Sean Payton said.
The coach had some BIG dad life energy there talking about Taysom's fumbling. I feel you, Sean. Just like Taysom, my kid washing his hands is an adventure most days.
Sunday showed us what we knew all along; Alvin Kamara is the engine of the 2021 Saints offense. He had 135 yards on 31 touches and a touchdown where he made a defender look foolish.
We also got fun post-game Kamara because the Saints won, and he knew what was up on Taysom's last touchdown, “He shoulda slid. I told his dumb--- slide.”
Winning is fun. I've missed winning.
I'd say the Saints offense without Deonte Harris has the worst receivers in the NFL, but I just watched the Jets receivers drop what felt like a thousand passes.
Still, the Saints' offense will go as far as Taysom and Kamara take them. At least with Kamara back, the Saints have a clear identity; formation teams to death, run the ball, don't turn it over, and grind out some ugly wins.
While the offense looked worlds better with Kamara back, I still don't know what to make of the defense — mostly because the Jets are so unspeakably terrible. How do we judge the Saints— because rookie Zach Wilson was dreadful and when he wasn't his receivers were dropping the ball?
The Saints did hold Jets running backs to 45 yards on 13 carries, so the run defense being great at least gives the defense a fighting chance.
13 games into 2021 the main thing keeping the defense from being something special is the pass rush at times feels non-existent. The Saints miss Trey Hendrickson, and Cam Jordan hasn't been good since 2019.
The result is quarterbacks with way too much time and that leads to big plays. Maybe Marcus Davenport's return will spark a resurgence from Cam Jordan? That's about the only scenario I can conjure where the pass rush improves.
For the Saints to make the playoffs, it's going to take 9 wins. Are they capable in their current state? I don't know. I do know the Saints give Tom Brady absolute fits, and they won't be scared of facing the mighty Tom Terrific in prime time.
Beating the Jets might not feel impressive, but I'm glad the Saints will still be playing football that matters in December. We wait all year for Saints football, so I am happy we still can look forward to Sundays that have playoff implications.
You will have to pry my Saints playoff dreams from my cold dead hands, but only when their chances are mathematically impossible. Winning keeps our Saints dreams alive and dreams make Saints football fun.
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.