Yes it has happened! The Saints are back in the playoffs for the first time since January 4th 2014 finishing the season 11-5, winning the NFC South even after losing their last 3 road games of the regular season (more on that later).
If someone had offered me 11-5 after starting the season 0-2 I would have not only bitten off their arm but probably taken the other one and some of a leg too. Looking at the team, the strength of the division and the schedule to come I couldn’t see where the wins required to make the postseason were going to come from. Shows what I know.
Let’s have a quick look back to Tampa on NYE and a look forward to those pesky Panthers on Sunday.
Funny one for me on the Sunday just gone because, being based in the UK, I actually watched the same game in both 2017 and 2018 with Big Ben (No not Roethlisberger) striking 12 just after the Saints had scored on Zach Lines 3 yard pass from Mr. Brees. The Bucs had started driving again. We all know what happened after that. A few quick points on all sides of the ball.
Offense: Looked a bit static, one dimensional and predictable apart from the usual ball games by Kamara, Thomas and Brees. Saying that we didn’t do a lot wrong but the Bucs just knew what was coming, a screen, a swing pass, Boom or Zoom to run or a throw to Michael Thomas. We aren’t spreading the ball around the offense as we have done in previous years to as great effect. 7 different receivers yes but 3 of those only had 1 reception with Thomas and Kamara getting the majority of the ball without a TD (12 receptions for 178 out of 245 total from scrimmage).
We are missing a Tight End and badly. I really hope HooMan is back for Sunday, limited on the first injury report. Ted Ginn Jr. needs to be at his best, I think he will show up with a point to prove against his former teammates. Shout out to Zach Line for his first Saints TD, been my unsung hero of the offense (apart from the O-line) with the plaudits going, rightly, to Boom and Zoom but his blocking has been superb. Someone get Mark Ingram angry before the game on Sunday please, he plays so much better when he’s been riled up by the opposition.
Defense: Odd one this. 3 takeaways but I would put these more on Winston than the D stepping up and making plays, still, they had to be there to make the catches. I think it was Jeff Duncan who tweeted “Jameis Winston is awful” (queue comeback, thanks Jeff, tweet did not age well). Cam Jordan earned his 13th sack of the season, taking a cool $250,000 in the process, fully deserved. Imagine if we could only get someone of his stature in the other DE slot we would be posting sacks for days, with Hendrickson back limited it may be a game too soon for Trey but hopefully we can get some snaps off with him in. Either the play calls or the reading of the plays wasn’t there on Sunday, especially on 3rd down 13/18 attempts isn’t acceptable against a 4-11 team, 2 receivers over 100 yards too. I think we underestimated the bucs to be quite honest or just took our foot off the gas. Either way, improvement needed. Winston got a few runs off as well, this NEEDS to be addressed for Cam Newton coming to town on Sunday, again, sick of that guy.
I’ve seen that Greg Olsen should be back to full health on for Carolina too (Full practise Weds), that leaves us with a dilemma, does Lattimore cover him or Funchess? (DNP Weds). Idea, swap the corners out on their receivers per series or maybe every few series. Keep Newton guessing. Crawley has Funchess one series, then Lattimore takes him for the next and vice versa with Olsen. Just an idea. I can probably see ‘Shon taking Olsen the majority of the game. Although the Falcons did hold these two to 3 receptions for 58 yards combined (and a TD).
Special Teams: A sublime start, a strange middle and an awful end. I’m still angry at Tommy Lee Lewis, like seriously mate, what you doing!? Could call fair catch, doesn’t, runs backwards, could still hit the deck, doesn’t, fumbles, Touchdown. I was screaming at the tele, Payton-esque. Will he get another chance on Sunday, probably, but please, don’t do that again. That fake field goal, love the idea but poorly executed, apart from Morstead’s over the shoulder toss, didn’t see Lutz as much of a runner and the timing seemed strange too, just stick to the day job and kick the 3 yeah? I wonder if we could sneak Snead in at the holder and he could toss another TD pass like that one against the Rams last year that was so funny. Ooh or Hill, he’s a QB working undercover on Special Teams. But seriously, not in the postseason, maybe try it next preseason, we all know it doesn’t matter, Cleveland Browns, looking at you. Alvin Kamara, that kick-off return, wow! Loved it, let’s see more of that! What can’t that guy do!? OROY surely, or just straight up Rookie of the Year, I think I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the guy.
For Carolina let’s keep it simple. Nothing silly, nothing too flashy unless we are in dire need of scores and quickly. No fumbles, no turnovers and no fake field goals! Taysom Hill making tackles again please, love that guy.
The Saints have lost their last 3 road games going into the postseason, not a stat you want. Especially when I think momentum plays a huge part in the game. This will be something to worry about should the Saints be victorious in this one. Fortunately this one’s at home so “Dome Field Advantage” should definitely play its part.
Funnily enough though, after all my drivel I do think that the seeding’s have fallen better for us. Being at #3 with the Falcons at the dome again and being so soon would have been a tougher match up for me. I know what people say about beating a team 3 times in a season but actually the record stands at 13-7 in favour of the sweep team (i.e. the Saints in this case) since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 – this is a 65% success rate. What do you call a 3 time sweep anyway? Super sweep? Triple sweep?
I can see the Saints winning a narrow contest on Sunday with the fans in the dome playing a huge role in this. Get Loud, get louder and let’s go Saints!
Saints 24 – 21 Panthers