NO QUIT: Saints Beat Chargers for 2nd Straight Comeback Despite Shaky Secondary

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on Twitter

After their heart-stopping 30-27 overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers last night in what was a 2nd straight comeback win in back-to-back weeks after falling behind by double digit points; it’s become evident that the New Orleans Saints are a team that has “no quit” in them and won’t ever give up.

But yet the Black and Gold still might end up being a team in danger of not contending for the Super Bowl this year or even making the Playoffs — because of the consistently-poor play by their suddenly shaky defensive secondary — which clearly appears to have taken a major step backwards in their first 5 games of the 2020 NFL Regular Season.

New Orleans improved its overall win-loss record to (3-2) on the season through their first 5 games, as they now will head into their Bye Week off with a share of the lead in the NFC South with fellow division rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers (who are next up on their schedule), both of whom also have (3-2) win-loss records as well.

But as the team enjoys their well-deserved time off, they absolutely will have to take some serious corrective measures and make some much-needed adjustments by defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and secondary / defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn, if they have any hope whatsoever of achieving their ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl before 20th year veteran starting QB and future Hall of Fame ‘living legend” Drew Brees eventually retires.

The Saints at one point midway through the 2nd Quarter, trailed by a score of 20-3 and appeared to be headed for another disappointing loss in a manner very similar in their previous two losses in Weeks #2 and #3, to the Las Vegas Raiders and the Green Bay Packers respectively.

But the Black and Gold managed to rally and comeback from a double-digit deficit for a 2nd straight week, just as they had last week when they trailed the Detroit Lions by a score of 14-0 before eventually winning that contest.

That said, last night’s phenomenal never-say-die effort was almost completely overshadowed, thanks to the on-going lack of discipline and blatant lapses in pass coverage by nearly all of the Saints defensive backs.

The defense for the majority of the contest struggled to stop the Los Angeles passing game and Chargers rookie QB and former University of Oregon star Justin Herbert; whom they allowed to resemble a well-experienced veteran more so than a player who was actually only playing in just his 4th-ever NFL game.

Herbert threw 4 TD passes, as he impressively directed Los Angeles to a 17-point lead halfway through the 2nd Quarter while victimizing a few of the Saints defensive backs in pass coverage, most notably cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Patrick Robinson, as well as safety Marcus Williams.

But it was his 64-yard pass to Chargers WR Mike Williams — who literally blew right past Robinson down the right sideline on an obviously-blown coverage late in the 4th  Quarter — that was the most embarrassing play for the Saints secondary on the night, that appeared to have Los Angeles headed for what at the time seemed to be a certain victory.

But after New Orleans managed to put together a game-tying drive with less than one minute remaining, their secondary was caught napping  yet again when Mike Williams made an unbelievable grab over Lattimore in traffic with only 8 seconds left on the game clock, to set up a game-winning 50 yard field goal attempt.

The Black and Gold would have a losing win-loss record this morning had it not been for Chargers kicker Michael Badgley missing that same 50-yard field goal attempt, when the kick hit the right upright of the goal post on the final play of regulation which sent the game into overtime tied up at 27-27.

After the Saints were forced to settle for a field goal on their first possession of overtime, Saints fans watching on from home held their collective breaths as the now (1-4) Chargers still had an opportunity to win the game with a TD drive.

However it was actually the most vitally-important player in the Saints secondary (Lattimore), who essentially won the game single-handedly as he made a clutch tackle against Williams near midfield on a critical 4th-Down-and-7, that allowed the Saints to escape with a victory that they now hope will give them momentum moving forward for the rest of the regular season.

Lattimore’s late heroics aside however it was another shaky performance by the secondary that has rendered the defensive unit as a big-time disappointment overall through the first 5 weeks of the season.

That said, last night’s win demonstrated the resiliency of a team that has simply refused to lose in their last two most recent games, in spite of their notable struggles.

“I’m proud of how we fought back,” Saints head coach Sean Payton told the media via teleconference after the game’s thrilling conclusion.

“It’s a win. There are a number of things we have to clean up. We’ll get back to work next week. We’ll be in Tuesday and the next day, and we’ll be able to address some of the things we feel like we haven’t done well and get ready to start playing after the bye.”

As it turns out, last night wasn’t completely all about the defense’s inability to stop the suddenly-proficient Chargers passing game. Seemingly at one point early in the 2nd Quarter, the secondary’s notable struggles appeared to rub off on the entire team in all aspects.

The Saints offense — coming off an impressive performance last week in their win at Detroit — had its own issues for a majority of the 1st Half.

The Black and Gold only managed to gain 127 yards of total offense in the first two quarters, and their first six drives resulted in a grand total of 3 whole points as they looked out of sync and for all intents and purposes, totally ineffective.

“The bottom line is we were not playing Saints football in the first half,” Brees said to the media via Zoom teleconference afterwards.

“We missed a lot of opportunities. We were bad on third and short situations and wouldn’t sustain drives. We made some mistakes in the kicking game that prolonged drives for them and obviously had a turnover that gave them seven points. At the end of the day, we’re down 20-3 and we’ve made a bunch of mistakes, a bunch of self-inflicted wounds.”

Brees was unable to establish a rhythm early on (he was 12 for 22 for 93 yards in the 1st Half) but eventually got things going near the end of the 2nd Quarter, when he led the team to a long touchdown drive that cut the Chargers lead down to a score of 20-10 and gave New Orleans some much-needed momentum going into the locker room at halftime.

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on (Original Photo by Butch Dill)

Brees went on to complete 33 passes out of 45 attempts, for 325 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception and also rushed for for a second score, early on in the 4th Quarter.

“These are growth experiences,” Brees added. “It’s certainly nice if you can go out and score a bunch of points in the first half and cruise to victory. These are the tests that I feel like really bring a team together and give you confidence and momentum and really shape you.”

Bottom line: the Saints have a plethora of issues that they need to get resolved and worked out, while they are on their Bye Week off.

That sentiment was echoed by Saints superstar RB Alvin Kamara, who other than a spectacular catch that set up the Saints for their game-tying TD drive late in the 4th Quarter, was essentially held in check for most of the night.

“It was a dirty, dirty, dirty game. We had to claw and scratch to come out on top”, Kamara said.

“We’ve got to get going faster, get in a rhythm faster, get efficient with the plays we’ve got to call,” Kamara added. “That’s on all of us, we’ve all got to get better. That’s on me, that’s on Drew, I mean everybody.”

While Kamara’s assessment rings true this morning, the Saints and their devoted fans can still take solace in the fact that even though they’ve been “winning ugly” and clearly haven’t been all that sharp at times on either side of the football, they still have a good enough team and a deeply-talented roster that is more than capable of getting things headed back in the right direction.

Photo Credit: Michael C. Hebert / New Orleans Saints on

And perhaps even more importantly, the Black and Gold have shown a resiliency and a willingness to never stop fighting, even when the odds seem to be completely stacked against them, at each and every turn.

If nothing else, it’s become evident that the New Orleans Saints in this current 2020 NFL Season, are a team that has “no quit” in them and won’t ever give up…..

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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