The Saints, More Prepared Than Ever, Put Louisiana on Their Back

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Lifting up Louisiana through the darkest of times, it’s a tradition that seems to rarely fail for the New Orleans Saints going on two decades now. Despite the 2005 season being disastrous, the squad played “home” games in New York, Baton Rouge, and San Antonio immediately after Hurricane Katrina. The Aaron Brooks led Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers 23-20 in the final seconds on the road thanks to a John Carney field goal. The team went on to finish 3-13 in 2005 before Drew Brees arrived the following season to start a new “rebirth” era that included postseason success and one Super Bowl win.

Once again, the franchise found itself, like many of Louisiana’s residents after another natural disaster, facing the unknown with nothing to believe in but themselves.

Before Sunday, without Brees, the Saints were underdogs again, kicking off a campaign to convert believers once again. However, this time, instead of nail biting dramatics, the Saints came marching into their temporary home of Jacksonville to steamroll Green Bay, a legitimate contender, 38-3.

On Sunday, the Saints did not look like a program stating an era of rebuilding. Rather, they appeared to be in mid-season form.

Hats off to Sean Payton and Dennis Allen

Head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen may be the most underrated coaching duo in the NFL. Let’s take a look at what they accomplished against Green Bay. 

On both sides of the ball, the Saints won the battle in the trenches. The Saints outweighed Green Bay in the run game with their 171 yards besting the Packers’ 43 on the ground.

Aaron Rodgers, under pressure for most of the day, was held to 133 yards passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

The defensive line is fast and furious and the linebacker corps is among the deepest it’s been in recent history, executing timely pursuits while covering a large ground. This takes pressure off of a secondary that may be improved with additions of rookie Paulson Adebo, Desmond Trufant, and Bradley Roby.

On offense, Payton could not have eased Jameis Winston into the starting role better. A run-first game plan featuring Alvin Kamara was rolled out, not forcing Winston to have to win it with his arm. Passes were timely and running backs and tight ends were featured heavily in the passing game.

Winston’s rebirth

With the Saints, we may have seen the last of the wreckless gunslinger that Jameis Winston used to be. While Winston did rack up touchdown passes, 5 total, the game plan was conservative and he looked in-tune with communicating Payton’s vision. Winston showed patients and took the throws that were there, never forcing anything into tight coverage. FOr most of the game, Winston was reserved, never passing 100 years in the air until the fourth quarter. But the times Winston was unleashed, he responded, whether it be stepping up in the pocket to make touchdown passes or throwing downfield 55 yards to Deonte Harris. 

Winston earned a quarterback rating of 130.8 with a total of 148 yards passing, completing 14-of-20 attempts.

Unlikely heroes

When playing close to the vest, tight ends are useful. The Saints are talented in that area with Adam Troutman and the versatile ability of Taysom Hill. Juwan Johnson is not just a Tik Tok star. He came up big in the Saints offense Sunday. Converted from the wide receiver position, Johnson adds another layer of athleticism to the group. 

Thank the front office

It’s been assumed the Saints would be in for some lean years after Brees. While we don’t know what will happen moving forward, give credit to VP Mickey Loomis and executive Jeff Ireland for putting the team in a position for success without skipping a beat. 

The front office made the decisions to let payroll talents go and replace them through the draft, an area that’s proven successful for the franchise for well over a decade. They also extended the contracts of their top performers to ensure their stay in New Orleans for years to come.

It also seems that the previous two seasons with Brees missing time during the regular season gave the franchise a good test run on how to prepare for a transition from one era to the next.

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