New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) dances on the sideline after a touchdown by wide receiver Taysom Hill (7) during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

9 things Saints fans should be thankful for

Amos Morale III
November 27, 2019 - 1:03 pm

The New Orleans Saints are set for a Thanksgiving night matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

New Orleans (9-2) has a chance to wrap up another NFC South championship with a win Thursday night and many players on the roster are thankful to be in that position.

Saints fans should be thankful as well as New Orleans has overcome some major adversity this season, including playing five games without its future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees, yet is still among the top performing teams in the NFL.

With that in mind, here are nine things Saints fans specifically should be thankful for:

1. Teddy Bridgewater:  The Saints’ backup quarterback was 5-0 as New Orleans’ starter, when Drew Brees went down with a thumb injury.  During those five wins, Bridgewater completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns against just two interceptions.  Those interceptions weren’t on Bridgewater either as they were both the result of drops from his receivers.  Behind his efficient play the Saints got off to a 6-1 start and are in contention for the top seed in the NFC playoffs.

2. Sean Payton:  Payton showed why he’s earned the reputation as one of the top coaches in the NFL during Brees’ absence as he navigated the Saints to perfection with Bridgewater at the helm.  Payton took advantage of the Bridgewater’s skills and drew up gameplans that many of the Saints opponents, during the stretch, simply couldn’t overcome.

3. Drew Brees’ doctors:  The NFL’s all-time leading passer tore a ligament in his thumb in the Saints 27-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and was back in the starting lineup five games later.  Brees does have an incredible work ethic and attacked his rehab ferociously, but without the quality medical care and the effective procedure performed by his doctors, the quarterback likely wouldn’t have been able to return from that type of injury so quickly.  Since his return, Brees has completed 77 percent of his passes and guided New Orleans to a 3-1 record. 

4. Michael Thomas:  The Saints' top receiver was rewarded with a new contract this offseason making him one of the highest paid players at his position. All he's done since is shatter NFL records. Thomas is currently on pace to break the league’s single season record for catches, former Colts star Marvin Harrison’s record of 143.  Thomas’s feats are even more impressive considering he’s caught passes from three different quarterbacks this year with Brees, Bridgewater and Taysom Hill all throwing to him.

5. Erik McCoy:  The Saints needed a center to step into the void created by Max Unger’s retirement. McCoy, the franchise’s top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft did just that.  McCoy has played 99 percent of the Saints offensive snaps this season and has helped the front pave the way for New Orleans’ running backs to average 4.4 yards per carry and only allow 21 sacks, which is tied for the fifth-best mark in the league.

6. Wil Lutz:  Three of the Saints wins can be solely tied to the kicker.  He hit a game winner in the Saints season opener against the Houston Texans, scored all of New Orleans’ points in the win against the Cowboys and sealed a Saints win against the Panthers Sunday with a go ahead field goal as time expired.  Lutz is coming off one of the most accurate season in Saints history and has picked up right where he left off last year.

7. Ryan Nielsen:  The Saints defense is giving up 88.5 rushing yards per game, the fourth fewest In the NFL.  The unit has allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and is one of six in the NFL to not have allowed a 40-plus yard run.  That type of production starts with the Saints defensive line, which has been one of the deepest groups on the roster.  Nine defensive linemen have recorded at least one sack this year.  The group has also seen rapid improvement from young players like Marcus Davenport, who is second on the team with five sacks.  Credit has to go to the group's position coach Ryan Nielsen.  Even Sean Payton heaped praise on the job he’s done with the group.

8. Demario Davis:  The linebacker, who’s in his second season with the team, seems to be near the ball on every play.  He’s leading the Saints in tackles, has a career high nine passes defended and has a interception on the season.  Davis has been one of the most consistent players on the Saints defense,which has been among the league’s best.

9. Eli Apple:  Opposing teams are completing 60.9 percent of their passes against the Saints.  That’s the fifth lowest total in the NFL.  The Saints have given up some big plays in the passing game, but overall the New Orleans secondary has played very well. Apple is a big reason that’s the case.  He’s got four pass deflections and a forced fumble,  but has been very consistent in his coverage.

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