The Saints massive win proves they believe in Bridgewater and themselves

The Saints outplayed and outcoached Seattle. Can’t wait for Cowboys

Zach Strief
September 24, 2019 - 6:58 pm
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What a difference a week makes.  The Saints spent the week in Seattle preparing for the Seahawks and it appears the extra time paid off.  In a game where the Saints needed to get contributions in all three phases to win, a punt return and fumble return for TD’s made the difference as the Saints got their first win in Seattle since 2007, another game they were not expected to win.  There is something interesting that happens when strong locker rooms have their back against the wall.  This week, the Saints let it be known very early where their mindset was.  

I am not one to look into things like this very often, but this week it seems to be glaring in my face.  The Saints captains met at the middle of the field for referee Ron Tolbert’s (bravo sir) coin toss.  The Saints won the coin toss and chose to defer, allowing their defense the first opportunity.  That’s what they normally do when they win the coin toss.  What was unusual was the reaction as soon as they announced their decision to defer.  4 of the 5 Saints captains immediately turned and ran to the sideline, no pre-game pleasantries or respectful embraces. 

I was fortunate enough to stand at midfield many times in my career.  Some games started that way, with players wishing luck and “stay safes.”  There were also many times that opposing players or Saints players would quickly leave the coin toss without any of that.  I don’t recall ever seeing such an early, mass exodus.  In my opinion, it set a tone immediately for the entire Saints sideline.  They were ready, focused and all about business.  It’s a tremendous accomplishment for the team and coaching staff to see how they overcame what was a pretty difficult week.  From the first snap you could see where this game was going.  

The Seahawks’ first possession ended 10 yards behind where it started.  After a couple of penalties and a tackle for loss, Michael Dickson’s first kick of the game fell into the waiting arms of Deonte Harris at the Saints 47-yard line.  53 yards later, with his arms outstretched, the NCAA’s all-time leading return man began his ascent into the NFL record book.  The punt return following the first possession was the Saints first since 2015.  That return also came in week three, that time vs. the Carolina Panthers.  The similarity?  The starter at QB in that game was Luke McCown…that last time Drew Brees missed a game due to injury.  Interesting to see a team rise up to a challenge consistently.  

The Saints, however, were not done there.  With 7:05 remaining in the first half, Eli Apple’s hustle was rewarded, when he was able to dislodge the football from Chris Carson’s grasp just inches before his knee hit the turf.  Vonn Bell scooped the ball up, officials correctly let the play run out (not over that quite yet), and he crossed the goal line ball in tow to put the Saints up 13-7.  It did not just light up the scoreboard.  That play lit up the sideline as well, and that may have been even more important.  

The defense returned to the field the next drive and forced a turnover on downs giving the Saints offense a final chance to take the field.  It was at that point they made their first contribution to the game.  A 58 yard drive was punctuated by one of the more impressive screens you will ever see by Alvin Kamara, bouncing off tacklers and displaying the elite body control that makes him nearly impossible to bring down.  Just like that, the Saints had contributions from all three phases leading not just to a 20-7 lead, but also to the force of momentum that would propel the Black & Gold forward in the second half.  

The Saints made a statement with a 75-yard drive to start the second half, leading to a touchdown and a 27-7 lead.  By this point in the game, with this score, coupled with the coaching advantage the Saints held in this one and the explosive foot of Thomas Morstead, the Saints knew this one was in the bag.  There were things that happened in the fourth quarter that Coach Payton and his crew will want to clean up, but ultimately, this team did what they needed to do to win this game.  

People will look at the stats of this game and cry wolf.  Upset that the Saints were outgained by 250 yards.  Fortunately, if you’re a Saints fan, you can look at the Seahawks production in the 4th quarter (225 yards), while hopelessly chasing a 20-point lead.  You can also accept the reality that the Saints had FOUR possessions fewer than the Seahawks to understand why the disparity existed.  Scoring touchdowns on special teams and defense is great for winning, bad for possessing.  

Anyone, who watched this game from start to finish, should walk away knowing this…the Saints thoroughly outplayed the Seahawks in their building.  They played smart, tough football.  They tackled better, converted on the opportunities when they were presented, and outcoached their opponent.  It was a massive win for a team coming home to face an undefeated (though untested) Cowboys team.  It was a massive win for a team coming off one of the most difficult losses imaginable, in quarterback Drew Brees.  It was a massive win for a team that everyone seemed to give up on the minute Brees’ thumb caught Aaron Donald’s glove.  

The Saints have had a brutal stretch to start the season, and it continues this week.  They are the only team in the NFL leading their division whose opponents have a winning percentage of at least .450.  Saints opponents, .778.  It will continue to rise this week as the undefeated Cowboys come to town.  They have dominated their opponents thus far, although their opponents combined through three weeks have won just 1 game, total.  

The future of this Saints team remains to be seen.  They will have to play at a high level each week to continue winning games, their margin for error reduced without Brees under center.  But the Saints proved something this week.  They believe in their signal caller Bridgewater, as well as themselves, and they should.  This roster is still talented, and what we saw this week from Teddy Bridgewater should be considered his floor.  He showed resolve in the face of intense criticism, and from coming back from an injury that renown surgeon and Cowboys team doctor, Dan Cooper, referred to as the “worst knee dislocation in sports (he’d) ever seen without a nerve or vessel injury.”   

For many, the desire to see stats put up at a record pace will always be the standard in New Orleans.  But as the expression goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.  The Saints proved that in Seattle.  Sunday night in the Superdome, we will see if the Saints have more tricks up their sleeves.  

Can’t wait.  

 

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