The Saints continue to dominate post-season home games throughout the Payton era. They are now 6-0 in the dome through playoff games since 2000 (1 pre-Payton game). The latest victims were the Carolina Panthers who were pulverized for three quarters, not scoring their first touchdown until nearly 3 minutes into the 4th. I used my last two articles to compare the 2009 and 2017 teams, but what I learned watching yesterday’s game is that this is a completely new kind of Saints team. Though comparable in gutsy playcalls and regular season production, there’s a lot that separates this team from anything we’ve seen in New Orleans before.
Firstly, let’s just put into perspective that this team, in the same season, scored 31 points without compiling 50 rushing yards and scored 47 points without throwing a touchdown pass. This is the very definition of a multi-dimensional team. The Panthers did a great job limiting the production of Ingram and Kamara following their phenomenal season. However, they weren’t able to do so while also containing Brees and his receivers. Per PFF, Brees had a 142.8 passer rating when kept clean (which was often thanks to stellar O-Line play) while also having a 122.8 passer rating when blitzed. What the hell is a defense supposed to do? Don’t blitz, he carves you up. Blitz and don’t get to him, he carves you up.
As if that wasn’t perplexing enough for a defense, Michael Thomas decided that he’d just go out and have the second best game of his career in regards to yardage catching 8 of 9 for 131 and 6 first downs. He even juked Shaq Thompson out of his shoes. Shaq should really consider sitting out the rest of his games against the Saints for his career after getting his ankles destroyed by CGM and his pride demolished by Alvin Kamara. #NotMyLinebacker Not to mention Ted Ginn Jr. wgo, again, went all John Wick “You killed my dog.” revenge movie on Carolina torching them on an 80 yard TD reception en route to 115 yards receiving on 4 catches.
The Saints also continue to be undefeated this season when scoring more than 24 points and only have one loss when scoring 21 or more which came in a lazy game during week 17. One of the elements that will never leave the Saints as long as Sean Payton has any say is gutsy playcalling. As has been a popular topic on the @AllSaintsBlog Twitter page since the game, going for it on 4th and 2 with a five point lead on the 50 yard line in final quarter is not conventional. It is, however, completely within the Saints’ realm of possibilities. Funny thing is that even though they didn’t convert, Drew Brees still managed to throw the best possible interception, bamboozling the Panthers out of 16 yards of field position. Thanks Mike Adams! The same sentiment can be said when it comes to Dennis Allen’s playcalling. The pinnacle of the “it’s genius when it works” approach came on the most pivotal play from scrimmage. Dennis Allen dialed up a blitz out of his favorite nickel package sending Manti Te’o up the middle and Vonn Bell through the B-gap who came in completely untouched and, in what must have been the most tautological and significant execution of fundamental football in Vonn Bell’s life, he just wrapped up Cam Newton as if it was a his mantra the entire play. “Just wrap him up. Just wrap him up. Just wrap him up.” Cam Jordan showed up soon after the play was whistled dead. This led to another execution of the Carolina Panthers. These coaches trust this team and the team trust their coaches. Everyone, the fans involved are buying in 150%.
What a time to be alive. You can see that same excitement and confidence that’s wrapped in the playcalling in the culture of the team. Take a look back at our Twitter account and check out all of the videos from the locker room after the game. Look at Cam Jordan’s interviews when he’s trash talking Matt “Speedbump McGee” Kalil and Cam Newton. Hell, look at the photo I used for this article. You can see the bliss of the people of the city, the pride and confidence we carry when referencing our team. Even the Times Picayune got involved, naming the new owner of the Carolina Panthers: the New Orleans Saints. This attitude, this moxie, this fearlessness that surrounds the team is something special and the Saints are ready to charge, full head of steam, into any challenge that approaches. The crazy thing is that since the Buffalo game, the Saints have yet to put together a complete game. One in which every cylinder fires for 60 minutes. If they can manage to hit that rhythm now, pedal to the floor, New Orleans could be celebrating another Lombardi trophy less than a month from today.