The New Orleans Saints (3-2) defeated the Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) overtime Monday night by the final score of 30-27. The Chargers drop their third consecutive game to an NFC SOUTH opponent after leading the Saints by 17 in the second quarter. The Saints win their second straight contest and head into a BYE week with the momentum of back to back victories.
Here are three takeaways from the Saints dramatic victory on Monday Night Football.
Mental Lapses are Still Hurting the Saints
Mental Lapses have continued to be the highlighted issue for the 2020 New Orleans Saints. New Orleans continues to find themselves in tight ball games down the stretch between the coverage lapses and penalties. Monday, the issue was not those moments happening consistently, but when those lapses occurred against the Chargers.
The Saints committed just 5 penalties (3 on Special Teams) on Monday Night and lead the NFL in penalties resulting in first downs during the 2020 season. Following a 2nd quarter three and out for the Chargers, New Orleans had their most damaging penalty of the evening. Punter Ty Long came out to punt to returner Marquez Callaway. Dwayne Washington appeared to have a clear path for a blocked punt, but could not "pump his breaks" before running into Long. The result was a 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty and kept the Chargers' drive alive. Four plays later, Los Angeles was in the end zone with a 13-3 lead.
New Orleans continues to lead the league in penalty yards, but the mental lapses go beyond the yellow laundry. The miscommunication, missed assignments, and 'bad eyes' in the secondary nearly cost the Saints another game. For example, Herbert's 60-yard touchdown strike to former Clemson wideout Mike Williams resulted from cornerback Patrick Robinson "looking into the Chargers backfield." As Robinson's attention drew away from Williams, he became wide open and raced down the sidelines to score their go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Drew Brees Remains the NFL's Best Surgeon
The first half was not a pretty one for Drew Brees and company. The Saints posted only 10 points and failed to find any offensive rhythm until the final two minutes of the half - which led to their first touchdown of the game. However, when it counted the most, Brees 'locked in' and gave the world a vintage Drew Brees Monday Night Football performance. Brees ranks 2nd in NFL history with 51 fourth quarter/overtime comebacks in his career.
The NFL's All-Time Leading Passer shredded the Chargers defense in the second half completing 21 of 25 passes for 232 yards and a TD. This was Brees' second career comeback victory where his team trailed by 17+. The other victory came in 2009 when the Saints defeated the Dolphins after trailing by 21. New Orleans would go on to win Super Bowl XLIV later that season.
Brees finished the game, completing 33 of 47 passes for 325 yards, a passing TD, and a rushing TD. He advances to 4-0 against the team that drafted him in 2001. In those games, Brees has thrown for 1,237 yards, 10 TDs, and 4 INTs in those contests.
The Bye Week Comes at a Perfect Time
The Saints head into their BYE week after back-to-back victories over the Lions and Chargers. Sitting at 3-2 and with key players injured left and right, the BYE week comes at a perfect time for the Saints. Sean Payton's team lacks rhythm and discipline through the first five games of the season but has shown the Super Bowl potential that surrounded the offseason.
Despite the momentum of back-to-back victories and leading the NFC South, there are issues the Saints need to smooth out during their bye week. The mental lapses and lack of consistency in all three phases of the game are uncharacteristic of a Sean Payton team and have become detrimental in close games.
As the league season rolls towards its halfway point, the Saints injured starters are returning healthy and ready for action. The long-anticipated return of All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas will help New Orleans. He is expected to re-join the team on Wednesday following his one-game suspension after punching teammate defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in practice.
With a week off can be a period where the players and coaches can find solutions to persistent errors, restoring players' health, and regaining a sense of unity. The Saints should come into Week 7 recharged and ready to hit the ground running for the second half of the season. Most teams hate an early-bye week, but it was a blessing in disguise for the Saints.
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