New Orleans Saints (5-2) defeated the Chicago Bears (4-2) by the score of 26-23 in overtime, Sunday afternoon. Wil Lutz connected on a 35-yard FG in overtime to lead the Saints to their fourth consecutive victory. Below are three initial takeaways from Fox's Game of the Week in Week 8.
When the Saints Offense Returns to Health, They Could Be NFC's Best
The Saints were depleted at wide receiver headed into Week 8. Without All-Pro Michael Thomas, two-time Pro-Bowl selection Emmanuel Sanders, and undrafted rookie Marquez Callaway, the Saints managed 280 yards through the air to 10 different targets. However, it was not just the passing attack that kept the Saints' offense afloat. New Orleans tallied 30 carries for 122 yards between Kamara, Hill, Murray, and Burton.
Yes, the offense struggled at points throughout the game, particularly before the 2-minute drill that took the game into halftime, but without key pieces, to the puzzle, the offense did have their moments. While Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara will get the headlines, it is the offensive line that deserves most of the credit for getting to the second level constantly in the run game and giving Brees time to deliver from the pocket.
No, the offense does not look like the high-flyers that many across the NFL thought. They average close to 30 points per game, improving play from the O-Line, and an offensive player of the year candidate in Kamara. And, the offense is doing this without the 2019's Offensive Player of the Year.
Whether it is next week against Tampa Bay or a little later down the road, this team will be close to 100% healthy. When Thomas, Sanders, Callaway, and Montgomery return, the offense should be back to the high-flyers NFL fans are accustomed to seeing from the Saints. If you need any proof, check the two-minute drills prior to the half in each of the last five games. The results were touchdowns.
Defense Comes Up Clutch For the Third Straight Game
Even against one of the worst offenses in the league, the Saints defense struggled against the pass and uncharacteristically against the run. But just like their victories in Week 5 and 7, the defense made the stops when the team needed it the most - at the bitter end of those games.
The Who Dat Nation must have gray hairs or no hair at all after watching their team's defense this season. Especially after the preseason hype on how good they were as defenders. Now coming into Week 8, they did rank 4th in the NFL against the run and in the top-10 in yards allowed, but it has consistently been the mental lapses and breakdowns in coverage that have cursed the Saints this season.
Those lapses showed up again Sunday on a 50-yard pass to rookie WR Darnell Mooney and a pass interference call in the end zone on Demario Davis. Though those moments have become all too common for the defending NFC SOUTH Champions, the defense held Chicago to only 329 offensive yards. It looked as though Davis had a game-sealing fumble recovery in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, it was overturned.
Then in overtime, the defense came up with two sacks of Nick Foles, including one on third and ten that forced a punt. It has not been pretty. Dennis Allen's defense has continued to "step up" when needed the most.
The Saints are Right Where They Want to Be
After beginning the year 1-2, I felt that the next four games on the Saints schedule were must-win games if they had any hopes of being a Super Bowl contending team, and they have done just that. After Sunday's victory, the Saints will head into a Week 9 battle against Tampa Bay (5-2) on Monday Night Football. With this game on the horizon, it has been imperative that they keep finding ways to win in the face of adversity.
2020 has been an odd year for the Saints. It started this summer with Drew Brees' comments, the COVID-19 scares, and missing three WRs against the Bears. New Orleans has been through a lot as a team. But, amid the difficulties, they have continued to prevail and win. I am sure the Saints will always take the wins, no matter how ugly they can be at times.
Heading into Week 9 and the halfway point of the season, the Saints are in a good spot. They still can compete and win the NFC SOUTH or gain a prime position to make the playoffs.
As I wrote last week - a win is a win. The 2020 version of the New Orleans Saints continues to do just that, in this season.
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