New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees have been the architects of one of the most productive offenses in NFL history since their arrival to the franchise in 2006.
One of the many things that made their offense so effective was that they would start most games on a torrid pace to put opponents on their heels. The Saints offense would script their first 15-25 plays, often scoring on their first 2 or 3 possessions and putting opponents in catch-up mode to keep pace.
New Orleans would set an aggressive trend to start a game over the last three years, and successful starts helped them to a 37-11 record in the previous three regular seasons. Over their last ten games of 2019, once Brees returned after a thumb injury, the Saints scored eight times on their opening possession, missing a field goal on the first series in a ninth.
Four of those opening drives ended in a touchdown, and seven possessions saw New Orleans hold the ball for at least 7 plays. While the Saints offense set the tone for early success, the New Orleans defense followed that unit's example. Seven times during that same ten-game stretch of last season, the New Orleans defense would force a punt or cause a turnover during their opponent's opening series.
The Saints have not had nearly that same success to begin games in 2020, getting outscored 37-20 in the first quarter of five games. New Orleans has scored just one time on their opening drive this season and has yet to score a touchdown on their first drive. They've had slightly more success the second time they've had the ball in games this year, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal in the last three contests.
The Saints have fared little better on defense during opening possessions. They’ve given up two touchdowns and one field goal on opening drives and two touchdowns and a field goal the second time their opponents get the ball while not forcing a single turnover in those ten possessions.
Coming off a bye, the 3-2 Saints now host the 3-3 Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have scored twice on their opening possession this season, while their defense has allowed two touchdowns the first time their opponent gets the ball. New Orleans is a veteran team that stays composed if they fall behind at any point in a contest.
Their sluggish start to the 2020 campaign is also reflective of each game's slow start this season. With a week off to prepare for a division rival, expect the Saints to come out aggressively on their opening drives, hopefully establishing a new trend that continues for the rest of the 2020 season.