The #4 defining moment of the Saints 2020 season came as the New Orleans Saints became the first team in the history of the NFC South to sweep the division in a single season.
For the 4th consecutive season, the New Orleans Saints were crowned NFC South Champions. However, the 2020 crown may taste a little sweeter, as they became the first team since the division realignment in 2002, to sweep the NFC South with a 6-0 record. All four members of the division (Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay and New Orleans) had posted a 5-1 record against the division since 2002 but none completed the perfect sweep until this season.
Drew Brees vs Tom Brady, Round: 1
Opening weekend of the 2020 season, New Orleans hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady, who was making his debut with the Bucs after spending two decades with the New England Patriots. The headlines were all over "Brees vs Brady: A battle between two of the NFL's all-time greats" but it was the Saints defense that stole the show.
The Black and Gold dominated the matchup forcing two takeaways on the defensive side, including a Janoris Jenkins pick-six. Offensively, New Orleans turned multiple short field opportunities into points behind RB Alvin Kamara's 2 total touchdowns. The dominant performance resulted in a 34-23 victory and the Saints’ first win of the 2020 NFL season.
The Saints Spoil Teddy’s Return to New Orleans
Following Week 1, New Orleans did not play another divisional game until Week 7 against Teddy Bridgewater, who returned to the Superdome for the first time since signing a 3-year contract with the Carolina Panthers. The Saints were short-handed on the offensive side of the ball playing without two starting WR Michael Thomas and WR Emmanuel Sanders.
Stepping up in their place, rookie WR Marquez Callaway led the way with 8 receptions for 75-yards. In a classic nail-bitter between two division rivals, New Orleans defeated Carolina by the score of 27-24 and advanced to 2-0 against division rivals.
Drew Brees vs Tom Brady, Round 2
A rematch between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints came in Week 9 at Raymond James Stadium. Again the storylines swirled around the future Hall of Fame QBs Drew Brees and Tom Brady in what could be the final regular season matchup in their storied careers. With all the pregame headlines on the two aging superstar quarterbacks, it was the Saints defense that stole the show again, holding the Buccaneers out of the end zone.
New Orleans’ early takeaways set the offense up with great field position and Drew Brees and Co. capitalized. Brees threw for a season high 4 touchdowns and completed 26 passes for 222-yards en route to a 38-3 victory and a regular season sweep of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
No Brees, No Problem
In week 11, the Atlanta Falcons flew to town to battle the Saints, who were without QB Drew Brees because of a rib/lung injury suffered just a Week earlier. With Brees’ injury, Swiss Army Knife Taysom Hill was set to make his first NFL start at Quarterback. Hill delivered for the Saints, despite not passing for a touchdown. Instead, Hill used his legs to find pay dirt scoring 2 rushing touchdowns while throwing for 233-yards in his first game as an NFL starting quarterback. The 31-year old quarterback relied on 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas who caught the ball 9 times for 104-yards.
New Orleans’ defense continued their dominant play, holding the Falcons out of the end zone and watching Falcons K Younghoe Koo knock in three field goals. The Saints found a way to win without their long time starting quarterback defeating Atlanta 24-9 inside the Superdome.
Just two weeks later a rematch with the Atlanta Falcons was on the schedule for Week 13. Fresh off of back-to-back wins as an NFL starting quarterback, Taysom Hill looked to complete the sweep of the Saints biggest division rival. In a mirror-like performance, Michael Thomas was Hill’s favorite target again, collecting another 100-yard game against Atlanta with 9 receptions for 105-yards.
Despite a late-game turnover, Hill put together his best performance of the season tossing for 232-yards and two scores as the Saints moved to 5-0 against the division and Taysom Hill earned his third career victory at the helm of the Saints offense.
Bring out the Brooms
In the final week of the regular season, ten weeks after their first meeting, Carolina hosted New Orleans in the regular season finale. In possibly his final regular season game in a Saints Uniform, Drew Brees threw for 201-yards and 3 touchdowns despite being without RBs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, as well as WR Michael Thomas.
Without two of their top weapons offensively, the Saints defense stepped up and played one of their best games of the season. Dennis Allen’s group forced 5 interceptions and 2 turnovers on downs forced in a “must win” game for playoff seeding. New Orleans defeated the Panthers by a score of 33-7 raising their divisional record to a perfect 6-0, becoming the first team to complete the division sweep in NFC South history.
Saints News Intern Joe McGuan contributed to the Article Series: Top 10 Defining Moments of Saints 2020 Season.
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