New Orleans Saints (6-2) vs. San Francisco 49ers (4-5)
Sunday, Nov. 15, 3:25 p.m.
TV: FOX WVUE 8
Radio: WWL 105.3 FM/870 AM; Spanish KGLA 105.7 FM/830 AM
Saints look to extend win streak to six
Ask a well-seasoned Saints fan what the likely outcome of a game would be where the Black & Gold played three quarterbacks, and they’ll likely respond with an eye roll and an “Aw, Lawd!” But there was no negativity this time as New Orleans played one of their best games in franchise history on nationally-televised Sunday Night Football. The Saints sailed into Tampa Bay, sunk the Buccaneers, fired a shot across the NFL’s bow in the process, and cruised into first place in the NFC South and the NFC playoff race in a 38-3 victory. Now they’ll turn their sights on collecting wins as they only face one team above .500 to close out the second half of the 2020 season.
For weeks, the Saints have talked about playing the perfect game. They nearly achieved it delivering a whipping that announced to the league, “The Saints are coming!”
New Orleans entered as the underdog and national media gave them almost no chance of beating the star-studded team Tampa has assembled. But the Saints executed a masterful game plan to secure a season sweep of the Buccaneers that has them well positioned to claim to their fourth straight NFC South crown.
The Bucs focused on trying to shut down the MVP-caliber play of Alvin Kamara, but the Saints used Kamara as a decoy and spread the ball to keep the chains moving. Quarterback Drew Brees completed 26-of-32 of his passes (81.25%) to 12 different receivers amassing 222 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Taysom Hill was amazing as he set career highs with 54 rushing yards and 48 passing yards, and added a 21-yard catch for 123 total yards.
The Saints’ success was based on the dynamic offensive line, which kept Tampa Bay’s fearsome defensive front in check by opening running lanes and giving Brees time to operate effectively. The offense racked up a season-high 38 points on 420 total yards, 138 rushing and 282 passing, while holding the ball for an amazing 40:04, more than two-thirds of the game.
As the offense rushed out to a 28-0 lead on their first four possessions, the Saints defense held Tampa to four three-and-outs. Not enough credit can be given to the pass rush, which had three sacks and nine QB hits. By the end of the night the D held Tampa to just eight rushing and 186 passing yards and intercepted Bucs QB Tom Brady thrice.
Considered the strongest competition in the division, the Saints have shown up against the Buccaneers. In their two games this season, New Orleans outscored Tampa 72-26. Brady was limited to two touchdown passes, while the Saints D collected six sacks and five interceptions – including a pick six.
How bad was it for Brady on Sunday? Each of the three Saints QBs had a better rating than the quarterback who many think is the greatest of all time – Drew Brees – 135.2, Taysom Hill – 118.8, Jameis Winston – 116.7, Tom Brady – 40.4.
The blowout was a great way to end the halfway point of the 2020 season, but to hold “Domefield Advantage” the Saints will have to “Finish Strong.” Their remaining schedule is more than favorable. Over their final eight games, New Orleans only faces one opponent that currently has a winning record – Kansas City (8-1) in Week 15. The remainder includes games against the 49ers (4-5), Falcons (3-6), Broncos (3-5), Eagles (3-4-1), Vikings (3-5) and Panthers (3-6).
The race to the postseason begins with the reigning NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, but this isn’t the team that played in the Super Bowl last year. QB Jimmy Garoppolo, TE George Kittle, RB Raheem Mostert, CB Richard Sherman, and DEs Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are all on injured reserve. WR Deebo Samuel has been injured and is questionable. While their offense is playing in the middle of the pack, their defense has put up Top 10 numbers.
Sports books have New Orleans favored by 9.5 points. If the Saints can keep their feet on the ground after such a big win, they should extend their win streak to six.
At the Line of Scrimmage
Here’s a snapshot of how the teams match up based on their average points, total yards, passing yards, and rushing yards per game and where they rank in the NFL.
When the Saints have the ball
PPG TYPG PYPG RYPG
Saints Offense 30.5 (4) 390.1 (9) 268.5 (9) 121.6 (11)
49ers Defense 23.0 (10) 324.7 (7) 218.4 (9) 106.2 (10)
When the 49ers have the ball
PPG TYPG PYPG RYPG
49ers Offense 25.0 (18) 374.0 (13) 255.0 (17) 119.0 (12)
Saints Defense 25.0 (14) 311.6 (3) 231.4 (12) 80.2 (2)
Goal to Geaux
At this point in the season, the Saints need to have a one-game-at-a-time mindset and focus on the task at hand. San Fran is well coached, but so is NOLA. The defense wants to prove last week wasn’t a one-hit wonder. Expect a lot of pressure on their backup QB – Nick Mullens and/or C.J. Beathard. Look for the offense to try to develop rhythm through multiple weapons. The Saints will need to diversify their attack down the stretch if they want to go deep into the postseason.
Three & Out – Thoughts on Week 9
- The Saints looked like the Super Bowl contenders, with arguably the best roster in team history, that they were expected to be in 2020.
- The eight rushing yards surrendered by the defense against Tampa ties the second lowest rushing total by the Saints in franchise history (two yards against New England on 11/30/1986 and eight yards against Dallas on 12/6/1998).
- The Saints have not given up 100 yards rushing to a single player in 51 games, including the postseason, tying an NFL record (1972-76 Dallas Cowboys).
Quotes of the Week
“As far as just getting after the quarterback, this is something I was born to do.” – Saints defense end Trey Hendrickson, who is leading the Saints defense with 7.5 sacks, third-most in the NFL.
“We always preach, defend every blade of grass. So our guys, they stepped up. They stepped up big on that goal line, Marshon (Lattimore), Double D (Demario Davis), everybody in there. They were making plays, and we were hungry for it. And that’s just what the outcome was, four downs, four plays. And we’re in there, no matter where it’s at, we stop ’em on every blade of grass.” – Saints safety Marcus Williams on the Saints goal line stand against Tampa
“It was shocking. To watch us practice the way we practiced all week and the confidence we had coming in — we have to go back and look in the mirror as coaches, players, everybody, from yesterday to today…. Give New Orleans credit. They kicked our ass in every phase…. Everything – offense, defense, special teams.” – Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians’ postgame reaction
Inside the NFC South
W L T Win % PF PA DIV
New Orleans Saints 6 2 0 0.750 244 200 3-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 3 0 0.667 250 203 1-2
Atlanta Falcons 3 6 0 0.333 243 251 1-1
Carolina Panthers 3 6 0 0.333 210 226 1-3
Atlanta Falcons (3-6) – Bye
The Falcons are off this week. They play at New Orleans on Nov. 22.
Carolina Panthers (3-6) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are looking for revenge after being embarrassed on nation television, and the Panthers are on a four-game skid. The outlook doesn’t look good for Carolina. If Tampa comes in deflated and the Panthers play like they did against the Saints and Chiefs, it could go Carolina’s way. That’s doubtful, though, Tom and Tampa need this win to keep pace with the Saints.
NFC Playoff Picture
Below are the NFC standings through Week 9. The NFL expanded its playoff format from 12 to 14 teams for the 2020 season. Each conference will have seven playoff teams–four division champions and three wild card teams. Only the top seed from each conference will have a first-round playoff bye.
Seed Team Division W L T
1 Saints South 6 2 0
2 Seahawks West 6 2 0
3 Packers North 6 2 0
4 Eagles East 3 4 1
5 Buccaneers South 6 3 0
6 Cardinals West 5 3 0
7 Rams West 5 3 0
8 Bears North 5 4 0
9 49ers West 4 5 0
10 Vikings North 3 5 0
11 Lions North 3 5 0
12 Falcons South 3 6 0
13 Panthers South 3 6 0
14 Washington East 2 6 0
15 Cowboys East 2 7 0
16 Giants East 2 7 0
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw four touchdown passes while the defense shut out Tom Brady, allowing Brees to recapture the record as the NFL’s all-time leader in career passing touchdowns. He also holds the league’s career passing yardage record.
Career Touchdown Leader
Rank Player TDs
1 Brees 564
2 Brady 561
Career Yardage Leader
Rank Player Yards
1 Brees 79,536
2 Brady 76,969
The Extra Point: Michael Thomas “got Mossed”
At the half way point in the season, the New Orleans Saints are 6-2, in first place in the NFC South, and sit atop the NFC playoff standings. They are achieving the goals they set in the preseason, but it hasn’t been easy. Wide receiver Michael Thomas, the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, missed six of the Saints first eight games this season, sidelined with a high-ankle sprain late in the first game.
As the injury took longer than expected to heal, Thomas grew frustrated. He returned to practice but got in a fight with a team mate and then suffered a hamstring strain. About the same time, whispers from “national experts” said Thomas, the Saints, or both were looking for a way to get him out of New Orleans.
Fans were dumbfounded. How could this be? Thomas is such an integral part of the Saints offense’s success, how could he not be happy?
It turns out 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Randy Moss, who established himself as one of the greatest receivers in league history during his 16-year NFL career, had the same questions and reached out to Thomas to offer some advice.
Now a co-host of several of ESPN’s NFL shows, Moss basically told the 27-year old there is no better place for him than in the Crescent City where he has a big contract, is setting team and NFL records, winning league-wide awards for his play, and is crucial to the team’s chances to advance in the playoffs and reach the Super Bowl.
The guidance seemed to work. Thomas returned last week with five receptions for 51 yards. Those are nice numbers for a player who has missed seven weeks of game time. Expect them to ramp up as he gets up to speed.
Usually “getting Mossed” means someone made a highlight reel worthy catch over an opposing player. In this instance, the great catch was grabbing Thomas’ attention and resetting his focus.
I’m glad Moss reached out to Thomas. While it was surely maddening to watch his team mates struggle through the first half of the season, the Saints are where they want to be in regard to their ultimate goals. Now Thomas can be part of the effort – and fun – in getting this team over the top.