One week into this season, the New Orleans Saints appeared to be a hot mess on defense. The 48-40 loss to the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a blemish on what had appeared to be a promising season.
Since then, however, the Saints haven’t lost a single game. The have amassed seven straight wins against quality opponents, such as the Los Angeles Rams (handing the Rams their first loss of the season), the Minnesota Vikings, the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins.
What is clicking for the New Orleans Saints this season?
Drew Brees is Having an MVP Caliber Season.
At 39 years old, Drew Brees is having himself the season of his career. He’s been dominant, completing 76.3% of his passes, throwing for 292 yards per game, and 18 touchdowns to just a single interception. His passer rating is out of this world, gathering what would be an NFL record 120.6 score. That’s not to mention his average 8.4 yards per pass attempt, 86.6 Quarterback Rating and 4 game-winning drives so far this season.
While the Saints have relied heavily, at times, on Brees this season, he has a run game. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are both playing lights out, averaging a combined 106.6 yards per game while scoring 12 touchdowns on the ground. Kamara has also been the reliable pass option out of the backfield that Brees utilizes so well.
But there really is just one special key to what the Saints are doing to get Drew Brees going. They’re protecting him better then they ever have.
Through the first eight games, the Saints have allowed just 9 sacks. That’s ridiculously good. The Saints offensive line is playing overtime, led by center Max Unger, guard Larry Warford, and tackle Terron Armstead. Brees receives all kinds of time from the pocket, which allows him to make great throws much more often.
The Receivers aren’t dropping anything…
This is one of the craziest stats in New Orleans right now on offense. Five different receivers with at least 10 targets are catching over 80% of their targets.
This is simply unbelievable. Just look at the list below:
WR Cameron Meredith 10 targets 90% catch rate
WR Michael Thomas 79 targets 88.6% catch rate
TE Josh Hill 12 targets 83.3% catch rate
TE Ben Watson 32 targets 81.3% catch rate
HB Mark Ingram 10 targets 80% catch rate
Alvin Kamara isn’t far behind on that list either, with his 66 targets and whopping 77.3% catch rate. Michael Thomas is the team’s leading receiver. He’s missed a total of 8 targets. That’s downright incredible.
And now, the Saints have added another piece in former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. That’s a scary offense.
Alvin Kamara is the key piece.
Kamara is really the missing piece to the puzzle for this Saints offense. He’s a bigger, better version of Darren Sproles, the game changing weapon that Brees had to use in the Super Bowl run in 2010. Kamara is as efficient a pass catcher as he is a runner, averaging 114.7 scrimmage yards per game, 5.7 yards per touch, and has scored 12 touchdowns.
Really, Kamara is an offensive player of the year candidate. He’s used all over the formation in this offense. Then, he is such a big threat that when the defense keys into him as part of their game plan, the Saints can use him as a decoy to open up other players all over the formation.
The Saints have a very good linebacker corps.
The NFL is really struggling with a serious linebacker deficiency. Think about it. Let’s look at the elite NFC teams at this moment, and see what linebackers are on their roster (elite linebackers are in bold):
Los Angeles Rams (8-1): Matt Longacre, Cory Littleton, Mark Barron, Samson Ebukam.
Carolina Panthers (6-2): Luke Kuechly, Shaq Thompson, Thomas Davis.
Chicago Bears (5-3): Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd.
Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1): Ben Gedeon, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr.
Washington Redskins (5-3): Preston Smith, Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Ryan Kerrigan.
There really aren’t many good linebackers in there, let alone elite.
The Saints spent the money during the off-season to land Demario Davis, the free agent from the New York Jets. AJ Klein joined the team last season, the back-up his first four years to Luke Kuechly in Carolina. He’s been solid this year. Then, the Saints have been running a rotation between the talented young Alex Anzalone from Florida and Craig Roberson on the other side. Add Manti Te’o as a threat to step out on the field, and this group is pretty talented.
They’ve been a tackling machine so far, collecting 140 tackles through the first eight games, 9 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 turnovers. Because of the strength the team boasts here, it’s been very difficult for opposing teams to attack the intermediate level of the field.
Super Bowl or Bust.
The Saints have turned this season into a serious Super Bowl run. Yes, readers, this is the best team in the NFL right now. The target has been established. They are the team to beat in the NFL.