I never would’ve thought that I’d be so excited to see a pass from Brees get confirmed as an interception. It’s been four years since we’ve seen the Saints play January football and their first game back was worth the wait. After the end of the first half with Saints up by twelve, the offense rolling, and the Panthers inability to get into the endzone I was feeling good. Then the Saints offense stalled in the third quarter, the Panthers offense came alive in the fourth and the game turned into a nail-biter.
This was a vintage performance from Brees. He showed off his accuracy, arm strength, and ability to take over a game. His connection with Thomas is unbelievable, with them connecting multiple times against the Panthers while Thomas was completely covered. Brees turns 39 this month, but is not showing his age. Still clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the league there is no way the Saints don’t resign him this off-season.
While the passing offense excelled the running game really struggled. The Saints haven’t looked this stagnant on the ground since AP was still on the roster. The last time the Saints played the Panthers Kamara and Ingram both had over 100 yards and touchdowns so the Panthers D keyed on them and did a great job of shutting them down. Without being able to rely on the run the Saints struggled to control the pace of the game and if they want to keep on winning in January they need to get the ground attack going again. The Saints looked much more like the teams of the last few years where Bree’s arm was the only thing keeping them afloat, but that is not the formula which has gotten them this far and they can’t rely on it.
The running game isn’t the only facet of the Saints which took a step in the wrong direction. The defense struggled as well. Their redzone play and Cam Jordan living up to his first team all-pro selection were positives, but the pass defense was ripped apart. Cam Newton had one of his best games all season throwing for 349 yards and doing whatever he wanted for large portions of the game. This Saints secondary is too talented to allow that, hopefully they took this past week to regroup.
This has been a crucial week of practice for the Saints because they are about to face their stiffest challenge of the year. The Vikings look like the most complete team in the NFC and the team to beat. It’s a rematch of the week one game, but both teams play very different now than they did then. The Vikings front seven is tougher than the Panthers and with Thielen and Diggs at receiver they can do a lot more damage than the Panthers receiving corps. The Vikings are primed to take advantage of the weaknesses that the Panthers revealed last week. That being said with Brees and Payton the Saints have a clear advantage at the two most important positions on the team and I expect the Saints to turn some heads when they win in a game much less stressful than last weeks.
COVER PHOTO: USA Today Sports