What a game by the New Orleans Saints, not only clinching the NFC South, but breaking several records in the process. Starting with Alvin Kamara, the franchise running back rushed for an NFL record six touchdowns in today’s win, the most in any game since 1929. Plus, he added 155 yards on the ground to lead a Saints offense that had trouble moving the ball through the air. In fact, Kamara’s game was so rare, that he was the first running back since Clinton Portis in 2003 to rush for five touchdowns.
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Although Michael Thomas and TreQuan Smith were out with injury, the Saints run game with the contributions of Kamara and Latavius Murray carried the Saints to a victory. In fact, this offense was so efficient tonight that Thomas Morstead did not have one punt the entire game. Furthermore, the Saints had more yards of total offense in the first half than 6 NFL teams average during an entire game.
Plus, with help from Jared Cook and Emmanuel Sanders through the air, Drew Brees became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 80,000 yards. However, not everything was sunshine and rainbows for Brees. Although Brees looked solid in the first quarter, his lingering rib injury seemingly held him back. Brees went 19/26 for 311 yards and two interceptions, and consistently underthrew his receivers. As the Saints look towards the playoffs they better hope that Brees can get back to being 100 percent.
Additionally, the Saints run game has to continue to be successful moving forward, as playoff football is all about being effective on the ground and keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands. In other words, if New Orleans can keep running the football like they did against the Vikings, and Brees can get back to being healthy, then a Super Bowl run for New Orleans is not out of the question.
However, defensively this group has to improve. Although they’ve ranked in the top five of most of the major defensive stats this season, over the past few weeks they have been lackluster to say the least. That all starts with their inability to stop the run. Against Philadelphia, Kansas City, and today vs the Vikings, their inability to stop the run hurt them. Although Dalvin Cook only mustered 73 yards on 15 carries, it could have been a lot worse if New Orleans had not kept piling on the points. Thus, for any deep playoff run, plugging the gaps and swarming to the football in order to stop the ground game is a must do for New Orleans moving forward.
Another standout from today’s game was Marshon Lattimore who quietly had a solid game. Going one on one against Justin Jefferson, a potential offensive rookie of the year candidate, Lattimore was able to keep Jefferson in check for most of the game, breaking up several passes and holding Jefferson to two catches for 45 yards in the first half. Although Jefferson finished the game with six catches for 85 yards, most of that production came at the end of the game during garbage time. With that said, if we see the Saints tighten up their defense to the level of what we saw earlier this year, paired with the offensive outpour that we saw from them today, a deep playoff run may be within their sights.
At the end of the day, the Saints needed a convincing win to continue to push their momentum going into the playoffs. Although this was a very convincing win over the Vikings, the gaps in the defense and the shortcomings of Drew Brees were concerning. Thus, Saints fans are going to need to pray that the defense can turn the heat up and Drew Brees can turn back the clock if New Orleans wants to have any realistic shot at a deep playoff run.