The Saints Keep Marching In

“Who dat! Who dat! Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”

This is the chant that has been blaring across Louisiana like a horn from a trumpet for the past six weeks now. The New Orleans Saints officially have the longest win streak of the 2017 season with six wins in a row — a sentiment that no one saw coming after the Saints started off 0-2 for the third season in a row. Energy has been jolted back in to the city of New Orleans after years of starving. Fans were hungry to have that taste of familiarity again; the taste of being on top. Except the bellies can’t ever be full until the playoffs, and even then the drive won’t stop until the Super Bowl. So the question remains that the fans continue to mock towards the rest of the NFL. Who can beat the Saints right now?

Behind the ruckus of New Orleans fans marching towards victory, whispers will murmur in the alleys of being over-rated. “They have a weak schedule,” the pessimistic will say. Looking back at the first nine weeks, it can’t be that simple. Week one was a loss to the Vikings, a team that still had a healthy Sam Bradford, a very tough defense, and are under the radar for having home field advantage at U.S. Bank Stadium. New Orleans still trying to find a way to use Adrian Peterson, and their defense didn’t click yet. Week two was another loss against the Patriots, who needed a big game as a come back after being embarrassed by the Kansas City Chiefs the week prior. Saints still had the same problems as week one, and it didn’t fix itself until week three. The rumors began flying around the news: Saints going 0-3 again for the third year in a row. Sean Payton was on the hot seat, fearing for his job by the end of the season. A big divisional game against the Carolina Panthers and the Saints annihilated them. Week four Saints travel to London and completely skunked the Miami Dolphins — the same Miami team who beat the incredible Los Angeles Rams — and we saw the defense create their identity. By week six Saints cut their losses and drop the dead weight of Adrian Peterson to allow a highway lane for the impressive rookie Alvin Kamara. They came to Lambeau and beat the Packers sans Aaron Rodgers, and despite two interceptions in the first half after the rain, the second half Drew Brees does what he does best and proves once again why he’s one of the best to play his position. Week seven the Saints beat an under-rated Chicago defense and a talented Mitch Trubisky, and week eight go against a very injured Tampa Bay team only to reign higher on the NFC South totem pole.

New Orleans has rhythm, they have an identity, and can find more ways to win other than relying on their 38 year old star quarterback. Fans in Louisiana haven’t seen a good defense since Bounty Gate, and the feeling is a sight for sore eyes. Even if a defense has great pass protection, it’s hard to stop the one-two punch between Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Kansas City Chiefs get a lot of attention for having Kareem Hunt as a dangerous threat in the back field, but as Hunt has been slowing down the past few weeks, it seems as though Alvin Kamara only heats up more.

Talk about a polar opposite between the teams. When Kansas City started the season at 5-0 people only talked about how they are true Super Bowl contenders. Since then the Chiefs have been 1-3 the past few weeks, and Saints haven’t lost a game since week two. Despite the drastic changes, no one speaks of the Saints going to the Super Bowl at all. Brees and Payton already have Super Bowl experience together, so it doesn’t seem unfathomable. Perhaps it’s because they’ll have to go through the Rams and Eagles, both of whom scored 51 points on their opponent in week 9, before getting to the biggest game of the year. New Orleans will be able to answer one of those questions in week 12 where they will face off against the Rams away in Los Angeles. It’s no question the toughest game that the Saints will face to face the rest of the year, but until that game happens, prepare to continue hearing the who dat chant echo across the airwaves.

Gruesome Loss in Foxborough

Tom Brady. Super Bowl champions. Belichick. Foxborough.

These are the words that usually make lots of people nervous when playing the New England Patriots. Everybody except Andy Reid, that is. The NFL season has officially begun, and what a crazy epidemic match we witnessed on Thursday Night Football when the Kansas City Chiefs came in to the reigning Lombardi Trophy wielders, and made the champs look like chumps. Ironic how the 66,000+ fans in attendance had pictures of Roger Goodell with a clown nose, but the Pats were the ones with pie on their face at the end of this game. Considering we saw Brady play the best second half in Super Bowl history, we now witnessed one of his worst second half performances during the Patriots home opener.

There is no doubt the Patriots started off strong, collecting their first drive for a total of 78 yards and a touchdown. They looked unstoppable, just how we all expected Bill Belichick’s team to always perform since he took over as head coach in 2000. The touchdowns definitely came easy as always for New England, so where did they go wrong? Was it the bad luck? Did they lose momentum when Belichick decided to go for it on 4th down not once, but twice and didn’t convert on downs? Or could the crowd to be blamed for being silenced when Gronkowski catching the 20 yard bullet pass in the end zone, only for the play to be reviewed and ruled the ball touch the ground? Nobody can blame Belichick for believing in his offense, but maybe some credit needs to be noted towards Kansas City defense. Granted they allowed Mike Gillislee three touchdowns when on the goal line, they did stop the Patriots when it mattered most. They didn’t create any turn overs, but they did sack Tom Brady in the second half three times; two of them accumulating from Justin Houston himself.

The Patriots did have every opportunity to punish Kansas City for their mistakes. The very first play on their first drive the Chiefs handed the ball off to rookie running back Kareem Hunt, only for the 12 yard run to end in a fumble recovered by the Patriots defense. Patriots didn’t execute from the turnover, and basically just wasted time off the clock for Kansas City to set up a new drive, go down the field, and score. Tip of the hat goes towards Andy Reid, Alex Smith, and Kareem Hunt for not allowing the momentum the Patriots were stacking up get to them. They were like a vacuum, sucking out the crowd noise and the pressure building on their shoulders. Even when the Chiefs were trying to just give the game away — racking up 15 penalties for 139 yards — Alex Smith still came on the field to do his job.

Maybe signing Patrick Mahomes was the motivation to spark Smith to play the best we’ve ever seen him, and secure his starting position as quarterback. Smith was 28 for 35 passing completions, with an 80% completion percentage, 352 passing yards averaging 9.3 yards per play, and 3 passing touchdowns. That is some straight up Tom Brady statistics, only Brady wasn’t as fortunate with his numbers. Brady only had 247 passing yards, completing a mere 44% of his passes, averaging 6 yards per play, and ended the day with a big goose egg for passing touchdowns. Was it role reversal day in Foxborough that none of us were aware of? That may be one of the worst stats we’ve seen from Tom Brady since his rookie year playing in the NFL.

Despite the fumble his first play mentioned above, Kareem Hunt had himself one hell of debut being broadcast nationally. Coming home with a whopping 148 rushing yards, 98 passing yards, 3 total touchdowns. That’s a total of 246 scrimmage yards, which hasn’t been done since 1970. In the second half of the game, Kareem Hunt looked scary good. Whether it was momentum or motivation, the Patriots did not have an answer for Hunt. This might be a common theme going forward the rest of the season for other defenses, especially if Alex Smith decides to keep setting the bar high for himself. People expected good things from Hunt this season taking over for an injured Spencer Ware, and I was one of them. Nobody expected something this spectacular from a rookie going in to Foxborough. Was it beginners luck? Possibly. It would be foolish to expect Kareem Hunt to have explosive games like this every week. Then again, last year we saw Jay Ajayi have back-to-back 200+ rushing yard games, so anything can happen.

On the flip side of the coin, don’t expect the Patriots to look like this the remainder of the year. Maybe New England just underestimated what Kansas City has to offer this year. Perhaps Bill Belichick blames the Patriots being five weeks behind everyone else. One thing is for certain though: I wouldn’t want to be the New Orleans Saints next week. Between an angry head coach, a motivated Brady, and a defense that wants redemption, it looks like the Saints are going to have their hands full going in to week two.