If you hadn’t paid the Saints any attention prior to Week 11, you were making a mistake. However, overcoming a 15-point fourth quarter deficit is something that will grab your attention, no matter who it is.
The Saints’ comeback in regulation and 34-31 win in overtime was their eighth consecutive win on the season after starting 0-2. According to ESPN Stats & Info, they’re only the second team in NFL history to do that. The other was the 1947 Bears, so they’re the first team in the Super Bowl era to actually do this.
The Saints have been winning games in impressive fashion this season, but this one was a treasure that proved there’s not a game they can’t win.
This was a signature win for their season.
Many people counted the Saints out on Sunday after falling behind 31-16 to Washington with 5:58 left in the game. Like the Patriots in Super Bowl LI (though less severe, trust me) there was a comeback to be had.
The probability of them winning the game was next to nothing with less than five minutes to go:
According to ESPN's win probability model, the Saints had a 0.2% chance of winning at their lowest point (1st and 10 at their own 45 with 4:42 in the 4th quarter). This was the biggest comeback since last season's Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/ei1tqzQHjm— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 19, 2017
The win also wasn’t your classic Drew Brees saves the day type of win.
Yes, Brees led the Saints on an eight-play, 75-yard drive in three minutes and change to get the Saints within seven at 31-23. But prior to that, Brees didn’t have a touchdown pass, after not having thrown one at all last week either. But he came around when the Saints needed him, in the fashion that we’ve known the Saints to perform in.
After the Saints defense did its job in forcing a three-and-out, it was time for Brees to shine yet again.
After two plays, it appeared the game might have been over. Brees threw an interception but was bailed out by an illegal use of hands on Washington. With the second chance at life, the Saints took two more plays, the second of which was an Alvin Kamara touchdown on a bobbled pass and two-point conversion to send the game to overtime.
After a Washington punt, the Saints needed just two plays to get into field-goal range, where Georgia State’s own Wil Lutz sealed the deal with a 28-yard field goal.
The comeback was completed without Marshon Lattimore.
One of the great stories this season has been the emergence of No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Marshon Lattimore. Not only has he been great individually, but he’s a big reason the Saints defense has taken the next step this season after so many years of mediocrity.
Lattimore had to leave the Saints’ game on Sunday. He tried to come back in the second half but was quick to reinjure himself upon entering the game. He would later tweet that he would be all right, which has to be a large sigh of relief for Saints fans, assuming his own indication is accurate.
Through Week 10, Lattimore was given a 93.1 grade by Pro Football Focus — that puts him in elite cornerback status. Among rookies, PFF also had him as the best this season, above players like Kareem Hunt, Tre’Davious White, and teammate...
Alvin Kamara, who you can’t forget about.
Kamara has naturally been getting more attention than Lattimore because of his prowess as an offensive player. That’s expected in today’s NFL, which is heavily favored toward offensive success. But in Sunday’s game, Kamara showed once again why he’s a leading Rookie of the Year candidate.
Kamara had 117 total yards, with a spectacular juggling touchdown, on just 14 touches Sunday. That’s largely what he’s done all season — give the Saints good production on a limited amount of touches. He’s been a threat not only in the running game, but receiving as well. After Sunday’s game, Kamara now has 447 receiving yards on the season to go along with his 459 rushing yards. He also has a total of seven touchdowns on the season.
Mark Ingram said after the game that Kamara is a valuable addition to the team. “He can do everything,” Ingram said to the Times-Picayune. “He's a special player.”
But Ingram’s also been a big part of what the Saints do with his 1,019 yards from scrimmage this season. According to the Times-Picayune, at their current pace, Ingram and Kamara will have 3,080 yards at the end of the season, which would be the second-highest total of any running back tandem in NFL history behind Walter Payton and Roland Harper in 1978.
The Saints knew what they were getting out of Ingram, but the third-round pick Kamara has been more than a pleasant surprise — he’s been a key contributor in their 8-2 start.
The defense has been the difference in their success
Missing Lattimore was big, but the Saints defense has other pieces that are widely slept on across the NFL.
SB Nation’s Geoff Schwartz elaborated on the hidden gems that don the black and gold on Sundays last week:
The Saints invested in the defense through the draft. They start 2015 first-round pick Sheldon Rankins at defensive tackle and high draft picks throughout the secondary, including 2017 first-rounder Marcus Lattimore at cornerback and safety Marcus Williams, a second-round pick.
They also have the criminally underrated Cam Jordan, a first-round pick in 2011, at defensive end. Jordan is a monster, and I’m not sure people know him well enough.
The Saints defense played a rough first half but was able to do just enough in the second to let Drew Brees and Co. piece together an 18-point fourth quarter to tie it. In overtime, they also forced a three-and-out, and it was over from there, as the offense continued to roll into field-goal range.
That’s the beauty for the Saints. We know they’re always going to have their offense, even if it might show up later than they might like. But if their defense can give them just enough, they’ll take advantage of it.
But this season, the defense has been more than just enough: It’s been good. Not only that, but they’ve also shown they can win big and win tight games when Brees isn’t pitching his best game.
Sunday’s game was a culmination of those things and is a reminder that they can win any game they’ll be faced with during the rest of the season.