The New Orleans Saints came into the 2019 National Football League season as one of the favorites to advance to Super Bowl LIV next February in Miami. For their high hopes to stay on track required a final seconds completion and field goal on the game’s last play to edge the Houston Texans, 30-28, on the season’s opening Monday night.
The expected success of the Saints was pinned on the work of quarterback Drew Brees, who owns all the passing records Tom Brady and Peyton Manning don’t. All three signal callers have won Super Bowls; Brady a record six, Manning two, and Brees one. Some very informed sources figured this was the year for Brees to pick up his second.
After that narrow win over the Texans to open the season, the Saints headed to Los Angeles to meet the team that beat them on their home field in last year’s NFC Championship Game. That contest is best remembered for a play so poorly officiated that the rules were changed over the blown call. A pass interference infraction, as obvious as a Volkswagon driving through the front door of Macy’s department store, was somehow missed by the referee. The Saints had opportunities to win that game after the blown call, but one would think without the missed pass interference ruling instead of New Orleans losing in overtime, they would have won in regulation.
This season, the second week matchup in Los Angeles was the day the Saints and their fans figured they were going to get revenge for that bitter defeat. Instead, disaster.
On third down midway through the first quarter, Drew Brees dropped back and attempted a pass completion to Jared Cook over the middle. The pass fell short, because the toss was thrown off target when Brees’ hand smashed into the helmet of Los Angeles defensive lineman Aaron Donald. The injury is not even listed in the official play-by-play, because the stat crew didn’t notice the severity of the injury while Brees trotted off the field after failing on a third down toss.
But, Brees hasn’t thrown a pass for the Saints since that incompletion three weeks ago, requiring surgery to repair his injured hand. He is expected to return sometime after mid-season. In his stead, New Orleans turned to veteran Teddy Bridgewater, a one-time first round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings who became expendable after a serious injury ended his 2016 season before it began.
In Los Angeles three weeks ago, the Rams dominated the Saints attack, limiting New Orleans to three field goals enroute to a one-sided 27-9 victory. The Saints marched out of the Coliseum without a revenge win and missing their star quarterback. With another West Coast trip on the schedule in Week Three, a battle in the Northwest against the talented Seattle Seahawks, the Saints were looking down the gunbarrel of multiple losses before gaining their second win.
But, the defense came to play and Bridgewater had a stellar performance as the Saints beat the Seahawks on their home field by a margin significantly more than the 33-27 final score would indicate. Last week, in a Sunday night nationally televised game, the Saints won as a home underdog over the previously unbeaten Dallas Cowboys.
The next two weeks are on the road, at the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears. While those matchups look more daunting that their home meeting this Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it is those two games and the previous pair of wins that makes the toughest game for the Saints in this five week period, Sunday’s contest against Tampa Bay.
New Orleans has used all the motivational juices to get wins over the Seahawks and Cowboys the past two weeks, and this is a team that even with a healthy Brees needed a miracle to pull out a win in first week action. How good are the Saints?
Good enough to win with a backup quarterback in the right motivational spot, and not good enough to win when faced with a motivational trap.
The Buccaneers scored 55 points last week and now know they have a tough challenge in front of them to survive. If a team is going to fail after scoring more than 50 points, it is probably tied to them be overconfident. But, a team that is on the road against one of the NFL’s elite teams’, is not likely to be overconfident, which means the talent that put up 55 points against the Rams last week, can be motivated to scorch the Saints this week.
Qoxhi Picks: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) over New Orleans Saints