Seattle – There's something to be said for belief and resilience and pride.
Nobody gave up the New Orleans Saints for dead after quarterback Drew Brees tore the ligament in his thumb during a loss to the Rams. But to say that some shine fell off – perhaps, understandably – would be an understatement.
In a 33-27 victory on Sunday over Seattle, at one of the most difficult venues (CenturyLink Field) to play in the NFL, New Orleans (2-1) showed it has plenty of life – and talent – left on the roster. The Saints won a game that wasn't as close as the scoreboard suggests, by playing their most complete game thus far. It was one to grow on.
OFFENSE: Don't get too caught up in numbers that look meager – 265 total yards, 3 of 11 on third down, 50 offensive plays. On a day when the Saints needed to be efficient, they were 2 for 2 in the red zone, didn't turn over the ball and completed 19 of 27 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a tough 88 yards on 23 carries. Teddy Bridgewater started his first game of real significance since the 2015 season and he was poised. He got help from Alvin Kamara (161 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns) and Michael Thomas (five catches, and a touchdown). He got the ball to the play-makers, and they made plays. The offensive line still has some cleanup duty – the penalties are concerning, and they're often drive-killers. But offensively, the Saints did exactly what they needed to do by scoring those three touchdowns. And they converted critical third downs to keep alive drives. It was a good day.
DEFENSE: Again, the numbers don't tell the whole story. The Saints allowed 515 yards, including 6.8 per play, gave up some chunk plays and didn't sack Russell Wilson once after entering the game with nine sacks. But they scored a defensive touchdown (Eli Apple on the strip, Vonn Bell on the scoop and score) and they turned away Seattle three times on fourth-down attempts. The last Seattle touchdown was a cosmetic, untimed-down score. When the Saints needed stops, they got them. They won't be happy with the yards allowed and they won't be overjoyed with the point total, but they submitted a work on Sunday that they can be proud of, all things considered. The Seahawks ran up a lot of yards, but the Saints got off the field when they needed to and gave the offense opportunities to find its rhythm.
SPECIAL TEAMS: If not for a muffed punt by rookie receiver Deonte Harris and a missed point-after attempt, this group was really clean. Harris returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown for the Saints' first score. Thomas Morstead had punts of 64 and 53 yards downed inside the 5. And the Seahawks averaged 4 yards on three punt returns, and 23.5 on two kickoffs. All of those plays, and more, were critical to the Saints' victory on Sunday. Of course, Harris has to eliminated his mistakes (it was his third error on a punt in as many games), and missing PAT's isn't Wil Lutz's style, so let's assume that's a cleanup that'll occur quickly. But those two things notwithstanding, the Saints had a standout day on special teams. That phase of the game, they clearly won.