Not nearly enough went right for the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in a 32-29 loss to Kansas City in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
But though the Saints (10-4) emerged as a battered team that lost their second straight game, and remain one victory away from winning the NFC South Division for the fourth straight year, there were a few things that New Orleans will be able to hold on to as it moves toward a Christmas Day game against Minnesota in the Superdome.
OFFENSE: The unit struggled, and not a little. Drew Brees returned at quarterback following a four-game absence, but the Saints' timing and rhythm were off. Yes, the offense missed receiver Michael Thomas, but it had played without Thomas before and had shown the ability to be much, much more effective than it was Sunday. Twenty-nine points and three touchdown passes by Brees looks good on the surface, but the Saints were 1 for 11 on third-down attempts, Brees completed just 15 of 34 passes – he started 0 for 6, with an interception – and New Orleans totaled 60 rushing yards on 17 carries largely because it couldn't stay on the field. Kansas City dominated time of possession (41:14-18:46), with the Saints unable to convert third downs. The unit is better than that, even with a rusty Brees, and it'll have to be against Minnesota.
DEFENSE: There are days when 32 points and 411 yards allowed would sound disastrous, with the opponent converting half of its 18 third-down attempts and possessing the ball on offense for more than 40 minutes. But Sunday wasn't that day. The Saints' defense was on the field for 92 plays against the league's most dangerous offense – with defensive backs playing the role of track sprinters while chasing Kansas City's fleet of fleet-footed receivers – and it held its own. It didn't allow chunk plays, forced the Chiefs to nibble down the field for the most part, held Patrick Mahomes to 254 passing yards (26 of 47, three touchdowns) and sacked him four times. New Orleans needed some offensive support in this one, and it didn't arrive early enough, or often enough. But the Saints managed to make the Chiefs work and harassed Mahomes enough to keep it close. It wasn't a team win, but there were a lot of individual victories for the Saints' defense inside the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Saints were outstanding in the kicking game. Wil Lutz didn't have any field goal opportunities, but everything else was about as good as it could have been scripted. Thomas Morstead punted eight times for a 47.3-yard average. Tommylee Lewis returned a kickoff for 34 yards and two punts for 26. J.T. Gray and Justin Hardee Sr. made a couple of tackles on punt returns that showed the top-tier talents that they are on special teams. Craig Robertson forced a fumble on a punt return that Alex Anzalone almost recovered in the end zone – he tipped it out of the end zone for a safety – and the Saints held the Chiefs to minus-15 yards on five punt returns. New Orleans clearly won the special team battle, and it helped keep the Saints close.
Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints vs. Kansas City Chiefs matchup in Week 15 of the 2020 NFL season.