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New Orleans Saints have NFL's best fourth-quarter kick

Saints average league-best 13.7 points per game in fourth


There are finishing kicks, and there's what the New Orleans Saints have done to opponents so far in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The Saints (5-1) have been the NFL's most potent closing team, and it hasn't mattered who has been the opponent, and what has been the venue. From Tampa Bay in the season opener to Baltimore in Week 7, from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, against defenses with middling reputations or those considered the best in the league, New Orleans has fielded every challenge and left the competition shredded in the final 15 minutes.

The Saints average a league-best 13.7 points in the fourth quarter, including 17 in Sunday's 24-23 victory against Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium, against a defense that hadn't allowed a single point in the second half in its previous six games. Only nine NFL teams average more than 13.7 points in the second half.

And the Saints have operated with an astounding level of efficiency.

On 19 fourth-quarter possessions this season, the Saints have scored 10 touchdowns and kicked three field goals. They've had more possessions that concluded with kneel-downs (five) than with punts (one) and even then, that bears further explanation.

One kneel-down happened against Washington, in the Saints' lowest-scoring fourth quarter (three points; they led 40-13 entering the fourth), when New Orleans ran off the final 10:25 of game clock. Another kneel-down happened against Atlanta, at the end of regulation; the Saints, who scored 14 in the fourth against the Falcons, took the overtime kickoff and drove for a walkoff touchdown in their 43-37 victory.

New Orleans has had fourth-quarter comeback wins against Cleveland and Baltimore, and erased Atlanta's fourth-quarter lead to force overtime and to win in the extra period.

The Saints have been more than better late. They've been best.

"We stick with the plan," quarterback Drew Brees said. "We have a process, we have a strategy throughout the course of the game. In a perfect world, we'd love to start fast and finish strong and score on every drive in between.

"But you understand there's going to be some back and forth and there's going to be some give and take, and there's going to be some times where maybe you're playing the field position game a little bit, or maybe the run game is just getting you two yards a pop. And then all of a sudden, by the fourth quarter, you've dented the defense a little bit, you're wearing them down and now the runs are four and five yards a pop.

"It's just part of the game, it's part of the process. We feel like our offense takes a toll on a defense throughout the course of a game just with everything that we throw at them. We try to be our best at the end when we need to make the plays in order to win the game."

That partly explains how, after grinding against the Giants for three quarters, New Orleans hit them for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter – scoring runs of 4 and 49 yards by running back Alvin Kamara. The latter run came with 2:16 left, after the barrage of body blows to New York paid off.

"We just focus on us," Kamara said after win in Baltimore. "We're not focused on the scoreboard, not on the other team and what they're doing. We just focus on us, what we have to do to be successful.

"When we get down, it doesn't really matter. We're playing to win, and when we get down, we just lock back in and focus on what we've got to do to get it going. Everybody on this team has the same mentality. We just have to do the things we set out to do to be successful."

Lock in, and load up in the fourth quarter. No team has been better at that this season.

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