Nothing seems to phase the New Orleans Saints because, literally, the team has experienced pretty close to everything there is to experience this season. So it seemed almost natural that New Orleans (5-2) was able to shake off the second-quarter injury of starting quarterback Jameis Winston, and go on to post a 36-27 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday at the Caesars Superdome.
From Hurricane Ida evacuation, to injury absences, to a shortage of coaches due to a Covid outbreak, nothing has been able to get the Saints off track. Several players made sure it didn't happen on Sunday, either.
OFFENSE: In a perfect world, Trevor Siemian only would have set foot on the Superdome turf during pregame warmups. New Orleans' world has been anything but that. So, naturally, Siemian, who hadn't thrown a pass in an NFL game since Week 2 of the 2019 season, and hadn't thrown a touchdown since Week 14 of 2017, stepped off the bench after Winston was injured on the Saints' second offensive play of the second quarter, and completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions. The offense stayed aggressive with Siemian on the field, and he was more than solid after not having played for a considerable amount of time. His 38-yard completion to Kevin White on the first play of the third quarter led to a touchdown, was the Saints' longest offensive play and served notice that New Orleans wasn't going to back off because of Winston's injury.
DEFENSE: Defensive end Cameron Jordan had a sack and forced fumble. Defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson had an interception and six tackles. Defensive back P.J. Williams returned an interception for a touchdown. Linebacker Kwon Alexander had a sack, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hit and five tackles. It was such a collective effort by the unit (defensive tackle David Onyemata returned from his six-game suspension and added a fumble recovery) that singling out an individual almost is impossible, so we won't. Despite 421 yards allowed, three forced turnovers, three sacks, six tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and five passes defensed is the kind of overall performance that the Saints needed, and received.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Having Deonte Harty back as the primary returner showed. Harris returned two kickoffs for 69 yards, fielding the kicks eight and nine yards deep in the end zone, and he returned a punt for 12 yards. He generates a level of fear that is noticeable for opponents. Brian Johnson absolutely deserves mention for his three field goals, and punter Blake Gillikin is becoming a player that almost can be taken for granted (three punts, 48-yard net, long punt of 63 yards). But Harris provides that every-touch-could-be-a-score threat.