The total operation wasn't smooth, but the New Orleans Saints received enough standout performances from enough players to cobble together a 30-27 comeback overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
New Orleans dug a 20-3 hole and climbed out. Or, perhaps better, slugged its way out until it overcame three special team penalties, an interception, another couple of blown coverages in the secondary that resulted in 49- and 64-yard receptions, and a start that wasn't conducive to success.
But the Saints (3-2) are tied for the NFC South Division lead, and received significant help in getting there.
OFFENSE: I guess it's safe to say now that receiver Emmanuel Sanders has found his groove with Drew Brees. After catching six passes for 93 yards in the victory over Detroit, Sanders caught a career-high 12 passes for 122 yards against the Chargers. He didn't score – his 6-yard touchdown was reversed to a 5-yard reception on replay – but he consistently provided an open target for Brees on a night when open targets seemed rare for a good portion of the game. Brees was outstanding (33 of 47 for 325 yards and a touchdown, with an interception) considering the pass rush he was under, and Alvin Kamara (11 carries for 45 yards, eight catches for 74 yards) just keeps showing up big. But Sanders was extremely valuable, especially in the absence of receiver Michael Thomas, who was inactive for disciplinary reasons.
DEFENSE: All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan won't be overjoyed that he finished with a half-sack (he split it with Trey Hendrickson). But he can't quibble much with the pressure he helped apply on Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. Jordan had two tackles for loss, 10 tackles and a quarterback hit as New Orleans muscled its way to three sacks and 12 quarterback hits. Hendrickson (1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits) continues to impress (his 4.5 sacks leads the team) , and linebacker Demario Davis (10 tackles, three quarterback hits and a big combined stop on fourth down to end the game) had a Davis-like impact. But Jordan led a defensive line that wreaked havoc and pressured Herbert.
SPECIAL TEAMS: All-Pro returner Deonte Harty couldn't play due to a groin injury. Rookie Marquez Callaway minimized Harris' absence. Callaway returned six punts for 69 yards and two kickoffs for 57 yards, and the numbers would have been better if not for a couple of penalties. The Saints aren't looking for a replacement for Harris; Callaway offers them a luxury of someone who apparently can do the job if and when Harris is unable to do it.