The season ended not the way the New Orleans Saints hoped, with a 30-20 loss on Sunday to Tampa Bay in their NFC divisional playoff game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But several standout performances emerged from the loss for New Orleans (13-5).
OFFENSE: Tre'Quan Smith hadn't played since Dec. 20, against Kansas City, due to an ankle injury that landed him on the injured reserve. In his first game back, he was the Saints' most productive offensive player. Smith caught the 56-yard, trick-play touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to give the Saints a 13-10 lead in the second quarter – he was wide open – and his back-shoulder, 16-yard touchdown catch from Drew Brees gave New Orleans a 20-13 lead in the third. He finished with three catches for a game-high 85 yards and the two touchdowns.
DEFENSE: It only seemed as if there were two of Malcolm Jenkins on the field. He was credited with 11 tackles, but his three passes defensed were the most impressive part of his contributions. One of them was the touchdown-saving variety, a highlight for a defense that allowed just 316 yards. Linebacker Demario Davis also would have been a solid choice – a sack, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and nine tackles. Davis came up big when the Saints needed him to, but Jenkins arguably came up bigger.
SPECIAL TEAMS: It tells you how much of an impact Deonte Harris had in the first half that he didn't finish out the game and still was a runaway choice here. Speaking of running away: Harris had a career-long 54-yard punt return the first time he touched the ball as a punt returner, and the second time he touched it, his 67-yard return for a touchdown was nullified by an illegal block penalty. He finished with two punt returns for 61 yards, and it would have been interesting to see how Tampa Bay would have addressed the threat he posed if he hadn't been injured (neck) on offense.