If we know nothing else about the New Orleans Saints this season, we know this: They're resilient and they're resourceful.
And we're learning that those two traits – along with a few timely plays – can carry a team to victory, as they did on Sunday in New Orleans' 27-24 win over Carolina in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Saints (4-2) won their third consecutive game by being as efficient offensively as they've been in any game this season, by coming up big defensively when they needed it most, and by putting one of the NFL's best kickers in position to help sew it up.
Doing it without starting receivers Michael Thomas (injury) and Emmanuel Sanders (reserve/Covid-19), and watching left tackle Terron Armstead (arm) leave with an injury in the first half, only made the feat more impressive.
OFFENSE: The word "efficient" probably was a bit too tame. New Orleans was outstanding offensively. Drew Brees completed 29 of 36 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns (and ran for a third touchdown), Alvin Kamara had 148 yards from scrimmage and led a ground game that totaled 138 yards on 29 carries, the Saints converted 12 of 14 third-down attempts and they hogged possession for 34:41 of the 60 minutes. If not for Brees' lost fumble – James Hurst replaced Armstead, got beat off the edge and Brian Burns knocked the ball loose on a blindside sack – New Orleans would've been near perfect. The Saints didn't even need to punt. It was some of the best work the offense has submitted this season.
DEFENSE: For awhile, it didn't appear that the Panthers (3-4) would need to punt, either. Defensively, the Saints couldn't get a stop in the first half and, worse, gave up another one of those head-scratching, wide-open-receiver touchdowns – a 74-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater to DJ Moore. But New Orleans cleaned it up in the second half after allowing 17 points in the first half. On Carolina's first possession to open the second half, the Saints forced a punt. And after allowing a tying touchdown to the Panthers on their next possession, the Saints muscled up to produce their best stand. Knowing the Panthers needed a field goal to tie, New Orleans' defense stiffened once the Panthers reached their 38 with more than three minutes remaining. An incompletion on first down, 1-yard tackle for loss on second down and Marcus Davenport sack for minus-8 on third down forced the Panthers into a 65-yard field-goal attempt. It fell short by about a yard, and the Saints ran out the final 1:55. New Orleans did manage to allow less than 300 total yards for the third straight game (283), and the run defense was absolutely outstanding (37 yards on 14 attempts). But the Saints really, really need to have a game minus a huge coverage bust.
SPECIAL TEAMS: All you really need to know is that Thomas Morstead didn't have to attempt a punt, and Wil Lutz was perfect on two field-goal attempts, the second of which proved to be the game winner. Carolina returned two kickoffs for 22 yards, so coverage was exactly what we've come to expect from the Saints.