The first meaningful Sunday of the NFL calendar did not disappoint. Things are already off to a flying start. The Kansas City Chiefs won an absolute thriller over the Cleveland Browns in what was the most appetizing contest on paper. Elsewhere, we saw several shocking results. The Buffalo Bills lost at home, the Tennessee Titans’ supposed high-flying offense started with a whimper, and the Houston Texans are atop the AFC South, just like we all predicted.
But make no mistake, no result was more shocking than the one that took place in neutral-site Jacksonville. The New Orleans Saints absolutely rolled the Green Bay Packers to the tune of 38-3.
And ya’ll, I am ALL IN on Jameis Winston and the Saints. Every year, we try our best not to overreact to the results of Week 1. It’s important to sift through what’s fact and what’s fiction, and the truth will be revealed over the next month or so.
But 38-3?!? Over the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers? Yeah, you have my attention, New Orleans.
It was fair of you to enter Sunday’s contest with some skepticism regarding the Saints’ offense. After all, Sunday marked the first time in Sean Payton’s 15 years as the Saints’ head coach that he entered the season with a quarterback not named Drew Brees under center. Winston is the new gunslinger in town and he looked extremely capable in his new role. The former No. 1 overall pick didn’t worry about the big shoes he’s expected to fill.
Winston’s final stat line was bonkers. Winston threw a touchdown pass on nearly every other completion. He finished the game 14-of-20 with just 148 yards and five touchdowns. The numbers obviously represent an anomaly, but Winston’s performance was extremely encouraging. He showed progress in areas of the game he’s struggled with in the past. Winston was poised and composed in the pocket, and more importantly for him, took good care of the football.
Why am I so high on Winston and the Saints after just one game? Two words. Sean. Payton.
I thought ESPN’s Dianna Russini made a great point on social media after the Saints-Packers game came to its end. Every year, we get excited about new-and-hot young offensive play-callers. We are enamored with the Arthur Smiths and Joe Bradys of the world. We’re always fascinated by what’s new and exciting. Meanwhile, Payton has been here showcasing his brilliant offensive mind for nearly two decades now. Put some respect on the man’s name!
After all, the sample size may be small, but Payton has proven he can win without Brees. It was just last season that Payton led the Saints to a 3-1 record with Brees on the mend after going 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater the year before. Payton is a coach that understands how to get the most out of the players on his team, and he consistently puts his offensive weapons in positions to be successful.
I expect more of the same from Winston and Co. going forward.
On the other end of things, the Saints looked absolutely terrific on defense. They held Rogers to 15-of-28 for 133 yards and two interceptions. Rodgers finished the game with a quarterback rating of 36.8. Yikes. All in all, the Packers only managed 229 total yards, turned over the ball three times, and were just 1-of-10 on third down.
The Saints’ 2021 defense picked up where the 2020 unit left off. The Saints ranked in the top five in several defensive categories a year ago, including points allowed (337), yards allowed (4,974), yards per play (5.0), turnovers forced (27), passing yards against (3,472), and rushing touchdowns allowed (11). Sunday gave us absolutely no reason to believe this unit will be anything short of excellent once again.
The 2021 Saints have arrived, and they look as dangerous as ever.