The New Orleans Saints moved to 2-1 on the year with a convincing Week 3 victory over Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots on Sunday. New Orleans’ defense gave rookie quarterback Mac Jones all he could handle en route to forcing three interceptions in what ended up being a relatively easy day for Sean Payton and Co.
It was fair of you to enter Sunday’s contest with some skepticism regarding this Saints team. They were dominant in a shocking 38-3 Week 1 win over the Green Bay Packers, in which starting quarterback Jameis Winston threw five touchdown passes on just 20 attempts. The story of that day was how the Saints’ defense made Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense look like a peewee football unit.
That was not the same New Orleans team that showed up to Week 2, getting stunned by the Carolina Panthers to the tune of 26-7. The Saints’ offensive woes were on display, gaining a pathetic 128 total yards of offense in that contest.
We entered Week 3 wondering which version of the Jekyll and Hyde Saints was going to show up. The answer? It was the Week 1 version that rode its elite defense to victory.
In their two wins this season, the Saints have forced a staggering six turnovers while holding opponents to just eight points per game and 264.5 yards per contest.
So which iteration of the Saints is the real one, and which one is the imposter? I’m personally going to put my faith in the dominant defensive unit we watched lead their team to victory on two separate occasions.
It hasn’t been a surprise to watch Saints begin the 2021 campaign by performing at an extremely high level on defense. After all, they were dominant on that side of the ball in 2020 as well, ranking in the top five in several defensive categories including points allowed (337) and turnovers forced (27).
It’s worth noting the Saints weren’t awful defensively in their sole loss either but were routinely put in bad spots by an offense that struggled to move the ball. The real cause for concern here will continue to live on offense, where Winston has failed to top 150 passing yards in a single contest through three weeks. It's a startling development for a gunslinger that once topped 5,000 passing yards in a single season.
There's no denying that New Orleans' offense will struggle at times, but if Winston can do what he did in Week 1 and 3, and that's remain poised and composed in the pocket while limiting the turnovers, then the Saints are going to be more than alright. Expect them to ride an elite defense all the way to the postseason.