The New Orleans Saints might be ready to win, but one weakness in the postseason could send them packing.
If you’re rooting for the feel-good story of the year, the New Orleans Saints are your team.
Even with Brees missing time, New Orleans found a way to win. Taysom Hill looked the part of a serviceable backup yet threw passes better than several starters in the league. On the flip side, the defense is back to Bayou fashion, creating turnovers and making key stops.
There’s a sliver of hope the NFC postseason picture will run through New Orleans. Even if it doesn’t, the Saints should host at least a pair of playoff games before traveling to Green Bay for the NFC Championship should that be the matchup.
— NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2020
Yet, as the season winds down, New Orleans does have its flaws. In fact, it might have the lone concern that keeps Brees out of the Super Bowl in what feels like his last hurrah before riding into the NFL retirement sunset.
The problem with the Saints winning for Brees is Brees himself.
In the end, he might be the culprit of another early playoff exit.
Brees’ regression may cost the Saints a Lombardi Trophy
Let’s call it as it is; Brees is aging. At 41, the mechanics that made him a superstar under center are still working fine. It is the engine that’s sputtering towards the finish line.
Since his return from the IR, it’s evident that Brees’ is entering the final moments of his illustrious career. Against the Chiefs, Brees threw for three touchdowns and 244 yards. He completed a season-low 44.1 percent of his throws and his longest pass on the afternoon came on a 51-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders, his only big play on the afternoon.
Drew Brees on any throw over 10 yards pic.twitter.com/lDabIlM25u
— Peter Bukowski (@Peter_Bukowski) December 26, 2020
A week later, Brees relied on the run game of Alvin Kamara. The recently-extended running back broke a nealy 50-year-old record, scoring six touchdowns on the way to a lopsided victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
And Brees? A 311-yard, two interception evening. And that was against a rebuilding back seven and the team’s third-string linebacker.
New Orleans has relied more on the run game all season, even prior to Brees’ return. Currently, this a career-low in team passing (237.7) for New Orleans in the Brees-Payton era. With 353 yards in the season finale against Carolina, they’d set a new franchise record in rushing yards in a single season set back in 1983.
— NFL Podcasts (@NFL_Podcasts) December 28, 2020
Take away Kamara, even in the passing game, and Brees is forced to go downfield. Yes, the length is still there in doses, as evident against both Kansas City and Minnesota. The velocity isn’t.
Kamara has 67 receptions when playing with Brees in 2020. That’s 25 percent of passes coming from the future Hall of Famer. And with Michael Thomas‘ status still fluctuating from in and out, Sanders and TreQuan Smith might need to step up big.
Teams need to force Brees to throw downfield. If they can, it might be another early exit for New Orleans.