METAIRIE, La. – It’s November, which traditionally means it’s time for the New Orleans Saints to start gaining some serious momentum for the stretch run.
The Saints won 14 straight games in November from 2009 through last year, when they dropped two games to San Francisco and Atlanta. They were a perfect 5-0 in 2009, 3-0 in 2010, 3-0 in 2011 and 3-2 last season.
It’s not just coincidence. Coach Sean Payton and players have long preached about the significance of this month when it comes to separating the top teams from the rest of the pack. But Payton said there are no specific reasons he would point to for the Saints’ November success.
“I don’t know specifically other than the process we followed. We really work hard at trying to make the corrections, even if we are coming off a game where we won and there are things we need to get cleaned up and corrected. I think every team does that,” Payton said. “It probably gets back to the really good Novembers probably go back to really good teams.”
Bagging the sacks: Saints quarterback Drew Brees was sacked four times in last Sunday’s victory over the Buffalo Bills. That’s the third game this season in which he’s been sacked at least four times – the most in his 13-year career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
It hasn’t been an egregious problem. Brees has been sacked a total of 18 times this season, and the Saints have allowed sacks on only 6.64 percent of their pass attempts – the 12th-best rate in the league. Plus, Brees has still managed to have outstanding production, with 2,290 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
But it’s an issue the Saints are obviously concerned about since it’s abnormal for them. Brees has never been sacked more than 26 times in a season in New Orleans, and this year he’s on pace for 41.
When asked if the sacks are a concern, Saints right tackle Zach Strief said, “Is that rhetorical?”
“Of course it is,” Strief said. “You don’t ever want him to get hit. He’s the focal point of our entire team. We can’t give up four sacks. We can’t let him get hit like that.”
There haven’t been any real individual repeat offenders this year. Left tackle Charles Brown has been dinged for either 4 or 4.5 sacks, depending on the statistical service, which leads the team. No one else has allowed more than three, and many of the sacks have come via overload blitzes where a rusher gets free.
Strief, meanwhile, has been the best pass-protecting tackle in the league, according to Pro Football Focus’ rating system. He has allowed only one sack this season.
Every-other Jets: As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, the Jets (4-4) have won in Weeks 1, 3, 5 and 7, while losing in Weeks 2, 4, 6 and 8. That doesn’t bode well for the Saints in Week 9.
Worth a click:
A great take on what the Jets will need to do to beat the Saints by my ESPN.com colleague Rich Cimini on the Jets team page: ‘Smashmouth’ is Jets’ only hope
WWLTV.com’s Bradley Handwerger talked with Saints receiver Nick Toon about how “surreal” it will be to play at New York, where his father Al Toon used to star for the Jets.