That’s four straight come-from-behind wins for the New Orleans Saints now – three that have come down to the final seconds -- after they escaped a literal slugfest with a 26-23 overtime win in Chicago on Sunday.
“You win an overtime game like that, there’s a little bit of grit and toughness,” Sean Payton said after surviving some cold and windy conditions along with the highs and lows of the game. “That’s something you begin to build. I don’t think you just start with it.”
But it’s hard to get too excited about things like grit, toughness, resilience and clutch finishes when they keep digging these big holes for themselves.
The Saints (5-2) will neeed to be much, much better in a critical NFC South showdown at Tampa Bay (5-2) next Sunday night.
Once again Sunday, the Saints were down 13-3 before they found their footing. And once again, they leaned heavily on running back Alvin Kamara – who continued to deliver with 163 yards from scrimmage.
But they had too many familiar problems creep up, including a lackluster passing offense and a defense that allowed a 50-yard pass in the second quarter and the game-tying field goal in the final seconds of regulation.
Pivotal player: The Saints couldn’t possibly have asked Kamara to do more this season with Thomas and other players sidelined – and Kamara possibly couldn’t deliver any more. He now has 100 scrimmage yards in six straight games, tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history according to ESPN Stats and Information. The only streaks longer were nine straight by Deuce McAllister in 2003 and seven by Dalton Hilliard in 1989.
Pivotal drives: Obviously the game-winning field goal drive in overtime was crucial after the two teams traded punts to start the extra period. Drew Brees escaped pressure for a clutch 14-yard pass to Tre’Quan Smith. Kamara gave them breathing room with a 20-yard run. And kicker Wil Lutz made up for an early-game miss with the game-winning 35-yarder.
“First off it’s just belief – belief that if we put ourselves in position to win the game, then we’ll win it. And it takes everyone,” Brees said after completing 31 of 41 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. “I’m so proud of our team. I’m so proud of those young guys that have had to step up. … That’s what the great teams do. You find a way to win.
“No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we’re gonna be to be able to draw on a lot of these other moments where we had to find a way to win.”
But the Saints also had a pretty huge touchdown drive just before halftime. All four of their come-from-behind wins over the past four games have been powered by a two-minute-drill touchdown before the half. This time, the Saints took over possession with 1:39 remaining in the first half, trailing 13-3, before Brees finished with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook. No NFL team has scored more points in such situations since Brees and Sean Payton arrived in 2006.
Troubling trend: The Saints’ defense cannot stop giving up deep passes -- even against a struggling quarterback like Nick Foles. The Saints gave up a 50-yard pass from Foles to Darnell Mooney in the second quarter when Mooney got a step behind cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The Saints have now allowed seven passes of 48-plus yards in the past five games, with seemingly every member of their secondary being victimized at least once or twice.
Eye-popping stat: The Saints’ do-everything backup QB Taysom Hill finally caught his first touchdown pass of the season in the fourth quarter. But it’s hardly anything new. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Brees is 22 of 25 when throwing to Hill with seven touchdowns over the past two seasons, including the playoffs.