Its Back!!! Yes, it is that time again, immense optimism and hope for the new season and the annual slaying of Neil Reynolds on WhatsApp groups across the land! I won’t lie I really have not kept much of an eye on the NFL in the off season, with illness (Possible Covid, nearly died, but am OK now so don’t worry I won’t go on about it) and a new baby boy I have been a little busy so forgive my rustiness!, Saying that my off season dreams came true with the signing of Jameis Winston, being a big fan of Mr Winston I was very happy with that.
To say 2020 has been a strange year would be an understatement, life came to a grounding halt in March due to the global Coronavirus pandemic and the situation has not improved enough in America to allow fans into the stadiums for Week 1 in the NFL. Some games will have 20-30% capacity but tonight’s game in New Orleans vs the Buccaneers will be played behind closed doors, not going to lie I love the dome experience so was not looking forward to that, but as soon as kick off came I was as pumped as always and hardly took notice to the lack of crowd.
The Saints go into the season with arguably the strongest roster in the NFL, definitely in the NFC anyway, in the AFC Kansas City and the Ravens look strong again and I expect to play one of them in the Super Bowl if we make it. (Editor note WHEN!)
This year is looking like it will be Drew Brees's last season as Saints quarterback ending a 15-year partnership with Sean Payton, I fully expect Drew to go out with a bang….and hopefully a ring. In non Drew related news the Saints were given a huge boost this week with Alvin Kamara putting pen to paper on a $75 million 5-year deal keeping him at the Saints till 2025. I am expecting big things from him this season.
For tonight’s game the Saints would be without Marquez Callaway, PJ Williams, Cesar Ruiz, Zack Baun, Marcus Davenport and Shy Tuttle. Wide Receiver Mike Evans was looking doubtful throughout the week for Tampa but was declared fit before the game and would play.
The Saints were on offense first and superman Taysom Hill was the first target of the season for Drew, Drew is blessed with so many weapons I struggle to even guess who its going to next, the first few plays saw action for Cook, Murray, Hill and Kamara, with Thomas and Sanders waiting on their piece of the pie. Even with these weapons the Saints looked rusty early on as is usually the way with the Saints in week one. Brady would get the ball back early on in the first quarter and looked to be as dangerous as ever with a dime of a pass to Godwin to move Tampa into touchdown territory. We did not help ourselves again though with our best friend Mr Yellow Flag making an appearance early after a PI call on Jenkins. Brady began putting the pressure on Saints defence and forced another foul Lattimore (PI) to give the Buccaneers an automatic first down on the Saints 16. The first touchdown of the night followed giving Tampa a 7-0 lead. The Superdome was quiet and I do feel that played a massive part in our lacklustre performance early on and I settled in for another “box of chocolates” (See Forrest Gump) type performance from the Saints on opening weekend.
All the attention pre match was on the Brady vs Brees division showdown, Brady would go on to have quite an unproductive night completing 23 of 36 passes for 239 yards and throwing for 2 TD’s and 2 Interceptions, Brees wasn’t much better completing 18 for 30 for 160 yards and 2 TD’s. The Saints defence were the takeout positive from the game, they took the sting out of Brady’s positive opening start and gave a rusty offence a chance in the game to build up points. It was not a beautiful sight but sometimes you have to take the W and move on to the next. Whilst the defence needed a cold pint of Gatorade after the game last offence needed a good coating of WD40.
The Saints are notoriously slow starters but we finally came alive in the second quarter adding 17 points before half time with Alvin Kamara (Att: 12 for 16 Yards 2 TD) justifying his new diamond plated pay cheque with a gliding run untouched into the end zone to get Saints on the scoreboard, and with Brady being 3-12 when trailing at half time over last 4 seasons and 38-3 when leading at half time I was more confident of killing the game second half, Brady may just have lost that comeback ability so many teams and rival fans fear. Brees had a poor display by his usual high standards completing 18/30 for just 160 yards with 2 TD’s, but if a poor Drew can beat “an albeit” former great Brady on opening night I will take it. Michael Thomas had a similar hit and miss night, a man who averaged 100-yards in games last season with over 140 receptions to add to it setting an new NFL record along the way went for just 3 receptions for 17 yards and 0 TD’s. With 8 other weapons on offence Drew was not short of options though, with Cook, Harris, Sanders, Smith, Murray, and Josh Hill all notching a reception on the night. The standout receiver being big Jared Cook notching up 5 receptions for 80 yards, Emanuel Sanders also got his first Saints TD. It wouldn’t be the Saints now without throwing in a Taysom Hill trick play for good measure which lead to a 38 yard pass to Kamara who was wide open, this play killed the clock and we could settle down though Saints still lead by 11 with 2.15 left in the 4th (34-23). The Buccaneers were out of timeouts and the game was all but done.
The Saints took the Win 34-23 after sloppy displays from both teams, Brady looked unhappy all night shouting at receivers after missing passes and generally looking grumpy, the Saints defence were pressuring him all night and did not let up. This is not the Patriots Tom expect more challenges and more points to chase, the Buccaneers have quality but it has to come together and click to give Brady the wins he got use to in New England over the last 20 years. The one guy he does have chemistry with is Rob Gronkowski his former Patriots Tight End, Gronk would only have 3 targets all night which really shocked me and killed him off in my fantasy team. Thanks Tom. And Gronk maybe call it a day…watch that space.
Although we got the win there were few causes for concern including penalties given away and Sean Payton’s offensive playbook being furloughed. This is normal at the start of any season, the Saints are like a fine wine we take time to become perfect, then someone usually drops and smashes the bottle. One big positive though is Drews array of offensive options, we are stacked for offensive targets, have a top 3 defence this season and are one of the most complete teams in the NFL so this year will be interesting. And who knows Drew may finally get his hands on not only the Lombardi Trophy again but on the one trophy that still eludes him, Season MVP, he will have to play better than tonight to have any chance of that though. That being said it was good night all round. Enjoy Victory Monday.
Until next time, stay safe.