The most compelling aspect of the New Orleans Saints’ wire-to-wire victory against the Chicago Bears is that it did not have Drew Brees’ fingerprints all over it.
Oh, No. 9 played well enough in Sunday’s 20-12 win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, completing 23 of 28 passes for 299 yards with no interceptions for a stellar 111.2 passer rating.
But he did not throw a touchdown pass as both Saints’ TDs came on the ground — an 8-yard run by rookie sensation Alvin Kamara and a 1-yard over-the-top dive by Mark Ingram.
It marked the 15th game since Brees’ arrival in the Big Easy in 2006 that he has not thrown a TD pass. It also marked just the Saints’ fourth victory when Brees posts an “oh-fer,” their first since Week 4 of the 2009 Super Bowl season when they scored two defensive TDs to beat the visiting New York Jets, 24-10.
The mere fact that the Saints can find other ways to win and not have to rely solely on Drew Brees suggests Sean Payton’s team is coming of age, especially on defense which is becoming the talk of the NFL under coordinator Dennis Allen.
Points and yards suddenly are at a premium for opponents. It helps to face young, unproven quarterbacks who are cutting their NFL teeth, most notably, Brett Hundley of Green Bay and Mitchell Trubisky of Chicago, and unpredictable veterans like Cam Newton of Carolina and Jay Cutler of Miami.
That’s not to diminish the gritty work recently turned in by the Saints defense, merely an observation and a reminder that not every team is blessed to have a player under center like Brees who’s as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar.
Two other observations going into Week 9:
▪ Not lost on Saints fans, perhaps, but noticeably underplayed by national media is the stellar weekly work turned in by a patchwork offensive line that has been forced to deal with numerous injuries. Brees has been sacked a league-low seven times, and the offense ranks third in total offense, sixth in scoring and 13th in rushing.
▪ Also, Allen has been able to mount and sustain an affective pass rush without the benefit of a second pass-rusher to complement defensive end Cam Jordan (5.5 sacks), though free agent signee Alex Okafor has come the closest with three sacks.
Now, it’s on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, losers of four straight games and five of their last six. A win Sunday at the Superdome would move the Saints to 6-2 and ensure sole possession of first place in the NFC South at the midway point.
I never saw it coming.
What say you?
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at email@example.com.