Without future Hall of Famer quarterback Drew Brees on the field, New Orleans managed to scrape together a 12-10 win over a Dallas team that many were picking to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LIV. Now, the league is left wondering just how scary the Saints will be once Brees returns from his thumb injury.
Since Brees went down in the first quarter of the Saints’ Week 3 NFC Championship rematch against the Rams, backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has game-managed his way to a 2-0 record as the starter.
Bridgewater was thrown into the fire in the Rams game and was unable to get the win off of the bench. Since then, Bridgewater has been getting first-team reps and looked comfortable and poised against tough Seattle and Dallas defenses. As a result, New Orleans is looking at a 3-1 record with four very winnable matchups coming up before their bye week, which is supposedly when Brees will be healthy enough to play again.
Through his (almost) three games of action, Bridgewater has thrown 59-87 for 535 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Despite failing to reach 200 passing yards in any game this season, Bridgewater has done just what he needed to do to win games.
New Orleans’ offense revolves around getting the ball to two guys: Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Since becoming the starter, Bridgewater does a great job of getting the ball to those two playmakers. He fed Kamara 35 touches for 250 yards and two touchdowns through the last two games and Thomas has recorded 149 yards and one touchdown on 14 catches. Nobody is as good as Brees at putting Kamara and Thomas in the ideal situation to succeed, but Bridgewater has done a pretty good job.
Although Russell Wilson was allowed to throw for over 400 yards, the Saints’ defense has been spectacular since Bridgewater took over. Seattle and Dallas’ offenses start with establishing the ground game, and the Saints prevented them from doing that. Though Wilson had successfully abandoned failing passing plays to scramble for yardage, running backs Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise took a combined 19 carries for 57 yards and lost a fumble. Even more impressively, New Orleans’ rush defense recovered an Ezekiel Elliot fumble and limited him to 18 carries for just 35 yards. Between these two games, the Saints have allowed opposing running backs less than 2.5 yards per carry.
The Saints didn’t score a touchdown against the stout Cowboys’ defense, but they managed to get kicker Will Lutz into field goal range four times and he was a perfect 4-4 on those attempts. Bridgewater never got frustrated about stalling out in opposing territory by throwing careless interceptions and leaving points off of the board. He displayed trust in his kicker and his defense with safe, smart and somewhat conservative play.
Dallas went ahead 10-9 in the third quarter with the only touchdown of the game and Bridgewater responded with a 9:06, 15 play drive that ended with a field goal. Down 12-10 with just under 14 minutes left to play, Dallas failed to put any more points on the board against New Orleans and perhaps surrendered their crown of scariest team in the NFC to the black and gold.
The remainder of the Saints’ schedule heading into their bye week looks like this: home against Tampa Bay, at Jacksonville, at Chicago and home against the Cardinals. Though the Buccaneers just beat up on the Rams in Los Angeles with a 55-40 win, they lost at home to the Giants the week before. I’d chalk up that win in LA as a fluke and say that and the games in Jacksonville and home against Arizona are wins for New Orleans.
Chicago can be tricky. Mitchell Trubisky hurt his non-throwing shoulder Sunday against the Vikings, but backup quarterback Chase Daniel led the Bears to a 16-6 win. It is currently unclear if Trubisky will be ready by Week 7, but regardless of who is under center, that defense is extremely good and Khalil Mack will surely give Bridgewater all he can handle.
If the Saints are coming out of their bye week with a 7-1 record and Brees back under center, they will be big time frontrunners for a first-round bye and probably home field advantage through the playoffs. Plugging Brees back in for Bridgewater is an upgrade that can not possibly be overstated.
The list of teams that will have a shot at beating New Orleans is very short. If the Saints can avoid a freak playoff accident for a third year in a row, I expect to see Who Dat nation in Super Bowl LIV.
Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @seanjanos.