We review the New Orleans Saints’ 2021 NFL season, assessing their quarterback troubles, season highlights, star performers, and more.
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In a season of ups and downs, the New Orleans Saints came closer to the playoffs than many expected with a 9-8 record.
With injuries at multiple key positions and one of the weakest wide receiver groups in the NFL, it took some incredible coaching and a championship-worthy defense to put the Saints in a position to extend their season.
Among the obstacles to present a challenge this season were Hurricane Ida, COVID-19, injuries and suspensions. Not to mention the biggest preseason depth chart hole in the NFL.
With the retirement of Drew Brees before the start of the 2022 season, debates raged across the sporting world about who the Saints should start at quarterback, and more importantly, whether the elected starter would be able to guide the Saints to the playoffs.
Four Quarterbacks Featured this Season
Little did we know that the Saints would need to use four different signal-callers during the season. Jameis Winston earned the starting nod and played well through seven games. He guided the Saints to a 5-2 record before suffering a season-ending ACL injury. Admittedly, this caused a little panic in the Saints fan base. We had a defense good enough to compete with anyone, but would we be able to score?
The injury occurred during a meeting with the Buccaneers and backup quarterback Trevor Siemian delivered his best performance of the season. He finished the game with five scoring drives, two touchdowns and three field goals, but the offense seemed limited. Siemian did well to take care of the football, but the play-calling was passive.
Siemian, formerly of the Denver Broncos, became the newest starter after the injury. As the weeks went on, the losses piled up. He struggled to deliver a win week in and week out and fans started to beg for Taysom Hill to get a shot. After four torturous weeks and four straight losses, Siemian finally got benched, but the damage to the record was done.
Now sitting at 5-6, the Saints were in recovery mode. They decided to give Hill a shot and the schedule lined up well for a potential playoff run. He didn’t inspire much hope in his first start as he threw four interceptions in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Thankfully for Hill and the Saints the Jets awaited the following week. After the blowout win, a false sense of hope washed over the fan base. All hopes of a high-powered offense disappeared the following week. The Saints could ill-afford a loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the defense stepped up in a big way and the offense mustered three field goals to keep playoff hopes alive.
COVID-19 Played its Part
Just as the Saints were looking like they had rebounded, disaster struck again. COVID Health and Safety Protocols took out 16 players including Siemian and Hill which left rookie Ian Book as the only healthy quarterback.
Book’s poor performance against the Miami Dolphins was a combination of inexperience, bad decision-making, and awful line play. He was stuck behind an offensive line missing three starters and faced a defense that mixed up blitz packages. Head coach Sean Payton admitted the biggest challenge during the game was keeping Book on his feet.
The Final Two Weeks…
With two weeks to go, the Saints needed to win out against the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. Versus the Panthers, Hill wasn’t flashy, but he was efficient, and the Saints defense dominated. That set up a massive meeting for the final week of the regular season.
The Saints needed a win over the lowly Falcons and a little help from the despicable Rams. After a convincing 30-20 win over Atlanta, all eyes turned to the Rams and 49ers game.
The situation was simple: if the Rams won, the Saints made the playoffs, but if the 49ers won, they would slide in instead. Fans tuned in and watched a 17-0 lead for the Rams melt away. In overtime the 49ers took the win with a game-winning field goal and thus the season ended.
Saints Season Recap
So, let’s recap some of the obstacles that were not only faced but overcome by this Saints team that finished the season 9-8.
Injuries were huge. Kamara missed four games, Winston missed 10, Michael Thomas suffered a setback on his ankle recovery plan and never stepped foot on the field.
As mentioned before, the wide receiver group left much to be desired. Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith combined for 78 catches and 1,075 yards. To put it into perspective, Thomas caught 149 passes and had 1,725 yards by himself in 2019.
Add in the displacement from Hurricane Ida early in the season and the COVID-19 impact that every team felt at one point or another and the outcome of the season is commendable.
The Alvin Kamara Show
Aside from the outstanding play of our defense, Alvin Kamara continued to prove he is a top five running back in this league with 25 percent of the team’s total offensive yardage. Add in the fact that the Saints went 0-4 in the contests that he missed and it’s easy to see his impact.
With the season over, the biggest positive to take away is that the Saints finished just outside of the playoffs despite mediocre quarterback play for over half the season. There’s always the chance that they bring in a free agent or complete a trade for an aging veteran looking for one last run for a title. With this defense and this coaching staff, there’s a good chance of it, and if not, Winston looked great before the injury.
Who do we not want to see lifting that Lombardi Trophy?
Are we happy the season is over? Not at all, but with the season in the books, Saints fans are stuck watching other teams compete for the Lombardi trophy. So, who do we absolutely not want to see win?
There’s one team that stands out as more despicable than the rest. Just about every Saints fan can agree that a Tampa Bay loss would be a nice consolation prize. Our division rivals, quarterbacked by the guy that need not be named, deserve nothing more than a big loss in the playoffs.
Honorable mention goes to the 49ers. We’ve hated the franchise that is San Francisco for as long as anyone can remember. Add in the fact that they stole the final playoff spot with their overtime win in the regular season finale and we have plenty of reason to not want them to win.
Here are the current Super Bowl 56 odds as we head into the Divisional Round games this weekend:
|Green Bay Packers||+350|
|Kansas City Chiefs||+380|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+550|
|Los Angeles Rams||+750|
|San Francisco 49ers||+1000|
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