November 1, 2016
The New Orleans Saints won a game that might turn their fortunes around this season after using their rushing attack and a late defensive stand to http://www.espn.com/nfl/game?gameId=400874564">defeat the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 30.
There will be more talk about Seattle’s failure to close out the Saints than New Orleans’ win. Many fans and sports analysts expected the Seahawks to be one of the best teams in the league and in the race to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Most people expected New Orleans to be an offensive juggernaut again but to come up short on defense. While that script has played out at times this year, the Saints’ defense has shown growth as the season has gone along.
The Saints’ defense sparked a comeback over the San Diego Chargers to get their first win of the season and racked up stops against the Carolina Panthers in the team's second win.
On defense, New Orleans has done enough to win games since beating the Chargers, even if it didn’t always go so well on the other side of the ball. For instance, on Oct. 23, the Kansas City Chiefs used two Saints turnovers to get past New Orleans with a pick-six early and a forced fumble late. Those turnovers cost the Saints a chance at a win.
Against Seattle, the Saints http://www.espn.com/nfl/matchup?gameId=400874564">ran the ball 35 times for 123 yards, and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees attempted 35 passes. It was a balanced attack for the Saints. New Orleans also saw running back Mark Ingram return a fumble for a touchdown but still end up in the doghouse since he fumbled for a second week in a row. The Saints trailed most of the game but only gave up 13 points on defense.
The http://www.espn.com/nfl/statistics/team/_/stat/total/sort/netTotalYards/position/defense">Saints are now 20th in total defense instead of sitting at the complete bottom of the standings. They’re turning things around despite several key players still being out due to injuries.
This week, New Orleans travels to face the http://www.espn.com/nfl/team/schedule/_/name/no">San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Nov. 6. As the once-division rivals clash, this could be the game where the Saints reach .500, but can they keep pushing upward?
The Saints follow up the 49ers with a home game against the 6-2 Denver Broncos on Nov. 13. This will be a tough game to win but not impossible if the Superdome is truly returning to the home-field advantage that opposing teams once feared.
New Orleans finishes the season with seven winnable games: the 2-5 Carolina Panthers, the 3-4 LA Rams, the 4-4 Detroit Lions, the 3-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 3-4 Arizona Cardinals, Tampa again and the 5-3 Atlanta Falcons to end the season. That is just two teams at or above .500 at this moment for the rest of the season. There is http://www.espn.com/nfl/standings">nothing left on the schedule that should be impossible for this team to win.
There is no question whether New Orleans can beat San Francisco and then run the table if they happen to lose to Denver. If the Saints can do that, they will finish at 10-6 and should be in the playoff hunt.
The formula for winning will be the Saints getting stops or forced field goals on defense and the offense scoring enough points to win while running the ball. The NFC South is still winnable, with the Atlanta Falcons leading at 5-3, and New Orleans and Tampa Bay tied at 3-4 for second place.
The Saints’ season might turn around with Sunday’s victory. They will have a chance to make a run at the playoffs as long as the defense keeps improving and the offense doesn’t stop running the ball.