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What we learned in Saints' victory over Chargers

Rookie first-rounder Justin Herbert came out firing for the Los Angeles Chargers. Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees rallied the New Orleans Saints back. And after a seesaw battle on Monday night, it was Brees and a defensive stand that propelled the Saints to a 30-27 overtime victory on Monday night. Around The NFL will have more shortly.

New Orleans Saints 30, Los Angeles Chargers 27 (OT)

1) Shortly ahead of halftime arriving, Drew Brees and the Saints awoke from their slumber. A dormant offense and a rookie-ravaged defense had fallen behind by 17 points and offered no counter. Then Brees bounded into action and executed a two-minute drill that showcased the poise and efficiency that have been hallmarks of his Hall of Fame career. There was another second-half lull and then another rally into overtime and to victory. These are not the Saints we expected, but Brees’ moxie, a little bit of Taysom Hill tomfoolery, a perfect Wil Lutz, just enough Alvin Kamara and a huge tackle from Marshon Lattimore equated to a much-needed triumph. Brees is now 4-0 against his former team and produced his 51st game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime. His night saw 325 yards passing, two total scores and a mercurial performance opposite of the consistency we’ve grown to expect. As Brees seemingly must provide affirmation that he’s still got in on a weekly basis, Monday showed each side of the Brees coin. He was hot and cold, thankfully for the Saints (3-2) leaving most of the latter in the first half.  Brees put on a clinic of a two-minute drill to cut the score to 20-10 at the half, weaving his Saints 51 yards in 1:45, completing five of his seven passes and sneaking in for a one-yard score.  He drove the team down for the game-tying score (though it was with Hill in at QB) and then for the eventually game-winning boot from Lutz. The Saints’ sky-high hopes are still alive and despite the sometimes-shaky play of Brees, he’s a huge reason why. 

2) Justin Herbert has arrived – with precision and authority. Cool as a breeze, calm as a walk on a SoCal beach and easy like Sunday morning, Herbert looked like an old pro rather than the 2020 draft’s sixth pick making just his fourth start. And then came the second half and he went glacially cold along with the rest of the Chargers. Herbert threw three touchdowns in the opening half, including a dazzling opening score to Keenan Allen in which Herbert rolled right under duress and threw a beautiful fastball. But Herbert’s slow second half picked up in a big way, most notably with a 64-yard strike to Mike Williams that vaulted the Bolts back ahead, 27-20, in the fourth. With the score, Herbert became the first rookie with four TD passes on a Monday night, which nicely complemented his 264 yards. Herbert offers so much promise and so much hope for the franchise, but unfortunately with a 1-4 start it’s likely that marveling at the rookie’s arm brilliance and impressive athleticism will have to suffice for this season with that hope likely for the autumns beyond this one.

3) There will seemingly always be drivers of the Taysom Hill bandwagon, leading the argument that the Saints’ Swiss Army knife can be the future franchise quarterback. Like many in this back-and-forth game, Hill had an ugly start before making a huge play. Driving for the tying score, Brees was stunningly replaced at QB by Hill. Hill took a shotgun snap and roared right for a nine-yard score that led to the game-tying PAT. This followed a first quarter in which he threw a duck of an incompletion and followed on the ensuing play by dropping a pass from the resident franchise QB and future Hall of Famer, Brees. Later in the half, Brees went to Hill on the goal line and Hill fell to the ground. Hill’s not ready to be a franchise QB. But he’s still a dynamic weapon perfect for Sean Payton’s offense. 

4) Gauging at what percent Joey Bosa (triceps/knee/ankle) played at on Monday would be silly, but he was definitely limited and still outstanding. Perhaps Monday night was a cautionary tale that the Chargers need to err on the side of caution with their defensive standout and hold him back with just one win through five games. It was painful to watch him labor through OT, though he still pressured Brees. But it was also a shining example of just what a force he is as a limited Bosa (sack, TFL, QB hit) was still a phenomenal one.

5) Since Derwin James’ unfortunate injury prior to the season’s onset, the Bolts have been on the wrong side of a growing injury list. The latest was Allen, whose short-lived Monday night saw him haul in a touchdown and exit soon after with a back injury. After the game, coach Anthony Lynn said it was back spasms, so perhaps that leans toward no more missed time. These Bolts are reeling and losing another star player is the last thing an already difficult campaign needed. In Allen’s absence, though, it should be noted that Williams, who was also questionable to play with a hamstring, came up huge, tallying five catches for 109 yards and two scores. Of course, adding proverbial insult to injury it was Williams who was stopped short by one yard of a fourth-down conversion by Lattimore to end the game.

6) With Michael Thomas absent for a fourth straight week, Emmanuel Sanders has emerged as the interim No. 1 and the potential No. 2 upon Thomas’ return that New Orleans hoped for when it signed him ahead of the season. Following a six-catch, 93-yard outing a week prior, Sanders was the leading man in the Saints WR corps on Monday, grabbing 12 catches for 122 yards, each of them season-highs and therefore his best numbers with the Saints. It was a great compliment on a night in which the Chargers D held Kamara in check for much of the night. Of course much of the night isn’t the whole game as Kamara made a spectacular juggling catch in the game-tying drive and had 119 scrimmage yards. Obviously the Saints want Thomas back in a hurry (though Payton offered no specifics on the disciplinary situation that had him ruled out for Week 5), but Sanders has emerged into exactly the receiving option the Saints were hoping to get with the veteran’s arrival.

7) Tortured Chargers fans no kicking woes better than seemingly anyone. Monday was just another example. Mike Badgley missed a PAT to lead off the game, a missing point that would linger throughout the game. Then his game-winning attempt with no time left from 50 yards doinked off the upright. It was a Chargers day in the kicking game. And on the opposite end, Lutz hit all three of his field goals, including the game-winner in OT. Lutz has become a clutch and consistent kicker for the Saints, while Badley is, well, the latest Bolts kicker to break Chargers’ fans’ hearts and emblematic of the team’s ongoing struggles to close out wins.

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