Saints: positive takeaways from loss at Minnesota, season as a whole

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Positives from the season

Again, finishing 11-5 was not on many people’s radars for New Orleans. Many local media and fans predicted an 8-8 or 9-7 finish on average. The national media was even tougher. Many thought New Orleans would finish 7-9 yet again, or even worse. “Their division is too tough!” “Brees is too old!” “They never have a defense!”

Brees almost single-handedly proved the doubters wrong. With the help of two Pro-Bowl runningbacks, a Pro-Bowl wide-out, and a tough offensive line, Brees led New Orleans to the top five best passing offenses of the 2017 Season. He also broke the record for best completion percentage in a single NFL season. His astounding 72% accuracy was beautiful to watch week in and week out.

Ingram leading the league in rushing touchdowns, Kamara (surely) winning Offensive Rookie is the Year, and Thomas joining the likes of OBJ and Jarvis Landry historically made this one of the best offenses in Saints history. To watch, and on paper. Credit also goes to the offensive line, and offensive coordinator, Pete Carmichael. His play calling duties ramped up in the middle of the season, helping the Saints become as successful as possible.

The defense

Defensively, it was redemption season for the Saints. After countless years of mediocre to straight-up awful defenses, it was time for some change. It started with free agent signing of Alex Okafor to play alongside All-Pro Jordan. Earlier drafting of key players, such as Kenny Vaccaro and Vonn Bell, helped lay ground work for a lights-out secondary.

Then, Marshon Lattimore was snatched with the 11th overall pick last summer. Next week, he’s going to be at the Pro Bowl as a rookie, and will most likely be awarded Defensive Rookie of the Year. The surprising production of new addition Ken Crawley was astounding for the Saints as well. All of this, including All-Rookie safety Williams, helped New Orleans rank third overall in total interceptions this season with 20. Leading the way was, of course, Lattimore.

Of course, improvement happened elsewhere on the defense. We can’t go on until the talented front-seven of this team is addressed. Even with Okafor going down prematurely after starting off very well this year, New Orleans tied for 7th with 42 sacks. Jordan has 13.0 by himself, ranked tied-4th for the entire league. Sheldon Rankins was able to draw double teams, even despite the early and frightening training camp situation with Nick Fairley.

Even though they got placed on IR, new additions Klein and Anzalone are exactly what this defense needed this year and needs for the future. Both are athletic, with Anzolone picking up coverage schemes easily, and Klein being an anchor in the middle. Their replacements even did well, as highlighted against Minnesota.

Next: State of the New Orleans Saints by position 2018: Quarterback

Special teams-wise, Wil Lutz has flourished as the Saints starting kicker. He was nearly perfect on field goals yet again this season, and may be in the Big Easy for many more years. Punter Thomas Morestead is still one of the best in the league. His contributions never go unnoticed.

Witnessing one of the more balanced teams in recent memory was an absolute blast for Who Dat Nation. No one wanted the season to end, and that’s why the finish is even more devastating. However, the silver lining is there for this team, and it’s more than promising.