Saints defense proved they have what it takes to beat the Chiefs, and anyone else

John Sigler
·2 min read

The New Orleans Saints defense left it all on the field in Week 15’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, playing as strong a game as could be asked of them against Patrick Mahomes and the reigning Super Bowl champs.

Mahomes didn’t complete a single pass attempt traveling 20 or more yards downfield, and his offense punted 6 times — for the first time in 2020, and only the third time since Mahomes was named the starting quarterback. And it didn’t go unnoticed; Saints coach Sean Payton gave them a shoutout, recognizing the efforts of C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Williams, Marshon Lattimore, and their teammates.

“I was proud of how we competed. I thought that we flew around,” Payton said after the game. “I thought we played our hearts out. It wasn’t good enough, obviously, but I’m proud of the effort.”

The defense got home without blitzing, sacking Mahomes 4 times and pressuring him on 24 of his 54 dropbacks (44%, per Pro Football Focus). He connected on just 26 of his 47 pass attempts for his second-lowest completion percentage (55.3%) of the season. It was, again, as great a performance as you could ask from the Saints defense against an offense led by the NFL’s best quarterback and a receiving corps stocked with the likes of Travis Kelce (8 catches for 68 yards) and Tyreek Hill (6 catches for 53 yards).

But the Chiefs still scored 32 points. Mahomes put his Superman cape on and made some spectacular throws, stepping up in the face of pressure and hitting his receivers in the smallest windows imaginable — one play that stands out is his touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman, when he threaded the ball between several defenders to strike Hardman at knee-height in the back corner of the end zone.

That’s going to happen, frustrating as it is. It’s just too hard to play consistently great defense in the modern NFL. But the Saints’ shortcomings on offense put them behind from the beginning. Drew Brees couldn’t complete any of his first six passes, including a crucial early-game interception.

Maybe they could have overcome it with Michael Thomas getting targets at receiver instead of a gaggle of practice squad call-ups. But this game made it clear that the Saints will, for once, go as far as the offense (not the defense) takes them.

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Cleveland
+380+10O 57.5
Kansas City
-500-10U 57.5