The heartbreaking moment all Saints fans dread finally
arrived last Sunday. New Orleans's season is officially over, after losing 20-30
to Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round of the NFL
There's plenty of speculation that the loss was Drew Brees's
final NFL game, and if that's the case, it was the sourest of notes for the
Saints legend to end his illustrious career on, after so many amazing moments
in New Orleans.
Although the end result isn't what most in New Orleans hoped
for, the 2020 campaign was still a highlight for a franchise that could only
dream of playoff appearances or division titles prior to the 2006 season.
Here's a look back at some of the most notable moments from a memorable season.
The Saints won their fourth consecutive NFC
South crown. It's the longest streak since the division's inception in 2002,
besting the Carolina Panthers' three-peat from 2013-2015, and marks the first
time in NFC South history that a team went undefeated in the division.
Alvin Kamara bounced back in a big way. His
production dipped a bit last season, especially when it came to finding the end
zone, and many fans were likely skeptical about the five-year,
$75 million contract extension he signed prior to starting the
season. The former third-round pick silenced the critics with a career year,
leading the league with 21 scrimmage touchdowns and ranking third with 1,688
scrimmage yards. He set records, breaking his own franchise mark with 16
rushing touchdowns and setting a new single-season franchise scrimmage touchdown
record. To cap off his fantastic year, Kamara saved his best performance for
his final regular-season
game on Christmas Day. Rushing for a career-high 155 yards and six
touchdowns, Kamara became the first player since Ernie Nevers in 1929 to record
six rushing scores in a single game. No. 41 was truly a joy to watch this
Michael Thomas was missed. In 2019, Thomas set
the NFL receptions single-season record (149) in his fourth year. This season,
the former All-Pro battled injuries and only played in seven regular-season
games. Thomas's 40 receptions for 438 yards was a career low, and his first
touchdown catch came in the playoffs. New Orleans's offense isn't the same
without Thomas at full-strength, and hopefully, his 2021 season will mirror
Kamara's 2020 comeback.
Taysom Hill finally got his quarterback
audition. After becoming a folk-hero gadget player over the past few years in
New Orleans, the Stormin' Mormon was finally handed the keys to the Saints'
offense after Brees was injured. Hill went 3-1 as a starter under
center, helping the Saints extend their midseason winning streak to
nine games. For the second straight year, New Orleans needed a backup
quarterback to replace Brees for at least four games, and the Saints have
posted an 8-1 record with their franchise signal-caller sidelined. The former
BYU Cougar may not be exactly who Saints fans envisioned as Brees's successor,
but Hill's four-game audition gave the Who Dat Nation a possible glimpse at the
Wil Lutz got the yips. The normally reliable
kicker started the season 18-for-19, but then he missed a field goal against
Atlanta in November and became inconsistent. In the final seven games of the
regular season, Lutz missed four of his nine field goals and missed his lone
extra point of the season. He also missed a field goal in the Saints' Wild Card
game. By the end of the year, faith in Lutz to deliver in the clutch had
dwindled. Hopefully, he can rediscover what made him one of the most consistent
kickers in football, before next season arrives.
The defense was awesome. Defensive coordinator
Dennis Allen did a masterful job this season, guiding the Saints to a top-five
defense in 2020, finishing fourth in yards allowed and fifth in points allowed.
Great defense is how franchises sustain excellence, and Allen has been a superb
complement to Sean Payton over this recent four-year run of success.
We were able to watch football. Remember when
the NFL season was in jeopardy? The Saints played all 16 regular-season games
and two playoff games and won their division, and we were all treated to
watching Brees suit up for the Black and Gold in potentially his final season.
Another Lombardi Trophy would have been nice, but getting to watch the Saints
18 times this fall and winter is an excellent consolation prize in this
Photo by Mike Trummel