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Season in Review: Saints Fall Short of Super Bowl but Still Give Us Memories

17:00 January 21, 2021
By: Andrew Alexander

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 playoffs.

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.

1. 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.

2. 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 season.

3. 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.

4. 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 future.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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 unpredictable year.

Andrew Alexander is a contributing writer, football fan, and unofficial president of the Arch Manning Fan Club. Follow him on Twitter at @TheOtherAA and listen to the Krewe du Drew podcast.

Photo by Mike Trummel

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