The (2-2) New Orleans Saints will be seeking to get their current win-loss record back to a winning percentage in Week #5 of the 2020 NFL Regular Season, when they host the visiting (1-3) Los Angeles Chargers on ESPN Monday Night Football.
The kickoff for the nationally-televised contest is slated for 7:15 p.m. Central time at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and the game will also be broadcast locally in NOLA and the surrounding area on WGNO-TV New Orleans ABC Channel 26.
“THERE IT IS!”
8 years ago today, @DrewBrees broke Johnny Unitas’ record for the most consecutive games with a passing TD! ⚜️
📺: Saints vs Chargers (Monday/ESPN/7:15 pm CT) pic.twitter.com/VBgcprVdZA
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 7, 2020
With that in mind, here are Big Easy Magazine’s 5 “Bold” Predictions for this highly-anticipated match-up. And as always: we’ll count them down first beginning with #5 and then work our way down to #1.
Starting first with….
#5. THE SAINTS DEFENSE HAS ALLOWED OPPOSING ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS TO HAVE GREAT PERFORMANCES AGAINST THEM THROUGHOUT TEAM HISTORY, AND CHARGERS ROOKIE QB JUSTIN HERBERT ADDS HIS NAME TO THE LIST
Sadly as most older Who Dats can tell you, the Saints franchise over the course of their soon-to-be 54-year team history, have allowed opposing rookie quarterbacks to have great games throughout that length of time, and this Monday Night Chargers rookie starting QB Justin Herbert will become the latest.
The former University of Oregon star has been sensational for Los Angeles since taking over the Chargers starting QB job after the injury to veteran Tyrod Taylor, and the young man who was taken with the 6th overall pick in the recent 2020 NFL Draft a few months ago comes into the match-up against a struggling Saints pass defense having thrown for 931 passing yards and 5 TD passes in his first 3 professional starts.
Herbert is coming off an outstanding performance last week against a double-tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense where he passed for 290 yards and 3 TD’s in a 38-31 loss; including an extremely-impressive deep throw / 72-yard dime down the field to Los Angeles WR Jalen Guyton that clearly demonstrated his capability as one of the strongest-armed young QB’s in the NFL (among the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen).
And the rookie will shine once again this week, against a Saints defensive secondary that has looked awful at times in pass coverage while committing a ton of penalties. The young 22-year old gunslinger will make his presence felt big-time — as he completes 21 out of his 29 pass attempts for 337 yards and 2 TD’s, but also with one interception — a turnover that ends up being very costly for the Bolts offense.
#4. SAINTS ALL-PRO WIDE RECEIVER MICHAEL THOMAS FINALLY RETURNS FROM INJURY AND HAS “MIXED RESULTS” AGAINST THE STOUT CHARGERS DEFENSIVE UNIT
Last week in our predictions for the Black and Gold’s eventual 35-29 win at Detroit over the Lions, we had projected a big day for Thomas in what was supposed to be his anticipated return to the Saints offense starting line-up, after missing two games prior due to a high ankle sprain injury that he suffered in the Season-Opening win against Tampa Bay.
However, the Saints chose to rest Thomas for one more week, although as of now it seems very likely that he actually will play this week, especially with an extra day to prepare. The difference this week however, is that Thomas will be facing a much tougher defense in the Chargers — whose unit has been one of their team’s main strengths in recent seasons and despite several key injuries to a few of their best defenders recently — will still have a much better shot at limiting Thomas’ impact and production than Detroit would have been able to.
That said, expect Thomas to suit up and start vs. the Chargers; against whom he will have “mixed results” against with only 5 catches for 70 total receiving yards — but also manages to grab a TD toss from Brees that quickly reminds an entire national audience watching on from their TV sets at home, as to WHY he is such a critical and vitally-important part of the Saints offensive attack.
#3. CHARGERS ROOKIE RUNNING BACK JOSHUA KELLEY DOES HIS BEST ALVIN KAMARA IMPERSONATION, BUT ALSO GIVES UP A CRITICAL FUMBLE
🔌WAVIER WIRE PICKUP🔌
If Joshua Kelley is available in your league, he is a MUST ADD. Ekeler is going to be out for multiple weeks, and Kelley will be stepping in to the primary 1A role. Kelley will be a solid RB2 option for week 5. pic.twitter.com/3z06LvgSmf
— Fantasy Football Adam🏈 (@ffootball_adam) October 7, 2020
Besides the QB position, Los Angeles has another sensational young rookie on offense this season with RB (and 4th Round draft pick) Joshua Kelley, the impressive former small-school phenom from the University of California-Davis; whose speed, athleticism, and playing style has drawn many comparisons ironically to Saints superstar RB Alvin Kamara.
In this Monday Night’s contest at the Superdome, the soon-to-be 23-year old Los Angeles native playing for his hometown team, will take over the lead #1 RB role from from regular starting Chargers RB Austin Ekeler, who is expected to miss the next several weeks with a severe hamstring injury.
Kelley’s role in the Chargers offense actually even mirrors the same sort of utilization that Kamara does for New Orleans, and it’s expected that he will have plenty of receiving work catching short throws and screens from Herbert out of the backfield as well, which will ultimately help him post some good overall yards-from-scrimmage numbers against the Saints.
Kelley will tally 16 carries for 82 rushing yards and catch 4 passes for 58 yards (140 total scrimmage yards) — but also gives up a critical fumble late in the game that’s recovered by the Saints defense.
#2. SAINTS 20th YEAR VETERAN QB DREW BREES FACES THE TEAM THAT ORIGINALLY DRAFTED HIM ONE FINAL TIME AND CONTINUES HIS STELLAR LEVEL OF PLAY FROM LAST WEEK
For those Saints fans that follow the NFL more closely than others, they’re well aware that Monday Night’s contest will be the 4th time — and very likely the last time — in his brilliant 20-year professional career that Saints “living legend” and starting QB Drew Brees will face the team that originally drafted him (when the Chargers were still based in San Diego) with the 32nd overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft out of Purdue University.
Brees spent his first 5 years in the League with San Diego (where he still owns a house that he bought during his time there) and ended up starting the majority (58-out-of-59) games, while completing 62.2% of his passes for 12,348 yards and 80 TDs.
Brees tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder in San Diego’s final game of the 2005 Season, and Chargers team management at that time chose not to re-sign him because of that career-threatening injury, which famously led him to sign with the Saints and (then brand new) head coach Sean Payton in 2006 Free Agency.
In their prior 3 head-to-to head meetings before this Monday Night, the soon-to-be 42-year old Brees has an undefeated win-loss record (3-0) and has completed 82 out of 122 passes for 916 yards, 9 TDs, and 3 INT’s against his former team.
And the future NFL Hall of Famer will add to those numbers on Monday Night; as he completes 23 out of 32 attempts for 322 yards. 2 TD’s, and makes a sensational throw in the 4th Quarter that directly impacts the final result of the game.
#1. THE SAINTS AND CHARGERS ENTER INTO THE 4TH QUARTER TIED AT 17-17, WHEN….
When Chargers QB Justin Herbert completes a 64-yard “bomb” on a deep throw to Los Angeles All-Pro WR Keenan Allen, setting up the Bolts offense inside the Saints red-zone at the New Orleans 11-yard line,
Unfortunately for Los Angeles however, Kelley FUMBLES the hand-off from Herbert on the very next play from scrimmage, and the ball is pounced on and recovered by Saints weakside / “Will” linebacker Demario Davis at the 10-yard line.
The Saints offense then drives the ball down to the Chargers 28-yard line, on a mixture of a couple of runs by back-up #2 RB Latavius Murray and two successive 3rd Down catches by WR Emmanuel Sanders, but ultimately are forced to settle for a Wil Lutz 45-yard field goal; giving them a slim 20-17 lead with just over 9 minutes remaining to play in the game.
The Chargers answer right back with a drive of their own but they too are forced to settle for a field goal, and once again the score is tied this time at 20-20 a piece.
The Los Angeles defense then forces a Saints punt on the Black and Gold’s next offensive possession, but Herbert and the Chargers squander a golden opportunity to take the lead when he misses a wide-open Allen on a blown-coverage by the Saints defensive secondary. Los Angeles is forced to settle for another field goal from 53 yards out, and they now lead the Saints by a score of 23-20 with only 3:22 remaining on the game clock.
Hundreds-of-thousands nervous Who Dats watch on anxiously at home as New Orleans gets the ball back, and Brees methodically drives the Saints into field goal range for what would be a potential game-tying score. But the Saints and head coach Sean Payton are hell-bent and determined to win the game outright, and the Black and Gold opts to bypass a Lutz 54-yard field goal attempt to go for it on a 4th-Down-and-2 at the Chargers 37-yard line.
As Brees drops back to throw, he is hit right as he releases the ball by Los Angeles All-Pro defensive end Joey Bosa — but the ball hangs up in the air just long enough for Michael Thomas to make an INCREDIBLE CATCH — as he “bodies up” against two Chargers DB’s like an NBA basketball power forward going up for a rebound; and comes down with the football for a 37-yard TD reception to give New Orleans a 27-23 lead.
The Chargers still have a little over 1 minute remaining on the game clock to drive down the field and make one final attempt to pull out a last-second win, but on a crucial 3rd-Down-and-6 yards to go, Herbert is INTERCEPTED by Saints CB Patrick Robinson, who for a 2nd straight week is an unlikely hero once again for the Saints defense, when it matters the most.
The entire ‘Who Dat Nation’ then breathes a collective sigh of relief — as the Saints escape with a narrow victory and improve their overall win-loss record to (3-2) overall…..
FINAL SCORE: SAINTS 27, CHARGERS 23
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius