No Drew Brees, no problem. That was the case for the New Orleans Saints in Seattle on Sunday, where Sean Payton's NFC South contender rode Alvin Kamara, clutch defense and special teams playmaking to snap the Seahawks' longtime streak of home victories in September with a 33-27 upset.
Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett had a strong connection early in Sunday's clash, but fumbles, failed fourth downs and an offensive attack ill-suited for a big comeback doomed Seattle in front of its own crowd. Sean Payton and Co., meanwhile, kept Brees replacement Teddy Bridgewater comfortable while the rest of the team made life difficult for the Seahawks, who entered Sunday with 15 straight September wins on their own turf.
Let's take a deeper dive into how the Saints pulled off the Week 3 upset:
Why the Saints won
They did absolutely everything they needed to do to minimize the absence of Brees. They did it early, and they did it often. By leaning on Kamara, allowing Teddy Bridgewater to focus on the sort passing game and then stopping Seattle's momentum with key defensive stops, they never really felt threatened -- which is saying something considering the game was in Seattle, where the Seahawks had never lost a September home game under Pete Carroll. Kamara was something special, too, accounting for almost all of New Orleans' offensive production with 161 total yards and two touchdowns.
Why the Seahawks lost
For a few moments, it looked like Seattle might be playing, well, Seattle's kind of game -- a gut-it-out, ground-and-pound performance that got them close wins in Weeks 1 and 2. But for the majority of the contest, in every part of the game, the Seahawks couldn't execute. The offensive decisions were oddly timed (throwing deep on fourth-and-short, rushing on third-and-long), the defense had stretches where it could not tackle, the special teams surrendered costly plays, and poor clock management robbed them of some potential first-half points. For whatever reason, this didn't look like a team that was prepared to play. Instead, it looked like one expecting to coast over Bridgewater and the Saints.
With the game all tied up 7-7 in the second quarter, Vonn Bell scooped up a Chris Carson fumble and returned the rock 33 yards for the go-ahead score that would give the Saints a permanent lead. Not only did Bell's awareness pay off for New Orleans in the moment, but it showed everyone that even without Brees, this New Orleans club is well built across the board.
Play of the game
Deonte Harris muffed a punt in Sunday's game, but he also showcased his blazing speed on the first score of the game -- a 53-yard punt-return touchdown that not only proved he's got some of the best wheels in the NFL but gave the Saints early momentum in what would go on to be a statement road victory.
"I thought we did a lot of things well. I thought we played in a different way but a pretty complete game ... It was a good win."
Simple remarks from Sean Payton, but they ring so very true after Sunday's performance. One team looked like an all-around playoff contender, and it wasn't the team with the historical home-field advantage and Pro Bowl starting quarterback. It was Payton's squad, which did everything right in every facet of the contest.
The Saints (2-1) beat the odds by upsetting the Seahawks in Seattle, but they'll face a potentially taller task on in Week 4 when they'll host the red-hot Dallas Cowboys (3-0) on Sunday night. The Seahawks (2-1), meanwhile, will hit the road for a divisional showdown with the Arizona Cardinals (0-2-1).
Relive the entire Saints-Seahawks battle right here:
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