If you weren't already on the "Drew Brees For MVP" bandwagon, you might as well hop on now, because Thanksgiving basically served not as a coronation -- it's still too early for that -- but as a sprint forward by Brees past Patrick Mahomes and any other far-distant contenders.
After seeing Mahomes put up video game numbers and lose against the Rams on Monday night, it was pretty much required that Sean Payton and Brees put on a show for Brees to move past Mahomes in the general consensus. They did just that, with Brees tossing four touchdown passes in a cruise control win over the Atlanta Falcons in a rivalry matchup that didn't live up to the hype even if it did live down to the Saints -13 point spread.
Brees wasn't perfect, but it stood out that he was slinging the ball to guys who aren't starting on anyone's fantasy team. Michael Thomas was largely off the radar (38 yards, although he did draw some key DPI plays), and Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram didn't find the end zone or top 100 rushing yards.
This wasn't a monster bomb from Brees either, though -- he only had 171 passing yards. But he found guys in the end zone frequently, including leading Saints receiver Dan Arnold (!), notable big-name receiver Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood, who might be a name I just made up, and Tommylee Lewis, who definitely deserved an Oscar for "The Fugitive."
If you want to make yourself the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, the best possible way is to shred a divisional rival on a huge stage by throwing touchdown passes to undrafted free agents. Brees did just that -- all four of the guys mentioned above weren't drafted.
Brees also managed to tie Matt Ryan's record for touchdown passes to different receivers in a single season with 13. And it's only Week 12. He would have hit Dez Bryant for one if Dez hadn't gotten hurt, he's going to find Brandon Marshall for one and if Marshall gets hurt you can bank on Payton signing some random off the street for Brees to hit.
Even if Brees and Mahomes ended up in what would basically amount to an MVP tie, Brees would have the "lifetime achievement" factor working for him. I'm not sure that's going to matter, and would absolutely expect the Saints quarterback to end up winning this thing if the Saints don't fall apart down the stretch.
Falcons' red-zone woes
The Falcons biggest standalone game of the season, back in Week 1, featured a litany of issues in the red zone and lots of questions about Steve Sarkisian as the Atlanta playcaller after a disastrous 2017 in the red zone. In their next biggest standalone game, on Thanksgiving, we saw more of the same.
In the first half alone, the Falcons had three different red zone disasters, starting with a Matt Ryan fumble with Atlanta knocking on the door early to answer the Saints touchdown on their opening drive.
They would intercept Drew Brees after the Saints took over and it appeared as if Damontae Kazee was going to score, but he was ruled down by contact on the play before his return.
All told, the Falcons managed to produce three different drives of 58 yards or more that ultimately ended up resulting in a fumble. That's hard to do, but it summed up the Falcons' night well. They lost by 14 and left roughly 21 points -- at least? -- on the board because of how poorly they played in the red zone.
It shouldn't be an indictment of their entire offense this season, but it has been an issue and it's been an issue on big stages in 2018.
Saints defense is legit
Now, having ripped the Falcons for terrible offensive work, it's also worth noting the Saints are playing some really great defense right now.
Cameron Jordan was a fringe Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2017, and he actually might warrant considering this season as well. The secondary is playing better right now as well, but the real secret sauce might be Sheldon Rankins. The interior lineman flies under the radar, but he consistently disrupts and destroys offensive linemen while making at least one sensational play per week.
"Our offense is a juggernaut, but we have to match that intensity. And I think tonight we came out with that right mentality, that right gameplan, the ability to execute that gameplan and get after the quarterback," Jordan told NBC's Michelle Tafoya after the game while holding a giant turkey leg. "And honestly, I like this win ... like I like this turkey."
The Saints have quietly been snuffing out opposing offenses lately. They have only given up by more than 30 points three times this season. Once to the Buccaneers in Week 1, once to the Falcons on the road in Week 3 and once to the Rams.
Since their bye, the Saints have surrendered 23, 20, 35 (Rams), 14, 7 and 17 points. The defense is just good again, but we're forgetting to notice because New Orleans is too busy blasting opponents out of the water on offense.
In their last two games, they've beaten the previous NFC Super Bowl representatives by a combined total of 79-24. If you haven't gotten on board with the Saints as the most complete team in football, now might be a good time to do so.
The Saints head to Dallas to square off against a resurgent Cowboys team on Thursday that is going to be involved in the playoff race in a big way. This should be a very good offense vs. defense matchup on both sides. You can stream the game on fuboTV (Try for free).
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