The New Orleans Saints took care of business on Sunday with a win over the Carolina Panthers in yet another flawless offensive performance. For the third straight game, they scored at least 34 points and did not turn over the ball.
And thanks to that ball security, the Saints set a record in the process, finishing the season with just eight turnovers. That broke the previous record of 10 set by the 2010 New England Patriots and 2011 San Francisco 49ers.
The Saints have long been known for their high-powered offenses under Drew Brees and Sean Payton, but their minimizing of errors is even more impressive considering how the season started.
New Orleans turned the ball over in each of its first five games and had to go five games without Brees after he tore his right thumb. That they were able to stay afloat and have a shot at a first-round bye with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm says a lot about the team.
Much credit to Teddy Bridgewater for stepping up
Most teams would be sunk if their Pro Bowl quarterback went down; just look at the Panthers who look hapless without Cam Newton. But the Saints were able to not just survive, but thrive under Bridgewater.
The 27-year-old former first-rounder completed 67.6 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns to just two interceptions in his five-plus games of action. He won each of his starts and kept the team from making any costly mistakes.
Bridgewater’s strong performance could earn him some looks at starting jobs in an offseason that could feature all or some of Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton and Marcus Mariota available. That is unless Bridgewater is content to stick around as Brees’ heir apparent.
Drew Brees has still got it
But before Saints fans start thinking about a future with Bridgewater starting, it's too soon to forget about Brees. He may be about to turn 41 and left off the NFL 100 All-Time Team, but Brees is still one of the most dynamic quarterbacks around.
In only turning over the ball just four times on 348 attempts this season, Brees completed 74.3 percent of his passes, a tenth of a point shy of his NFL record he set last year. And he actually came into the game with a 75.3 percent mark.
Brees was especially strong after coming back from his injury and getting some rest. Following the Week 9 bye, he only had one interception in the final seven games.
Credit also belongs to the skill position players, who did an excellent job holding onto the ball. The Saints coughed up the ball just twice all season; the Arizona Cardinals (three) were the only other team with fewer than five fumbles lost.
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