NFL

The New Orleans Saints and Their Third-Ranked Defense Suffer a Big Blow Heading into the Playoffs

The 2020 New Orleans Saints team will be remembered for its resiliency. In addition to playing in the midst of a pandemic, the Saints had to find a way to overcome one obstacle after another throughout the season. And they did. New Orleans didn’t miss a beat even following the loss of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees for multiple games due to broken ribs and a collapsed lung. 

Heading into the final week of the regular season with Brees back under center, an 11-4 record, and the NFC South title clinched, the Saints appear to be primed and ready to make a push in the playoffs. However, they’ll have to do it without one of the key members of the NFL’s No. 3-ranked defense. 

New Orleans Saints overcome slow start and injuries

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After impressively winning the season opener against Tom Brady and the Tampa Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints struggled the next two weeks, losing against the Las Vegas Raiders and Green Bay Packers. Drew Brees rarely threw the ball down the field due mainly to the loss of the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year, Michael Thomas, who suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1. 

Following those losses, the Saints and Brees got on a hot streak and reeled off five straight victories. In Week 10, however, Brees played the first half against the San Francisco 49ers and didn’t return. Jameis Winston took his place, and the Saints won 27-13.

The news wasn’t good as Brees had sustained injuries over the course of the previous two games that included multiple broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He would be sidelined for the next four weeks. 

Kwon Alexander joins New Orleans Saints

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Veteran linebacker Kwon Alexander played the first five weeks of the 2020 NFL season with the 49ers. He was traded to the New Orleans Saints in early November and made his debut on Nov. 15, against, ironically enough, the 49ers and the same game Drew Brees left at halftime.

Adding Alexander to the New Orleans defense has already paid dividends. In seven games, he registered 27 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and four pass defenses.

Kwon Alexander’s addition bolstered a Saints defense that is heading into the final week of the season ranked third in the NFL, allowing 310 total yards per contest. The squad is fourth overall in rush defense, allowing just 95.2 yards.  

Kwon Alexander tears Achilles and out for season 

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On Christmas Day, Kwon Alexander and the New Orleans Saints dominated the visiting Minnesota Vikings in convincing fashion, winning 52-33. Unfortunately, in the third quarter, Alexander suffered a season-ending injury with a torn Achilles tendon. 

Alexander’s injury was just the latest he has endured in recent years, including a torn pectoral last season and a sprained ankle earlier this year. This injury will require the Saints to reassess their linebacking corps with a likely return to the original starter, Alex Anzalone, and others filling Alexander’s shoes. 

The loss of Kwon Alexander is just another hurdle for the New Orleans Saints to overcome in 2020. And if past behavior is a predictor of future behavior, expect Sean Payton to rally his team together and find a way to succeed. 

What exactly that means in the playoff’s is anyone’s guess, but with Drew Brees not getting any younger and injuries taking a toll on his aging body, the window of opportunity for winning another Super Bowl title in New Orleans is narrowing, and this just might be his last chance to do it. 

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