One thing that was lost in the Saints' impressive 45-35 win last Sunday against the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams, was the outstanding play by their offensive line; a unit which has excelled in every game this season and clearly has been a huge reason for their success — but yet seemingly continues to be overlooked by the media covering the NFL nationally.
With remarkable performances from Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas, the absolutely DOMINANT play by the Saints O-Line went largely unappreciated.
Make no mistake about it: this offensive line of the Black and Gold is the league’s best, and yet somehow still fails to get the recognition it deserves. Providing consistent protection for Brees along with opening holes for Kamara, one can make an argument that the unit as a whole should be in consideration for the NFL’s MVP.
With a winning streak of 7 straight games and counting, the Saints are the NFL’s "hottest" team right now. In that 7-game span, the last three games speak volumes of just how magnificently the offensive line has played since that time.
Just three Sundays ago, the Saints traveled to a hostile environment in Baltimore.
Facing a team that Brees and head coach Sean Payton had failed to beat in their historic careers; the Saints were able to complete a monumental win that led to Brees becoming only the third quarterback in NFL history to beat all 32 teams.
Against one of the league’s most consistent defenses throughout the years, the offensive line was able to stand firm allowing only one sack along with opening enough holes for the Saints to compile 134 rushing yards. This led the Saints to a 24-23 victory and proved they had something special in motion.
One week later, the Saints returned to the same venue where their shattered Super Bowl dream of last year ended in heartbreak: U.S Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, to face their NFC nemesis the Minnesota Vikings.
This year would be a different outcome however, as the Saints would leave with a 30-20 victory. Brees only threw for 120 yards, but that wouldn’t matter. It was another heroic effort from the offensive line that aided the Saints in getting revenge.
The unit would not yield a sack and provided another 100+ yard rushing performance-allowing the Saints success as a two-dimensional offense. This mind you, was against the same defense that ended up sacking Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford TEN (yes, 10) times the week afterwards (this past Sunday in Minneapolis),
Minnesota came into that game getting one of their key defensive starters back in Everson Griffin, but it didn’t matter. Nothing was going to stop the Saints’ offensive line from achieving success.
Then this past Sunday, another “Goliath” challenge stood in the way.
The Los Angeles Rams last year hired one of the league’s best defensive assistant coaches of All-Time (Wade Phillips) to run its defense, and a year later, they might be the league's best.
Additionally, the unit's biggest star — former NFL Defensive MVP Aaron Donald — is arguably the league’s best pass rusher, as evidenced by the fact that he led the NFL in sacks (10) coning into the game.
Added in the mix was Ndamukong Suh, and just last week a trade was made for former first-round pick Dante Fowler previously of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was a clear billboard to the entire NFL that the Rams hinged their hopes and dreams on beefing up a unit looking to feast on opposing quarterbacks.
Would the Saints cave in? Would Brees be a victim of a relentless Los Angeles front four? Not only no, but not even close. Brees only added to his already impressive future Hall of Fame career by carving up the Rams pass defense with surgical-like precision.
The Saints offense accounted for 24 first downs and 35 points in the first half alone. Although the offense was slowed in the second half (only scoring 10 points), Brees delivered a dagger to the Rams’ heart with a 72-yard touchdown to Thomas; and thus allowing the Saints to pull away for good.
Yet lost in the conversation once again was the stellar performance by what has now become THE best offensive line in Pro Football. The Rams tried everything but nothing worked. Not one sack was allowed and the Saints totaled 487 yards.
What else must this unit do to prove their worth?
It's nearly identical in scope and an experience shared by Brees; who clearly doesn’t get the recognition he deserves in a league that constantly continues to praise Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers for their success.
Brees is (and should always be) in the G.O.A.T. conversation. PERIOD.
And much in that same regard, this Saints O-Line has now reached that level.
Think of it this way: you know what you have in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, but yet the one key ingredient in the whole discussion?
Yep — the offensive line. Without their outstanding play, none of the above fore-mentioned players would have their success.
A strong case can be made for each player on the line to go to the Pro Bowl this season.
Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead might be the two best tackles the Saints organization has ever had (apologies to both Willie Roaf and Stan Brock); and when you add center Max Unger and guards Larry Warford and Andrus Peat into the mix, it makes this unit a force to be reckoned with.
The little-publicized fact that Brees has only been sacked nine times through 8 games — a league best — is the proverbial "proof in the pudding". Brees has actually been physically hit a total of only 26 times, making him the least touched quarterback in the entire NFL.
Having been challenged by some of the sport’s most outstanding defenses, the New Orleans Saints offensive line continues to be the anchor of the team’s recent success.
Yet they remain overlooked, and certainly deserve a lot more credit than they ever get....