This is what the New Orleans Saints reduced the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to during their 48-7 win Sunday:
• The Eagles went for it on fourth-and-5 from their own 41 with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter — not because they were being crafty, but because they were already desperately behind 31-7.
• Their punter, Cameron Johnston, made a pile-driving tackle on Alvin Kamara out of apparent frustration, a play that after Josh Adams’ lonely 28-yard touchdown run was probably Philly’s next best highlight.
• Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was intercepted by Chris Banjo — the first of two picks for the backup free safety and one of three overall for the Saints — and went begging for a penalty to save him. Not on New Orleans, but to say he was over the line of scrimmage.
Wentz didn’t get the call. All the Eagles got for their weekend in New Orleans was knowing what it feels like to be a crushed beer can tossed in a gutter on Bourbon Street after a dissection in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
They lifted that boil water advisory in Orleans Parish on Sunday morning, but you probably could not convince the Eagles that there wasn’t something spiking the Saints’ water bottles.
Can't see video below? Click here.
New Orleans scored and scored and scored — eight times on 11 possessions, the last ending as Saints games do lately, with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater taking a knee. Except for one impressive second-quarter drive to cut its deficit to 17-7, the Saints' improving defense kept Philadelphia’s respectable offense completely bottled up. The Saints outgained Philly 546-196, the 350-yard disparity the largest for the Eagles since 1966.
New Orleans’ 41-point margin of victory — its first against a reigning Super Bowl champion in its last nine tries — now stands as the biggest rout of a reigning champ in the Super Bowl era. The Saints rendered the Eagles utterly defenseless, and might have left an uneducated observer wondering which team had just claimed that famous silver trophy in February.
“It doesn’t look like pro football,” Saints radio announcer and former tackle Zach Strief said, filling air time until the clock ran out in the second half. “It looks like a college game. It’s like LSU playing Rice, where there’s such a talent disparity.”
Actually, the Saints came closer than LSU did to eclipsing the 44-point spread the Tigers were favored by against Rice on Saturday night (the Tigers swatted the Owls 42-10). In general, it was a bad weekend for flighted mascots in Louisiana.
For the Saints, this game wasn’t a one-off masterwork. It was part of a trend. An almost scary good trend with six games left in the regular season plus the playoffs. New Orleans has won nine straight since that harder-and-harder-to-explain season-opening 48-40 loss to Tampa Bay (now 3-7).
“We do come out,” quarterback Drew Brees said, “with a lot of confidence.”
For the first time in franchise history, the Saints have scored at least 45 points in three straight games, having beaten the Los Angeles Rams 45-35 and Cincinnati 51-14 to go along with this.
“Obviously, they’re explosive,” said Eagles coach and former ULM quarterback Doug Pederson. “They’re dynamic. They are playing with a lot of continuity right now and they’re playing in sync. And obviously it starts with Drew and the way he handles the team and the offense.”
As the Saints’ scores and the Eagles’ empty possessions mounted, the familiar “Who dat?” chant started cascading down on the field from the Superdome’s upper decks like a giddy waterfall.
Who dat say they gonna beat dem Saints?
It is a fair question.
The Saints are playing so well, and against what was supposed to be the meat-grinding heart of their schedule. One starts to wonder if this embarrassment of riches might have them peaking too early as they continue their dogged pursuit — not of winning the NFC South (the Saints have a three-game lead over nearest pursuer Carolina), but of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Sean Payton talked as he always does about “cleaning up” this or that, but after this result, he almost sounded like he was trying to convince himself. There is the concern that one injury could send New Orleans’ special season skidding off into a ditch. Especially an injury to Brees, who padded his Hall of Fame portfolio with yet another MVP-worthy performance: 22 of 30 passing, 363 yards, four touchdowns.
But New Orleans got through it relatively unscathed and now quickly turns its attention to archrival Atlanta. The Falcons come in Thursday night at 4-6 after a gut-punching home loss to Dallas, looking like the proverbial Thanksgiving bird ready for stuffing.
It isn’t always going to be this easy for New Orleans, of course.
“Every time we step on the field,” Brees said, “we understand that we are going to have to earn it.”
But barring injuries or a streak of phenomenal bad luck, one has to start begging the question like Wentz begged for a yellow flag:
Who is going to beat the Saints?
Saints fans hope they don't come across a team with an answer, at least until after Feb. 3.