Well, here we are. 6 in a row! In the hunt for the playoffs and heading into the Superdome for Monday Night Football with positivity. I love it. Day know what I love most about it too, is that this gives us a chance to prove our legitimacy. People can throw our weak schedule at us in relation to our 6 game win streak, not that we listen, but they throw it all the same. But going into the Superdome against the Saints, live under the Monday night lights, well a win there shows we are serious.
Now, I understand, the Saints are in crisis at quarterback and that is already being used against the Dolphins. At the time of writing, Ian Book has been reported as the starter at QB by a couple of prominent reporters. But even so, their insane defense that shut our Brady and his Superbowl defending Buccaneers remains untouched. Alvin Kamara, remains untouched and will now feature even more heavily in this matchup no doubt.
So the QB change favors Miami of course, but we still need to stop Kamara and beat their stellar defense; this still isn’t easy. We win Monday; people HAVE to start taking us seriously.
So let’s look to Monday, I managed to connect with Nader Mirfiq (@Nader723) a prominent Saints fan and host of Sports Overtime, to get his and the Saints fanbase’s views on this Monday night game…
Hello buddy, thank you so much for joining me. Over two different sites I have managed to get a Behind Enemy Lines article out every week and for every matchup this year, the series’ first year too. So thanks for helping me keep that going as we near the end of the line. First off mate, as always, introduce yourself to the DolFans, let them know who you are and how you became a fan of the Saints.
My name is Nader Mirfiq. I am the host of Sports Overtime here in New Orleans. I became a Saints fan as a kid. My dad would take me to the games when the Saints weren’t good but growing up, I loved watching football and loved stats.
Cool. I love the weeks where I get to speak to a born and bred fan, someone who has had it ingrained since childhood. Always the best weeks. I only have one experience of the Saints… when they blew us out 20-0 in the Jay Cutler season, in London. Horrific game for us, and my only Saints memory really, so hoping for better luck this Monday.
The two teams find themselves on exactly the same record as franchises. Ours has been dramatic, a win in New England on game 1, before a 7 game losing streak, followed by a 6 game winning streak. Couldn’t get more polar opposite in terms of a season journey.
What has the Saints’ journey to 7-7 been like? What have been the common trends of the season that have brought you to this point?
The journey has been weird to say the least. After Drew Brees retired, we knew we would have some growing pains with whoever the next QB would be. Jameis Winston came in and did very well taking the team to a 5-2 record but unfortunately, he got hurt and is out for the season. I don’t think any Saints fan expected Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill to start in the same season, and now we seem to be heading to our 4th QB in 12 games with Ian Book, but here we are. We went 5-2, lost the next 5 games and now are on a 2 game winning streak so it definitely has been a journey but we still have a chance at making the playoffs and that’s all you can ask for after a injury riddled season.
Yeah I feel you. The fact that we still have even the faintest hope of the playoffs having been 1-7 seems like madness to me. But I will take it, confidence is high coming into Monday Night Football. No doubt the Saints provide a different match up than the rest of the teams in this run, but even so, we seem to be finding our groove so this means will see what we’re really made of.
But as an outsider, I have to jump straight in. How do you fill the shoes of Drew Brees? Started with Winston, then Siemian, and then coming towards Taysom Hill and now we find out that Ian Book is in the mix to start this Monday! Are any of these guys going to be the solution there, or are they merely placeholders while the franchise figures out a longer-term plan?
Jameis Winston has the potential to be the solution. He went 5-2 without his #1 WR Michael Thomas, he showed that with a running game and a solid offensive line that he could get the job done. Winston brought back that aerial game that we have been lacking the last few years which was refreshing. This will be a crazy off season being that Winston once again is a free agent, plus the rumors flying about Russell Wilson willing to waive his trade clause for 3 teams which are the Saints, Broncos and Giants. What happens with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers? This offseason will be fun to say the least. I don’t think Taysom Hill or Trevor Siemian are the answer at QB by any means. As far as Ian Book, it’s a surprise to say the least. But he has an opportunity to show if he can play or not. He took some snaps in the pre-season and didn’t look bad, just remember he’s a rookie, but one with tremendous upside in my opinion.
Winston is a strange one in the terms that whilst in Tampa the narrative and perception round him was one of some humour. He seemed to be poked fun at in media and opposing fan bases. Yet here he is as a legitimate contender to replace Drew Brees and like you say, his play when fit has warranted that.
It will be fin to see if you do enter the race for some of those potential big names in the mix to join the QB roulette that goes on every off season. Theres also the time-bomb called DeShaun Watson to factor in to the mix, and who knows where the Saints stand on him. I just hope we see enough from Tua to keep us away from that poison deal.
But I don’t want to open that can of worms, so talk to me about that defense man! That game against Tampa was just so dominant. Had me worried about our horrific OLine if I am honest. I mean we all knew there was talent there and you were no pushovers. But that game against Brady’s boys was non stop! Is that where you are building the franchise from? Or was that just a game where it all came together as a one off dominance?
The defense has been the strength of this team the whole year. The unfortunate part is we have had so many injuries throughout the year that we didn’t get to see everyone play together. We also had our Defensive tackle David Onyemata suspended for 8 games to start the season. The game against the Bucs is a game that Saints fans know the defense will show up for. Saints CBs and LBs match up so well against Brady and the Bucs and that showed on Sunday Night Football. The Saints also used different techniques on the D-line to create pressure against Brady. Example) lining up Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport on one side. You can’t double team both of them along with David Onyemata. Defense will look to build off that performance against the Dolphins on Monday Night.
And this is where I think your QB situation doesn’t actually mean that much to this matchup. Obviously, it is important. But we struggled to properly get rolling against the Jets coming off the BYE, and with all the defensive strength you currently have, we can’t afford a similar performance regardless of who is under center for you.
It does provide Tua a chance to really show what he is made of. Will he be a player who can constantly do enough to best the smaller teams, but struggle against elite defenses, this game gives the whole world the opportunity to test those theories.
So talk to me of your views on us. What’s the Saints perspective of Miami football right now? Has our season surprised you? Did you expect better from us initially? Did you expect this turnaround when we sat 1-7? Or is all playing out as you imagined it would?
I had a feeling the Dolphins would turn things around this year. I always felt that Tua was a good QB and can get it done in the NFL. He is showing he can get it done especially after the Deshaun Watson to the Dolphins rumors. I think that gave him added motivation to prove he is worthy to be the franchise QB. I love the way Jaylen Waddle has come on to the scene. He is averaging 8 targets in 7 of his last 8 games and having that rapport already with Tua has worked magic for the Dolphins similar to Jamar Chase and Burrow in Cincinnati. The biggest surprise is the Dolphins defense. They have been playing very good football and that game vs the Ravens showed that. I’m looking forward to the matchup this week.
See now the defense to us isn’t that much of a surprise. We had a monster 20+ takeaway streak going on not long ago, we have Xavien Howard and Byron Jones at corner and have plenty of draft capital on that side of the football with first round picks in Jaelen Phillips and Christian Wilkins and second rounders invested in Howard, Jevon Holland and Reakwon Davis. Big free agency additions like Byron Jones and Emmanuel Ogbah and we feel our defense is worth the respect it is now starting to get. Will be interesting to see how both defenses compare on Monday night.
What do you guys think about us moving forward? Is this the kind of team we are now, 7-7 Joe Average? Or do you see a better or worse future for us moving forward?
My opinion of the Dolphins is the organization has built a solid foundation for the future and Dolphins fans who have experienced disappointment in the past should be excited for the future. It’s the same thing that happened to the Saints. We suffered for so long and then a new QB and weapons along with a good defense made us Super Bowl Champions. Dolphin fans should be excited.
Not many fans and pundits outside of Miami saying that right now, so my god I will take that! I am excited, we have plenty of young players in there, so many of them showing their potential recently and plenty of cap space this offseason to try and fill some of the issues we’ve had this year too. These next three games will be a test, your lot, the Titans and then the in form Patriots to finish the season will give a clearer picture as to where we are at.
But back to this match up, who is on your roster that we should be worried about? Obviously, there are some players as household names and are well known, but are there any players going under the radar who could cause us issues?
Taysom Hill was a guy the Dolphins defense should have been worried about. If nothing is open and he has protection he can run for 20 yards in a speed of light and he will drop his shoulder down and truck a safety or CB in a heartbeat. He loves contact. Against a good defense like Dallas he ran for 101 yards and threw 2 Td passes. But with the news he is heading to the Covid list, it remains to be seen what we will get out of the QB position this Monday. Expect Alvin Kamara to touch the ball a lot, but I am sure you know all about him.
Our pass rush with Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport is also something you guys should worry about especially if the Dolphins O-line is shaky. Could be a long night for Tua especially with the crowd noise. The Superdome is one of the loudest venues in the NFL. Saints fans know how big this game is and how much we need it so it will be loud and that might mess communication between Tua and offensive coordinator.
Ha! Which one! I won’t get started on our Offensive Co-Ordinator situation, but even on a 6 game win streak, I’m still not a fan. Back to you lot though, what about your play style? Obviously, the game against Tampa was extraordinary with the defensive effort but also offensive blackout too, but that seemed like a freak one off kind of game. So what areas generally should Miami look to exploit if we are to extend our unbeaten run?
I don’t like to give tips for a team to beat my Saints but if the Dolphins defense can stop the run and make the Saints one dimensional, that’s one way they could win, especially with our inexperienced Rookie QB. Our WRs have been struggling all year and haven’t been able to get separation. That’s why Taysom Hill and his legs would have been very important in this game because he has the ability to take off and run, without that, Miami have an opportunity to exploit the passing side of our offense.
I wouldn’t worry about giving tips, I doubt that Coach Flores’ Christmas reading list involves my Behind Enemy Lines series, although would be a beautiful Christmas gift if he was reading my stuff eh? Haha!
Good to hear that though, our run defense has been getting better and a key factor in our upturn in form. Our blitz packages and aggressive formations near the line of scrimmage have been a work of art at times, so if we know runs are coming I think we can expect more of that.
What about our roster? What areas worry you or are you concerned about, on either side of the ball? Are there any players who you worry could cause you problems this weekend?
Putting Jaylen Waddle and Devante Parker in check is an area of concern going into this game. Gaskin has been playing well of late and the Saints must contain him as well. Mike Gesicki has 64 receptions on 98 targets with 2 Tds so our Line-backers have to keep an eye on him as well.
Interesting that you’re binging up our offensive players when defense is where we have been strongest. Gaskin has been somewhat under par from our perspective, aside from a few wildcat plays he’s barely been impactful. Although the additions of Phillip Lyndsey and Duke Johnson could well help our cause at running back, so maybe they can come to the Monday Night Football party too.
But I can’t leave without asking about the most talked about guy on our roster, what is the New Orleans fanbase view on Tua Tagovailoa, both for this season and longer-term? A lot of people suggest that if we DO move on from Tua (which I REALLY hope we don’t, I’m a Tua guy) that the Saints and Sean Payton could be the ideal landing spot for him. So I am really interested in the Saints fans perspective on our QB1.
I really like Tua and I like what he can do. If you guys move on from Tua he likely is going to be involved in a trade package to the Texans for Watson which means he wouldn’t even, make it to the Saints roster. I think the Saints really have a good chance at acquiring Russell Wilson next year and Wilson just would be the perfect match for the Saints and Sean Payton’s offense. I also think the Saints loved what Winston did and they might give him another chance to prove himself especially with Mike Thomas coming back and adding better WR options in the offseason.
You do make a strong point that Tua’s destination depends on the situation involved in any trade, but if it IS Watson that comes in to replace him, the word is that the Texans don’t really want to move forward with Tua either and that’s where the Saints rumors came in. Interesting that your side of the fanbase is not hearing the same things which may be cause for hope for those DolFans like myself who hope we ride with Tua for the long term.
Finally then mate, what’s your match prediction? How do you see this matchup playing out?
Saints 24, Dolphins 10. The Saints Defense is playing on a different level right now. Add that with the crowd noise and it will be very difficult for the Dolphins in a game the Saints must win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Oh wow OK, still very confident of putting points up against us, even with the Quarterback situation. See that situation gives me more hope, although I think it works both ways and that Saints defense and Superdome atmosphere are not to be underestimated I agree. I just look at the offense performance against the Buccaneers, I hear your talk of poor receiver play, your 4th string, rookie QB and I see our hungry defense playing in great form and I see us containing you, even with that atmosphere.
I’m going for a lower scoring game, with the Dolphins coming out on top 17 – 10. I think it will be close and low scoring for the majority of the game with both defenses showing why they are getting so much respect. I see it tight at half time and for most of the second half. But Tua is one hell of a 4th Quarter QB, and I think in those moments, he gets it done with the eyes of the NFL Universe watching.
Seriously mate, thank you for being involved in this. I appreciate you hooking up with me on this so close to Christmas too. Monday is going to be one hell of a game, both teams so much to gain and so much to lose all at the same time. The atmosphere, the Christmas weekend games, the rookie QB, the Tua chatter, the battle of the defenses, this match up has it all. I’m looking forward to it so much. Best of luck for the rest of the season, starting Tuesday though!
Well, anyone else getting that feeling that our season is REALLY starting now? Like we have had two key period of our season that have essentially got us back to where we started and back to .500, now it is time to show where we really are as a team, as a staff and as a franchise.
I’ll admit, I am already nervous, will Tua do it against a LEGIT defense and in that cauldron atmosphere with the whole world watching? If he does, then man, we are rolling. If he doesn’t we will have to accept that the playoffs are not meant to be and get ready for another series of Tua Out stories, rumors, and nonsense.
So much seems to be riding on this game; I am nervous, I am excited, and amongst it all, whether I am stupid or not, I am optimistic. A win here, and we have real hope. Maybe for the playoffs, maybe not, but we have real hope that this franchise is finally heading in the right direction.