NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints' offense hasn’t been perfect this year. As I pointed out last week, they played their part in the biggest blowout loss of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era when they got routed by the Washington Redskins 47-14 in Week 10.
However, the Saints’ offense has still ranked among the best in the NFL this year -- especially the passing offense -- even after the controversial trades of guys like Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and Ben Grubbs.
The idea was that the Saints could afford to sacrifice some playmakers but needed enough resources to rebuild the defense.
Apparently, they didn’t trade away enough offensive players.
While the 32nd-ranked defense is posting some historically bad numbers this year, the offense has been surprisingly efficient. Consider:
The Saints rank second in the NFL with 414.5 yards per game, second in passing yards (313.2) and 17th in rushing yards (101.3). They lead the NFL in third-down conversion percentage (47.2) and completion percentage (70.7). They rank third in red-zone efficiency (65.7). They are fourth in the NFL in ESPN Stats and Information’s expected points added formula at 67.82 for the season.
Drew Brees ranks second in the NFL in passing yards per game (330), first in completion percentage (69.5) and fifth in passer rating (101.3). His TD-to-interception ratio of 20-to-9 is just so-so.
The big play is back. The Saints lead the NFL with 47 pass plays of 20-plus yards. Last year, they tied for 15th in the league with only 52 such plays.
Sacks have still been an issue for the Saints, who are tied for the 11th-most sacks allowed this year at 24. Brees is on pace to be sacked a career-high 38 times even though he missed a game with a shoulder injury (which occurred during a sack). Brees’ two highest sack totals previously came in 2013 (37) and 2014 (29).
The offensive line has also been inconsistent in the run game. They're averaging 3.9 yards per carry, which is tied for 18th in the NFL.
Despite their big yardage totals and excellent third-down and red-zone percentages, the Saints rank only seventh in the NFL in points this year (25.5 per game). That’s more of a total-team statistic that is affected by a defense that ranks last in the NFL in yards allowed per game, yards allowed per passing play and yards allowed per rushing play, among many others.