Saints by the Numbers: Rarities abound in Saints victory at Seattle
Where to begin as we dig inside the numbers of the Saints’ 33-27 road victory Sunday over the Seattle Seahawks?
Perhaps the most important place is at the NFC South standings, where the New Orleans victory, combined with losses by Atlanta and Tampa Bay, have the Saints alone in first place at 2-1.
But this rainy afternoon in the Pacific Northwest produced events we have rarely seen in the 53-year history of the black and gold.
It started with the first two Saints touchdowns of the day – a 53-yard punt return by Deonte Harris and a 33-yard fumble return by Vonn Bell.
It was the 17th time in Saints history they have scored multiple touchdowns on returns, but only the third time in franchise history they got both a special teams return touchdown and a defensive return touchdown in the same game.
The last time was on Nov. 8, 1998, at Minnesota, when the Saints got a 100-yard kickoff return from Aaron Craver and a 91-yard interception return from Sammy Knight. But it wouldn’t be enough as New Orleanian Leroy Hoard’s second touchdown run of the afternoon gave the Vikings a 31-24 victory.
The other one was a win – in fact, it was the first victory in Saints franchise history, on Nov. 5, 1967, against the Philadelphia Eagles. Walter “Flea” Roberts returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown – his first of three touchdowns on the day – and Dave Whitsell returned an interception 41 yards for a score in a 31-24 New Orleans victory.
“When you get a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown,” Saints coach Sean Payton said in his postgame news conference, “I would guess your chances of winning are about 90 percent.”
While not exactly the same search parameters, teams scoring at least two return touchdowns in a game are 197-36 since 2000 – a winning percentage of nearly 85 percent.
Yardage Disparity: Seattle outgained New Orleans 515-265. Winning a game when you’re outgained by 250 yards? While those two non-offensive touchdowns obviously played a big part, it’s still an extremely rare event.
Entering today, there have been 91 NFL games this decade where one team has outgained the other by 250 or more yards, and the team on the short end of the yardage has won exactly THREE times.
– On Oct. 14, 2012, the Dolphins defeated the Rams 17-14 despite being outgained 462-192.
– On Nov. 3, 2013, the Chiefs topped the Bills 23-13, overcoming a 470-210 margin with a pair of defensive touchdowns.
– Last season on Oct. 7, the Lions knocked off the Packers 31-23 but were outgained 521-264. Detroit was plus-3 in the turnover margin.
As for the Saints, winning while being outgained by at least 250 yards had only happened once before Sunday – in 1976 against the Lions. The Saints were outgained 455-183 and had six first downs to Detroit’s 26, but won 17-16 thanks in large part to Warren Capone’s fumble return for a score on special teams.
Only once this century have the Saints won a game with a disparity of at least 200 total yards. You might remember the game – it was the 2009 NFC Championship win over the Vikings, in which New Orleans was outgained 475-257 but was plus-4 in turnover margin, including the critical interception in the final seconds of regulation by Tracy Porter.
AK Superlatives: Running back Alvin Kamara finished with 161 yards from scrimmage – 69 rushing and 92 receiving – and had touchdowns both on the ground and through the air.
It’s the third time in his three-year career Kamara has had at least 150 yards from scrimmage, a rushing TD and a receiving TD in a game. That ties for the most such games in a player’s first three seasons.
The second-quarter touchdown catch was the 10th of his career, to go with 23 TDs on the ground. The last NFL player with 20 touchdown runs and 10 touchdown catches in his first 34 career games was Abner Hayes in 1962.
More Punt Returns: Harris’ punt return for a touchdown was the 14th in Saints franchise history and the first since Marcus Murphy had a 74-yard return for a score on Sept. 27, 2015, at Carolina.
Coincidentally, that Carolina game was the only time Drew Brees has missed a game as a Saint because of injury prior to Sunday.
Reggie Bush (5) and Tyrone Hughes (2) are the only Saints with multiple punt returns for touchdowns in Saints history, including postseason. Others with a single punt return for a score include Darren Sproles, Michael Lewis, Derrick Shepard, Mel Gray and Charlie Brown.
More Fumble Returns: Bell’s fumble return for a score was only the third for the Saints since 2011 and the first since Kenny Vaccaro recovered a fumble in the end zone against Detroit on Oct. 15, 2017.
The 33-yard return was the longest fumble return for a score by a Saint since Robert Meachem’s famous play against Washington in 2009, which covered 44 yards.
Research assistance provided by the website database Pro Football Reference.
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As a New Orleans-area native, Jude grew up a fan of all sports and teams in the area. It’s a passion for the games that brought him into the fields of sports broadcasting and journalism. Whether he’s informing, reporting or entertaining, Jude brings his own special flavor to the task at hand. This Jesuit High School and Loyola New Orleans…