The New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins had equal 3-0 records before meeting on Sept. 30. But in this game of unbeatens, the Dolphins had to prove they belonged more than the Saints. However, Miami couldn’t pull it off, as New Orleans further proved it belongs back in the NFL elite after a year off.
The Saints’ 38-17 victory capped off a 4-0 September and gave them an already substantial lead in the NFC South. Thanks to the Atlanta Falcons’ 1-3 start and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tanking at 0-4, New Orleans is 2 1/2 games ahead of the second place, 1-2 Carolina Panthers after just four weeks.
It is clear the Saints are sitting pretty in a weak division, whereas the Dolphins have to be careful in a tough one. Their first loss dropped them into second place below the 4-0 New England Patriots, while the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills round out the AFC East at 2-2.
The Dolphins are out to prove they are ready to challenge teams like the Patriots, yet they offered little resistance to the Saints. Drew Brees carved Miami up for 413 yards, four touchdowns and only nine incompletions, while Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions and lost one fumble.
Running up the scoreboard is fairly common for Brees and the Saints, or at least it is again with Sean Payton back. But holding a fourth straight opponent under 20 points was unthinkable for New Orleans last season, and Payton can’t take all the credit for that revival too.
After one month, only four teams have a winning record in the NFC, with the Saints one of two perfect clubs. It seems the Saints and Seattle Seahawks are the early pole setters in the conference, at least until the Falcons, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers start winning more. Yet in a more crowded AFC, the Dolphins have less room to wiggle around -- or flop around like they did in New Orleans.