A word to the avid Saints fan…this blog may not be for you. If you believe that any win is a good win, don’t keep reading. If you believe that the Saints’ ability to win relies upon our blind faith, don’t let me shake that faith. That blind, naïve devotion must count for something; pity it doesn’t count for touchdowns.
New Orleanians are a little shaken today, and if you aren’t one of them, you should be. Again, if that offended you, stop here. Srsly. This is your last warning.
I have followed the Saints for years; New Orleans is a huge football town, and it’s impossible to escape news of how LSU and the Saints are doing no matter how hard you try. Somewhere, right this moment, someone who hates football in New Orleans is rolling his eyes as the waiter who is supposed to be taking his drink order is bitching about how we couldn’t stop Steven Jackson from stomping through for positive yardage, and “what the hell was Brees thinking in the second quarter, spiking the ball like that?” The man just wants his bloody mary, garcon. (Or whatever it is that pansy asses that don’t like football drink.) This is a city steeped in tradition; one of those traditions just happens to be attending Saints games with brown paper bags over our heads. The Saints are one of five teams in the entire NFL that have never been to the Super Bowl; for those who are wondering who else has earned this dubious distinction, that would be the Lions, the Browns, the Jaguars and the Texans. As an interesting side note, we’ve hosted 9 Super Bowls here in New Orleans, with #10 happening in 2013, yet we’ve never played in one. The farthest that the Saints have never gotten in terms of NFL glory was in 2006, when we went to the NFC Championship game and dropped a heartbreaker to the Chicago Bears, 39-14. Saints fans have been through a lot since they got their start in 1967; we’re known as an emotional team, and an emotional crowd. Other teams dread playing in the Superdome for no other reason than this…we are some loud, rambunctious mother fuckers known for making so much noise that other teams have trouble calling audible plays on the field. We are the ultimate 12th man. We’ve been let down for 41 seasons, and yet, we still come back for more every year. So far, in 2009, we’ve been rewarded for our dedication, and our paper bags are now holding Mardi Gras beads in our attic, as they should be.
We’ve gone 9-0 this season, a franchise best and what could be the beginning of the Saints actually earning respect in the NFL and from the bobble heads on ESPN. That looks great on paper, but as an overall football fan, I must be honest about what I’ve seen. Over the past five games, our defense has allowed 131 points; our offense has scored 187 points. During our first 4 games, the defense allowed 66 points while our offense scored 144 points, which says to me that our defense is falling apart, and our offense is slipping. Any Saints fan who watched today’s 28-23 victory of the New Orleans Saints over the St. Louis Rams walked away from their TV sets a little rattled, and no doubt drained. Under no circumstances should we be screaming for the clock to wind down to 00:00 at the end of the fourth quarter against a team like the Rams, who walked into their Edward Jones Dome today as a 1-7 team and damn near left a 2-7 team. The Rams’ Steven Jackson proved a nearly unstoppable force for their offense; our defensive line simply failed to see him coming time after time. When we did try to neutralize Jackson, the Rams capitalized on our distraction by hitting up otherwise mediocre players for plays and points, and we didn’t see that coming, either. Football is a game of inches, and giving up 3 yards here and 4 yards there can mean a major upset like the one that almost happened in St. Louis today. Our defense is leaky and it’s going to take more than Brees to get this offense going. The turnovers are crippling the Saints by way of giving otherwise sad-sack teams the opportunity to score, which gives them the morale boost they need to give the Saints a real run for their money.
I’ve seen this all before; a strong start with a heart breaking ending as we crumble before the finish line. It’s the Saints’ calling card, and an ill-deserved punishment to the fans that pay the salaries of the team via ticket sales, merchandise, support of the team’s corporate sponsors and taxes (used to rebuild the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina’s rampage to the tune of $185 million, including $13 million in state taxes.) I hear people talking about a Black and Gold Super Bowl…not the way we played today, or since our BYE week. Something’s gotta change, and it has to happen fast. While it is very common for teams to go into a Super Bowl with losses on their records (save for the undefeated ’72 Dolphins and the ‘07 Patriots), the odds aren’t good for teams that lose their shit half way through the season. True, the 1988 San Francisco 49ers got to the Super Bowl after a 10-6 finish and won against Cincinatti, 20-16. However, the '79 Rams were 9-7 when they lost to Pittsburgh, 32-14, and that’s the worst record for Super Bowl losers. The more you lose in the regular season, the less likely you are to win the Super Bowl, if you make it there at all. Super Bowl XLIV is the least of our worries right now; if sorry teams like St. Louis can make us sweat like this, what’s going to happen when we face the Patriots on Monday Night Football on November 30th? How about on January 3rd when we meet the Panthers again? Hell, how can we even think Super Bowl when we’re worried about the effing Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are 1-7 just like the Rams were today?
I’m not saying to give up hope; that’s un-New Orleanian. I just have to say this out loud…I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist. I love the Saints, but don’t expect me to instill blind faith in the team’s ability when I see their limitations weekly. Because I’m not the only one who is watching…the other teams are, too, and you can bet your Marques Colston that they are adjusting to bring us down. Time to get serious, Saints; all I want for Christmas is a 15-0 team, but I want a Super Bowl ring for Valentine’s Day.