One of the great experiences as a New Orleans Saints fan is sitting down to watch the Saints play resigned to failure, disappointment, and expecting nothing fun, but getting the exact opposite of everything you believed was going to happen.
Sunday was one of those glorious days. Don’t lie to me or yourselves and say you saw this coming. What exactly had the Saints done on defense the first two games to make anyone believe four sacks, three interceptions and holding Cam Newton to 167 yards passing was about to happen? Not a thing.
We watch the Saints every Sunday because really what else are we going to do?
Even though the Saints were ahead 7-6 early I bet you were like me and not really into the game. Sure the Saints were ahead but the defense was getting shoved around like usual and only a Cam Jordan sack and a nice Ken Crawley tackle had prevented Carolina from finding the end zone on their first two drives. Then P.J. Williams made the biggest play of his three-year Saints career and intercepted Cam Newton.
Just like that the Saints had sucked us back in. Never takes much does it?
Four plays later Brandon Coleman was in the end zone and as the kids might say, “It was LIT.” Suddenly the first two weeks seemed like five years ago and all those fun hopes and dreams of August were back.
Is there any Saints emotion more exhilarating than going from “I’m watching this game out of habit and obligation but not emotionally invested to OH MY GOD, THE SAINTS CAN WIN AND I’M TOTALLY COMMITTED TO THE NEXT 3 HOURS!”?
Deep down we want to care about these games but we need the Saints to help make us care. Sunday the Saints made us care a lot by delivering a complete knockout of the Carolina Panthers. How complete? The Panthers pulled Cam Newton at the end of the game because the 34-13 beating was so thorough.
I wonder if as the Saints plane took off for London, Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis were enjoying a drink and telling each other, “THIS is exactly what we expected and hoped for in 2017!”
Three rookies made huge plays. Marcus Williams had an interception so ridiculous, it almost defies belief knowing how often it seems Saints defenders drop potential interceptions. Trey Hendrickson had his first career sack, and Alvin Kamara added the cherry to a perfect Sunday with a 25-yard touchdown run. The Saints can live with rookie mistakes and growing pains if the kids make some big plays. They sure did against the Panthers.
I’m going to give you two pieces of advice for 2017 football. First, make your peace with the Saints rookies being great one moment and seemingly hopeless the very next play. Second, understand NFL media coverage the rest of 2017 is going to be dominated by who sits, stands, or kneels for the national anthem before games. Wherever you fall on the issue, President Trump last Friday made it the story of the 2017 NFL season. However you feel about the issue just know that’s how it’s going to be for a really long time. Adjust your consumption of NFL-related content as you see fit.
Sunday was so fun I’m not even going to be mad about why it took two weeks for Ken Crawley to be active and playing on defense. Let’s just all be happy the Saints finally appear to hopefully have figured some things out on defense.
The Panthers were without their two best receivers and two starting offensive linemen but ask me if I care? The Saints are missing approximately 457 corners. That last number might be an exaggeration but it feels accurate.
While the Saints defense was doing things they so rarely have since 2009 by creating turnovers and sacks, the offense was back to looking ruthlessly efficient.
Drew Brees was a modest 22 of 29 for 220 yards and three scores, but remove the 40 yard throw to Ted Ginn Jr., and Brees’ numbers look a lot like a game manager quarterback leaning on his defense and running game. The Saints won a game by three scores and Drew Brees didn’t have to dress in a phone booth or even be the NFC offensive player of the week. Miracles do happen.
The Saints ran 27 times for 159 yards and totally destroyed a Carolina front seven on defense that had allowed six total points heading into Sunday. Want something to get really excited about? The Saints did it missing both starting offensive tackles, while playing three linemen out of position. You probably won’t see another team roll the Carolina defense like that all year. When this offense gets Willie Snead and Terron Armstead back the fun might really start.
When you realized the Saints had the Panthers game in hand with about eight minutes to go you peaked at the Miami Dolphins score didn’t you? When you saw they were losing to the New York Jets 20-0 midway through the fourth quarter visions of 2-2 danced in your head didn’t it?
Hope for 2017 Saints football flickers and next Sunday morning in London might burn a little brighter.
Even if Sunday in Carolina was all a mirage, it was the best kind.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at Saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.