NEW ORLEANS — Resiliency is born out of necessity.
After the past three seasons in New Orleans, a period in which the Saints went 41-13, it wasn’t apparent how the players would respond with their backs against the wall.
Now we know.
Saints 31, Falcons 27.
“It ain’t over until it’s completely over,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “When there’s a zero percent chance that we’ll make the playoffs, that’s when it’s over. But even if it’s a one percent shot, we’ve got the team in here I think to make that one percent happen. We’ve been showing that the last few weeks.”
New Orleans can now get back to .500 with a win next week in Oakland. They would be 5-1 after starting 0-4. They would be, at the very least, a very dangerous team heading into the final six weeks.
Against the Falcons, time and again the Saints answered.
Down 10-0? No worries. The Saints reeled off a 21-7 run before halftime to take a lead they wouldn’t give up the rest of the game.
Three shots for Atlanta at a game-winning play inside the Saints’ 3? No problem. New Orleans came up with two passes defensed against two of Atlanta’s best receivers and threw in a tackle for a loss to boot.
Resiliency was evident in all sorts of areas Sunday, but no situation more than on the fourth-and-two play from the Saints’ 2.
Cornerback Jabari Greer had given up several big pass plays throughout the day, plays that he generally doesn’t let happen.
Situated across from Falcons receiver Roddy White, Greer knew there was a play to be made.
White, however, was able to get an inside release into the end zone on the 5-foot-11 cornerback. Greer didn’t panic and instead let instincts and muscle memory take over, cutting forward at the last second and knocking the ball away from White and ending Atlanta’s last real hope.
“After the big plays they had against me, I saw my name on the waiver wire,” Greer said. “I had to make something happen.”
In much the same way, it would be easy and not exaggerating to say the entire Saints team saw itself on the waiver wire after losing to Green Bay in Week 4.
The Saints fell to 0-4 that crisp Fall day in Wisconsin and the season appeared lost. But those inside the locker room weren’t giving up.
Six weeks later, they’re reaping the rewards of sticking together. Nov. 11 feels so much different from Sept. 30.
“But I think we made a statement today, proving a lot of things to ourselves and to everybody else that we’re here to stay,” Saints right guard Jahri Evans said. “Don’t write us off. We know what we can do and we’re going to continue to do it. We’re going to finish the season strong even though we started it a little shaky.”
There are still plenty of reasons to bet against the Saints, plenty of obstacles and New Orleans street-style potholes to fall into.
There are games against San Francisco (Nov. 25) and the New York Giants (Dec.9). There is another game Atlanta (Nov. 29) and the upcoming West Coast trip to Oakland (Nov. 18).
There’s a defense that has allowed 400-plus yards of offense in every game this season and is still allowing a boatload of big plays of 20 or more yards.
There’s the mental exhaustion that eventually comes into play from having to fight out of hole the team dug to begin the season.
Yet, while the resiliency was questioned, the confidence of this team never should have been.
“I feel like our best football is yet to come,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “We’ve played some really good games. We’ve beaten some very good opponents in some big-time situations. But I truly believe our best is yet to come.”
The Saints appear to have rediscovered their swagger.