Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
As the New Orleans Saints were ripping the Dallas Cowboys apart limb by limb on national TV Sunday night, up in section 641 of the Superdome there was a woman dancing, drinking, and having a blast. After the Saints scored to make the score 42-17 she screamed out, "It's great to have you back Sean!" as if Sean Payton were her long lost brother and was sitting right next to her.
I loved it because it really summed up how much Saints fans are enjoying 2013. I wrote a column earlier this year about how maybe LSU and Saints fans were taking winning for granted but as we cross the half way point of the 2013 Saints season I'm pretty sure I only got it half right.
The LSU fan base has been so spoiled by a decade of winning this year's 7-3 feels like a complete disaster. If things don't go well against Texas A&M next Saturday in Tiger Stadium expect booing and lots of it.
Meanwhile, Saints fans seem to be enjoying 2013 like it's 2006. You remember 2006 don't you? The post Katrina miracle season where everything was new and fresh?
I can still remember the 2006 game against Green Bay where the Saints turned the ball over three straight times to start, fell behind 13-0, and won anyway. I was like, "What the heck was that? The Saints don't shake off horrible starts on the road and win. This is the greatest thing ever." 2006 included Steve Gleason magic, a completed Hail Mary in Atlanta, and an NFC Championship Game and just like 2013 the crushing of the Cowboys on a Sunday night.
Seven and a half years later most fan bases would feel entitled, maybe even a little bored, and be waiting for the playoffs.
I don't get that feeling at all from the majority of Saints fans. Granted, I don't have any hard data to measure how much fun fans are having but if my emails and fans enjoying themselves before last Sunday’s game are any indication I think the answer is 'plenty'.
Instead of emails worrying about playoffs or the running game the majority of them are simply, "I'm so happy they are winning again."
The thing to remember is everyone is a different level of Saints fans. You have the obsessive crazy people like me who chart the defense, read 900 blogs, and analyze every part of the team. You have diehards like my mom who has tickets, watches all the games, and judges the Saints on two things. Those things are did the Saints win and did they score a lot of points because my mom loves offense. If the Saints lose 45-42 my mom won't like it but to her the only thing worse than losing is losing 10-7. Then you have the casual Saints fan who when the team wins they are all about tailgating in the fall but back-to-back losing seasons will have them antique shopping in Mandeville on Sundays.
You can be a fan however you like. I don't judge, except for the antiquing, that's terrible.
2013 has rekindled the magic between Saints and their fans. The reason is because we had to stomach 2012 without Sean Payton. 2012 was the fan equivalent of realizing our own football mortality. Eventually we won't have Brees and Payton to turn prime time football games into nighttime parties so we are going to enjoy every single minute. 2012 made us realize how special this all is. We are in year eight of Payton/Brees and the Superdome is still insane on Sundays. In places like New England and Green Bay where winning is expected their stadiums don't seem to be as loud and their fans don’t seem to be having as much fun as us. If you don't think New England fans are seemingly miserable about 7-2 just listen to or read Bill Simmons.
So drunk lady in section 641, I salute you because you've reminded us you only live once. YOLO is the best advice. Party on girl. Party on.
Rob Ryan's Big Chart of Fun: All year long I’ll be charting how the Saints defense does under Rob Ryan in certain situations. For a full explanation of how it works read this. For all you people emailing me demanding to see the chart, the Rob Ryan Chart lives here.
Rob Ryan can down play the Cowboys game all he wants but I like to think he left voicemails on Jerry Jones’ phone like this…
“Hey Jerry, What costs $75 million but never goes anywhere? The Cowboy offense on third down. ZERO FOR NINE. Enjoy three card Monte Kiffin. Ryan out.”
Last Week: 4-1
New Orleans (-3) vs. San Francisco: Jim Harbaugh is the NFL coach I hate the most. I hate his stupid Visa commercial, how he acts as if every call that goes against the 49ers is going to give him a heart attack, and I hate him for not coaching Miami because if the Dolphins were better my wife would be happier on Sundays.
The 49ers are going to play like their season depends on winning Sunday because it does. If San Francisco falls to 6-4 and the Seahawks beats the Vikings then the 49ers will be three games behind with six games left. That means they are a wildcard at best and will have to fight just to get that.
This game is going to put one of my theories about the 2013 Saints to the test. I believe in spite of Rob Ryan’s defense ranking 23rd in rushing yards per game that opposing teams can’t just jam the ball down the Saints throat. Even though the Jets ran for 198 yards nearly half the total were on three runs. There is a difference between giving up big running plays and being soft against the run. The 2009 Saints frequency in giving up at least one huge running every week was at times comical but teams couldn’t just line up and gain five yards a play at will by handing off. I think the same thing applies to the 2013 Saints but come Sunday at around 6:45 p.m. we will know for sure.
The 49ers rank dead last in yards passing and fourth in rushing yards. They won’t abandon the run unless the Saints get three scores ahead and even then they might not.
In the 49ers three loses Colin Kaepernick is completing only 48 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown a touchdown. This week Kaepernick bristled at criticism that he’s not doing a good enough job reading defenses. He should have Vernon Davis to throw to which could spell trouble for the Saints.
Last year the 49ers sacked Drew Brees five times and by the fourth quarter I was worried they might kill him. The good news is the 49ers only rank 22nd in sacks this year, the bad news is Aldon Smith is back from alcohol rehab.
I’d feel much better about this game if Kenny Vaccaro was likely to play but at least the Saints will probably have Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper.
Colin Kaepernick isn’t an elite quarterback nor is he the next great quarterback. There I said it.
The Saints shut down the 49ers running game, force a couple turnovers, and the offense for the first time versus the Jim Harbaugh 49ers plays mistake free, and the Saints grind out a win.
New England (+2.5) at Carolina: The Panthers are really good but their receivers leave a lot to be desired and their secondary can be thrown on if you can block their front seven. Expect Jon Gruden to gush over Tom Brady for nearly four hours. The upside is the Saints will have a two game lead when he’s done.
Chicago (+3) vs. Baltimore: Joe Flacco is terrible and his new contract will go down as one of the worst ever. I’d rather have Jay Cutler as my quarterback. No, I’m not drinking why do you ask?
Tampa Bay (+1.5) vs. Atlanta: The Falcons have the look of a team who desperately want the season to be over right now. Against Seattle they had the interest level of a groom picking out font for wedding invitations. The only game they’ll be interested in is next Thursday.
Philadelphia (-3.5) vs. Washington: The Eagles are going to win the NFC East. You just know they’ll be 7-8 playing Dallas in the season finale for a playoff spot. I look forward to their 35-7 win and Jerry Jones being sad and then firing everybody.
Eagles 45-16Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.