Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
I’m going to let the famous British poet Freddie Mercury sum the feelings about what was probably the last Saints home game of the 2011 season, “Don’t stop me now. Cause I’m having a good time.”
The only thing that would have made the night better is if the LSU band would have started playing ‘Hey Fightin Tiger’ when the clock hit zero to get everyone ready for Monday. In an NFL where the rules make everything about offense the Saints have managed to take theirs to another level. Normal football strategy doesn’t apply to them. They’d never say it out loud because that’d be un-cool but when you go for it on fourth down from your own 38-yard-line in a playoff game leading 17-14 you definitely think it. Sean Payton didn’t even hesitate and Drew Brees executed an over the top quarterback sneak.
He might as well have held up a giant sign that said: “THE 2011 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS WORLD TOUR: ROLLING YOU”
To start the playoffs the Saints continued doing what they did the final two home games of the regular season; drop 40 and break an NFL record. The Saints set a record for most yards in a playoff game during their 45-28 destruction of the Detroit Lions. They did it even after playing their worst half of offensive football since Week 15 in Minnesota. The Saints lost two fumbles and were extremely lucky they were only trailing 14-10 at the half. If the Lions weren’t petrified about what was going to happen to them when the third quarter started they should have been. Detroit had the ball twice leading by a touchdown in the first half and couldn’t extend the lead. Against a good offense that’s bad, against the Saints it’s fatal.
If the Detroit Lions had a coherent defensive strategy I wasn’t able to figure it out. They gave up small pass plays, long pass plays, and got gashed on the ground. The Saints scored 45 with two turnovers and if not for the fact he has kick off duties punter Thomas Morstead could have spent Saturday night in the stands partying with the rest of us.
The Saints offense is so deep Chris Ivory, who was an after thought in October, led them in carries. Robert Meachem hadn’t had a big game since the last time the Saints faced the Lions but caught four balls for 111 yards and a score. I’ll predict Meachem is one more good playoff game from getting Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to give him $45 million offseason. Marques Colston continued his campaign of ‘Mickey Loomis must pay whatever it costs to keep me because I’m the greatest receiver in Saints history.’
Jimmy Graham had a very quiet playoff debut by his standards with only seven grabs for 55 yards and touchdown.
Drew Brees was Drew Brees. In the first half the Lions were actually covering Saints receivers pretty good but Brees simply made really hard throws look easy.
What about the defense you say?
Before you scream about Calvin Johnson and his 12 catches for 211 yards massacring of the Saints secondary I’d like you to consider two things.
First, Johnson needs to be tested. I’m not sure he’s from planet earth. Human beings can’t be 6’5’, 236 pounds and run like Carl Lewis. He was Godzilla and the Saints secondary was downtown Tokyo. At one point Saturday night Johnson looked like an adult playing the children’s game three flies in with the entire Saints secondary in the roll of the children. Second, San Francisco doesn’t have a receiver in the same time zone as Johnson. Alex Smith won’t be throwing into triple coverage to Michael Crabtree and if he does I promise the results won’t be the same as Saturday.
The NFL season is like life sometimes in that the biggest moment sneaks up on you sooner than you think. The Saints offense is building its case for being the greatest ever and now faces the next step in proving it on the road against the NFC’s best defense in San Francisco. This is the deciding game right here. If the Saints win in the city by the bay they’ll win another Lombardi trophy. It’s the 49ers that pose the biggest hurdle for the Saints and not the Packers. The 2011 defining moment has arrived.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.