Jim Henderson / Eyewitness Sports Director
It's that time of the year for Christmas shopping and scoreboard watching. One is an obligation. The other is a fixation for the nation of "Who Dats."
This week the Saints can watch Atlanta and Jacksonville on Thursday night, the Steelers and the 49ers on Monday. The Falcons are chasing the Saints. The Saints are chasing the 49ers. The NFC South title and a first round bye as the conference's second seed remaining the Saints' goals after they clinched double digit wins for the third consecutive year for the first time in franchise history.
But that certainly didn't come easily. Did it?
The Saints went into that game intent on shutting down Chris Johnson who had three 100-yard rushing games in the last four weeks. But the Falcons three games ago had proven he was mortal, holding him to 13 yards in 12 carries. The Saints held him to 23 yards in 11. That's the fifth game this year that C.J.'s been held to less than 25 yards rushing.
Hard for the Titans to win with that sort of production out of their primary offensive threat.
With Tennessee forced to go to the air, the Saints surrendered huge chunks of yardage but only 17 points - the total it seems you lose with moreso than any other in the course of the season. Sunday the Titans were losing with 17 points for the fourth time this season. They have won with 17 once and won by holding their opponents to 17 twice in each of their previous two games.
But with the Saints allowing big "chunk plays" down the stretch, I expect Gregg Williams to chew on his defensive backs longer than last year's Christmas fruit cake this week.
After Sunday's game you could see the relief and yet the frustration on the part of Sean Payton and Drew Brees over the Saints' offensive failures down the stretch when their last two possessions allowed them to take just 2:02 off the clock by running 7 plays for 16 yards - three of those plays runs, four of them passes including a third-and-seven incompletion at the Saints 41 that stopped the clock with 1:44 to play.
And while that call could have prompted a huge second guess, this coaching staff plays to win, unlike some previous ones who always played not to lose when throats tightened along with other parts of a coach's anatomy.
Bum Phillips was often an example of the latter. But Bum would have been proud of Jo Lonn Dunbar's game-ending sack. Bum once told me he never wanted a player who never did what he was told or one who always did what he was told.
Bum felt you always had to provide some latitude for instinct to take over as it often did for Rickey Jackson with the game on the line.
Dunbar abandoned his responsibility in pass coverage to chase down Jake Locker.
Sunday that sort of lattitude for instinct combined with Jo's Lonn-gitude to win the game.