What is the New Orleans Saints 35-34 win in San Diego?
It is the Gold Standard of crazy insane Saints wins by which all others shall now be measured.
If you weren't laughing hysterically and calling the person in your life who cares about the Saints as much as you after that win, you don't enjoy Saints football properly. The phone call to my my mom was 10 minutes of laughter and, “I don't believe they won! How did they win? Are we sure they won?”
Sunday was 55 minutes of awful followed by 5 minutes of magic. There really is no better feeling as a sports fan than watching your team win a game they have no business, no right, and no possible way of coming out ahead, and yet somehow they do.
For fun I went to Pro Football Reference and used their formula to figure out the Chargers win probability when up 13, with the ball, and 6:50 left in the game. Are you ready? San Diego's odds of winning were 99.9 percent. Anything at all had a better chance of happening than the Saints had of winning that football game. Abraham Lincoln rising from the dead and winning the presidential election in November is more likely to happen that what we just witnessed.
I'll be honest, I had mentally checked out and was half watching and half playing with my son after the Saints punted the football down 13 late in the fourth quarter. I even tweeted, “If the Saints are going to punt and not care, why should I?” The Saints were headed for 0-4 and my 'Everything is terrible, thank heavens we get a week off from not having to watch this sad, sorry, team.' column was practically ready to write itself.
And then madness.
The Chargers would fumble the ball on their next two offensive plays and the Saints would score twice, including a touchdown by Michael Thomas on 4th down that to me didn't really look like a touchdown, but when miracles are happening, weird stuff like that goes your way.
I searched my memory for a more crazy and improbable Saints win but the closest recent examples I can think of are the 33-30 win in Washington in 2009 and a 16-14 win in Tampa in 2013. The 2009 Saints were 11-0 and by that point were walking on water. The 2013 team was in a mud wrestling match with a bad Bucs team.
This win in San Diego defies all reason. It felt like the River City Relay from 2003, except with a happy ending. The Saints got outgained 346 to 275, only averaged 2.4 yards per rush, trailed by double digits twice, and still won. In the first half the Saints looked like the Cleveland Browns with a slightly funner offense, trailed 24-14, and if you wanted to say the Saints were the worst team in the NFL, you wouldn't have gotten much of an argument.
Probably my favorite part of the entire win is backup tackle Tony Hills playing the role of Knute Rockne and firing up the team at halftime. It's ok if 60 percent of you don't know who Tony Hills is, what matters is he is the next Tony Robbins. I want Tony Hills to be my life coach.
You want to talk about the horrible first half defense and how the Saints allowed the Chargers to score on four straight drives? The Saints defense is injured, has no pass rush, and is painful to watch. Let's save that for another day. I want to talk about the fact the Saints closed the game by forcing San Diego into 3 straight turnovers, including a fumble where the Charger receiver dropped the ball without being touched. That's not so much defense, as it divine intervention from whatever higher power you prefer to have in your life.
Let's all take a moment to drink this one in. There isn't likely to be much fun with the 2016 Saints but they delivered as crazy a win as you will ever see. When I'm 95 years old and somebody asks, “Why did you care so much about the Saints and invest so much time and energy watching them?” If I still have all my marbles, I'm going to play the last 7 minutes of this game and say, “That's why.”
Nothing beats the crazy happy ending in sports.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.
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