Through the first five games of the season the Saints were looked upon as a measuring stick by their opponents. How do we measure up against the defending world champions? Have we reached their echelon?
Sunday game six of the season for the Saints was almost like a reverse measuring stick. Have we regressed enough and have young, rebuilding teams like the Bucs and the Cardinals and the Panthers before them progressed enough to stay right with the Super Bowl champions to the end and to even beat them?
Sunday for one week at least the answer was this: the Bucs have a long way to go to rise to the Saints' level and the Saints have not fallen to theirs.
No team in the NFC has a better record than the Saints and the only two in the NFL who do both reside in the AFC...a conference that the Saints have yet to face and when they do for the first time this Sunday against the Browns will be hosting the team with the second-worst record in it at 1-5.
AFC north heavyweights Pittsburgh and Baltimore are still to be played but perhaps when the Saints do, Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush will be available. Until they are, there's Chris Ivory. And he showed what he can do when the line opens some holes.
Either the Saints' running game or the Bucs' run defense had a chance to get a lot better Sunday. The Saints ranked 31st in the NFL running the football. The Bucs were 30th in the league stopping the run. As Dick Vitale -- who was in the stands Sunday --- might have put it: 'it was an n.c. baby!' no contest. The Saints rushed for 212 yards, nearly 40 more per game than the Bucs had been giving up...nearly 140 yards more than the saints had been averaging on the ground.
Reggie Bush's lower body is like crystal...fragile.
Pierre Thomas is like Tupper ware...durable and yet frequently scarred by the rough treatment it routinely receives.
Chris Ivory reflects his surname. Ivory....hard, durable, slick, especially when eventually polished.
Sunday we got a chance to see a backfield of 'Evans, Heath....and ivory, play together in perfect harmony.'
What remains a discordant note for Saints fans is the inconsistency of kicker Garrett Hartley. But you can only hope it's over-powered by a symphony of scoring in more one-sided victories.
Such are kickers.
Sunday Connor Barth came into that game for Tampa perfect on the season and having made his last 12 field goal attempts. The Bucs change punters late in the week, giving him a new holder and he hits the right upright on both of his missed attempts. How many kicks today would it take for him to duplicate that?
You probably don't want to know...nor do you want to know who's currently the hottest kicker in the NFL. He's a kicker the saints got rid of after the 2007 season.
Olindo Mare has made 25 straight for Seattle and hasn't missed in over a year.
Here he was 'no-lindo.'
When his foot hit the ball and you don't score at all, that's a mare.'
That's the life of a kicker.
Hot foot one week.
Hot seat the next.