What's the opposite of a team having a Super Bowl hangover? I don't know what you call it but the New Orleans Saints have it and used it beat the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 Monday night.
The Saints got outgained and outplayed for three quarters, the 49ers finally tied the game at 22, and then Drew Brees shrugged and drove the Saints for a game winning field goal. It was like every 49ers-Saints game from my childhood except Drew Brees played the role of Joe Montana as soul crushing world champion.
A lot of the national media predicted New Orleans would have the dreaded Super Bowl letdown but it looks to me like the Lombardi Trophy has injected the Saints with the belief they'll always find a way. Did you have any doubt the Saints were winning that game? I didn't and since the scars remain from all the heartbreak San Francisco inflicted on my youth watching last night was delightful.
The defense created turnovers to offset getting run over by Frank Gore and Marques Colston finally broke out late so the Saints have back to back 2-0 starts for the first time in team history.
After two games the Saints have a couple of things that should be a concern and surprisingly most of those are on offense. The Saints defense survives on making big plays and key stops. They aren't going to morph into the '85 Bears and they aren't going to suddenly develop a pass rush that doesn't involve Gregg Williams attacking the quarterback with more players than the opposing offense can block. The Saints defensive line made Alex Smith look like an elite NFL quarterback. Breaking News...he's not and you'll be hard pressed to find a game he looks as good the rest of the year.
A friend of mine in college had one of my all time favorite lines, 'When a girl shows you she's crazy, believe her.' Same thing applies to the Saints defense. They've shown us what they are so don't expect things to change. The secondary is elite perhaps even better than everyone expected and the expectations were it would be really good. Roman Harper looks fantastic and Malcolm Jenkins might not head back to the bench if Darren Sharper ever gets healthy. The defensive line has one really good player (Will Smith) and a bunch of guys who have moments but seem to only play well at home.
I joked on my podcast last week if the Saints didn't score 30 against the 49ers the over/under on columns about what's wrong with the Saints offense would be 47,890. So for one of the rare moments here in my little internet real estate I won't push the panic button about the offense. Sean Payton and Drew Brees have four years of history showing they will score points...a lot of them. The injuries at running back are a huge problem while the lack of big plays from the receivers won't worry me for a couple more games.
That's a lie. If Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem only combine for one pass reception of over 20 yards against Atlanta like they did Monday I'll be hosting a seminar 'How to reach full blown panic in 60 minutes'. But I'm not there yet.
The injury to Reggie Bush is an entirely different matter. The Bush injury combined with Lynell Hamilton being on IR, and Chris Ivory still out leaves Pierre Thomas as the guy. He's not just the feature back or the main guy in the rotation; he's the entire Saints running game. DeShawn Wynn has about as much chance as I do of getting crunch time carries this week against Atlanta. The Saints failed to punch in the game clinching touchdown late against the 49ers and had only 50 yards on 24 carries. San Francisco is an elite run defense but the Saints failing in short yardage is something to watch with their issues at running back.
The best thing the Saints have going for them right now besides being 2-0 is after they play Atlanta their schedule is Carolina, Arizona, Tampa, and Cleveland which isn't exactly a murder's row the next five weeks. We're only two weeks in but 2010 is already starting completely different from 2009, except for the winning.