Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
The Saints 2012 season ended like a bus on fire going over a cliff and Drew Brees was the crazy bus driver. Brees' consecutive games with a touchdown ended after the worst game of his career. He threw five interceptions, mismanaged the clock right before the half, and had too many tipped passes to count. Brees was so bad - the last time a Saints quarterback threw five interceptions was in 1973 when Archie Manning did it. That's 39 years and practically dozens of horrible quarterbacks ago. Kenny Stabler, Richard Todd, Dave Wilson, Bobby Hebert, Wade Wilson, Jim Everett, Heath Shuler, Danny Wuerffel, the nine Billy Joes and Aaron Brooks never threw five interceptions. No one saw this coming, and I know I didn't.
The screw up right before the half is Exhibit A for why the Saints miss Sean Payton. Brees said he thought there was more time on the clock then there actually was. I can guarantee that never happens with Sean Payton on the sideline. Why am I so sure? Because in the six years Payton has been on the sideline, you can't find one clock issue nearly as bad. Hell, I don't think Payton has ever mismanaged the clock as Saints coach. Great head coaches matter, they just do.
The shame of it was in spite of all the mess Brees had caused, the Saints had the ball and were only down 17-13. They had scored 13 unanswered, had all the momentum and Brees throws his third interception. I think he just threw another one.
Even worse was Brees wasted the best Saints defensive performance of the year, heck it might be the best defense they've played in two years. The defense held Atlanta to 284 yards and 1 for 11 on third down. The Falcons started the game with an 80 yard touchdown drive, which included 68 yards rushing but they barely got 200 yards the rest of the night.
For the first time all year I didn't have abject terror when the opposing team had the ball. Terror was reserved for whenever Brees dropped back to pass in the fourth quarter.
The defense is turning the corner. Akiem Hicks and Cam Jordan are officially good NFL players and might even be worth building around. The secondary covered the very good Falcon wide receivers and did so with out another young talented rookie Corey White.
The improving defense is the end of the positive notes in this column because the rest of 2012 is a long slow march to nowhere. The Saints aren't likely to have all the teams ahead of them or tied with them lose again so they'll be two games out with four games left. It's over.
Ok, one more positive note to cheer you up: I'm convinced Atlanta is primed for another playoff failure. If they play Chicago, Green Bay or the Giants to open playoffs they will go down. Any credible defense can stop them, and an offense that doesn't implode will score 30 on them.
Usually by December bad teams like the Saints have shown you what they are and what they aren't. As we head to the final quarter of the year, I have no idea how the Saints will play, what they'll do well or where they will struggle. The first 10 weeks it was defense. Now it's the $100 million future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Turn out the lights the party's over. Wait, that's not true. The party never really started for this miserable excuse for a football season. It was D.O.A. the moment Roger Goodell brought down the thunder. Brees playing the worst quarterbacked game in Saints history and having his touchdown streak snapped against the team we hate the most is the poop cherry on the poop sundae otherwise known as the 2012 Saints season.
If the 2012 Saints season were a horse we'd take it out back to put it out of its misery. I'll be honest and tell you I'm two more Saints losses from rooting for 5-11 and a better draft pick. Rip me if you want, but what exactly does 7-9 or 8-8 accomplish at this point, and I say that as someone who will be flying into see the final two home games in person. Very depressing thought.
It's about time to start worrying about 2013 draft position because we are near the point where victories mean nothing. Been a long time around these parts since we had to watch meaningless December football. I'll sum up 2012 in one word...miserable.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.