Sometimes New Orleans Saints football delivers out of body experiences. Our eyes see it, but our mind can’t process what we are witnessing. Plays that come to mind which fit this description are John Carney missing an extra point to tie the Jacksonville Jaguars after the miracle that was the River City Relay in 2003, or the disaster in Minnesota during last year’s playoffs. The onside kick in the 2009 Super Bowl also qualifies. We can add the Saints 24-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens to the good side of ‘out of body football’ experience ledger.
These crazy plays almost happen in slow motion don’t they? Sure the TV announcer said Ravens kicker Justin Tucker had never missed a single extra point in 222 tries but he wasn’t actually going to miss. The Saints were going to have to win inovertime….
Wait did that just happen? I’d like to tell you I ran around my house like a lunatic celebrating but I mostly just starred at the TV with my mouth open like the President was announcing an alien invasion or something. Come to think of it, an alien invasion was probably more likely than Tucker missing a game tying extra point.
So for the second time in 2018 a kicker missing a late extra point benefits the Saints. Did you forget the Cleveland game already? It does feel like 5 years ago. The gift of not having to win in overtime will overshadow the Saints going up against the NFL’s #1 defense on the road, falling behind 17-7 in the third quarter, and on then on their next 3 drives the Saints offense going touchdown, touchdown, field goal. Pretty damn special.
Sean Payton called a beautifully reckless game that has been doing his way since arriving in 2006. Going for four 4th downs on an opening drive that lasted 20 plays and coming away with no points felt like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel only to have a tornado blow through and destroy it before he painted the last stroke.
“There’s a plan you want to take and it’s not with reckless abandon but it is with a confident approach.” Sean Payton said after the game.
It was breathtaking aggression and Taysom Hill not finishing it off made me sad. By the way, football experts hating Payton playing Hill in high pressure situations makes me want Payton to not only keep doing it, I want him to do it MORE. Football experts getting mad about the fun Taysom Hill brings us delights me beyond words.
Of all Sean Payton’s aggressive play calls, the one that might go unnoticed but was the most impressive to me was the first play the Saints ran on offense following holding the Ravens on fourth down late in the game. The Saints led 21-17 and on first down with 3:19 left Drew Brees was in the shotgun and hit tight end Dan Arnold for 25 yards.
How many coaches in the NFL are going shotgun against the NFL’s best defense trying to preserve a 4 point lead? Oh and he’s dialing up a throw to a rookie tight end? It was Drew Brees making the throw but Sean Payton was calling plays to win. Most NFL coaches likely go run, run, incomplete pass, and punt. Then lose 24-21. I’ll take Sean Payton’s sometimes overly aggressive play calling any day. Going for the win is just more fun.
So what exactly are we to make of the 5-1 Saints?
The offense produced only the third win in Saints history when the team trailed by 10 or more points entering the fourth quarter. The Saints record in such situations is now are sterling 3-121. The Saints offense did this while playing a third string offensive guard.
The Saints offense ran for maybe the quietest 134 yards in the Sean Payton era. Did you realize the Saints ran the ball 39 times? Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Taysom Hill combined for 131 yards on 35 carries. Every single one of those yards felt difficult to get. The Saints longest run was 12 yards.
I’m not quite sure what to make of it, except it shows the Saints will go into the back alley and bare knuckle brawl if that’s how you want to rumble.
While Saints offense continues to look special the defense does just barely enough and continues to struggle late in games. It felt like everyone in the secondary had huge plays and huge mistakes. The one thing I know about the Saints defense is opposing teams can’t run on them. Baltimore ran it 23 times for 77 yards.
Is the Saints defense good enough to win a Super Bowl? Is any defense in 2018 good enough in a league designed to have scoreboards set on fire? I have no answers but the show known as the 2018 Saints sure is fun.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.