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Forecast: Saints may make mistakes but they won't quit on Dennis Allen

The Saints players do really play hard and like Allen, even if his post game speeches aren't NFL Films gold.

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints won the coldest game in franchise history in Cleveland in a game that started off infuriating and ended hilariously with a Saints Christmas Eve victory. 

The game started off infuriatingly because the Saints were intent on throwing the ball while playing in a -15 degree wind chill. It was truly one of the most annoying Saints things I've seen in the last decade, which is saying a lot. 

On a day that was so cold, the Saints might have well been in Star Wars playing on that ice planet Hoth, it took them almost a half to figure out running Taysom Hill was a good idea. Not running Taysom Hill from the start was an all time, “What the $^^ are the Saints doing? I hate myself for caring too much about this stupid football team.” moment. 

Of course the Saints having Andy Dalton throw the ball all over the place turned into disaster when Dalton threw an interception that was returned 40 yards and set up a Cleveland touchdown. The Saints then fell further behind 10-0 and I tweeted, “Do not let this stupid team ruin your Christmas weekend.”

The thing is Cleveland missed a chance to go up 14-0 when a receiver fell down and the I don't know if Pete Carmichael Jr, wised up and started running Taysom or Dennis Allen ordered him to get Taysom the ball. 

Either way, just at the moment it seemed like the cold and misery in Cleveland would bury the 2022 Saints once and for all, they came alive. The Saints would run the ball on 14 of their next 19 plays and score 10 points. 

I can't tell you how shocked I was the Saints fought back from 10-0 and won. If you told me, “Saints are going to fall behind 10-0.” I would have said they will lose 24-3 and we are just going to be arguing with each other the next 2 weeks over whether Dennis Allen will or should get fired. 

The Saints just continued to be their same old 2022 selves, fighting incredibly hard if not always smart. The thing that made this Saints win so hysterically funny was at the exact moment the Saints were like ,”We need to run the dang ball.” the Browns decided, “We paid Deshaun Watson all that money, let's have him throw the ball 31 times in the freezing cold!” 

Excuse me what? The Browns ran the ball 34 times and passed 31! The Saints ran 39 and passed 15, including just six in the second half. The Browns throwing the ball so much when every single time they handed off to Nick Chubb felt like he was one missed tackle away from a long touchdown run was...a choice. Listen, Dennis Allen most weeks doesn't look like the next Vince Lombardi, but Cleveland's Kevin Stefanski's second half play calling was the most amazing football gift a Saints fan could ask for. Why hand the ball to your Pro Bowl running back when you can entertain 10,000 freezing people with your brand new quarterback throwing?

The only thing more delightful than Cleveland throwing the ball in horrible cold beyond all reason was Saints backup safety, and local CPA look-a-like, Daniel Sorensen, getting the game-swinging interception. By the way, Mr. Sorensen, who 85% of us forgot was even on the team, is now tied for the second on the team in interceptions. I hereby declare this game 'The Sorensen Christmas Miracle Game'.

One other thing on defense, the Saints plan to only bull rush and under no circumstances allow Deshaun Watson to scramble, was a critical and great decision by Dennis Allen. It felt as if Allen decided, “I do not care if Watson has five minutes to throw. He's not going to scramble for yards and beat us. He's throwing in this dreadful weather and if he beats us with his arm so be it. But not with his legs.” It worked...barely. But it worked. Allen was genuinely fired up after the game. He called it 'big boy football' and gave the Saints equipment crew a game ball. “I have one game ball to give out. It's not for you $^&. It's for the equipment staff.” That's most excited we've ever seen DA.

The Saints players do really play hard and like Allen, even if his post game speeches aren't NFL Films gold. Hope for the 2022 football season will not die. Late game collapses, injuries, bad coaching decisions, and even the coldest game time temperature in Saints history can't kill it. Hope flickers for at least one more week. Since it's a holiday week, no preview column, here are my game picks, and Happy New Year.... 

The Games Last Week: 1-4 Season: 42-28

Philadelphia (-7) vs New Orleans: Besides Tom Brady pulling off a another miracle the other bad news from the weekend was the Eagles losing in Dallas. If Philly had won, they'd have wrapped up the NFC's #1 seed, a bye in the playoffs, and probably not cared a bit about the Saints game. Now they need to win 1 of their final 2 games.

The Eagles with Jalen Hurts has been a dreadful match-up for the Saints, and that's when the Saints had an elite defense, it will only be worse next Sunday if Hurts plays. While fans have become obsessed with talking about Dennis Allen's short-comings, the Saints quarterback decisions, or trading Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, one of the absolute killers of the 2022 Saints has been the defensive line's rapid decline.

Marcus Davenport went from 9 sacks in 2021 to .5 sacks in 2022. Cam Jordan went from 12.5 sacks in 2021 to 5.5 in 2022. David Onyemata hasn't been the same player since he returned from his six-game suspension last season. Payton Turner has been a first round pick who has been either hurt or invisible. The only guy on the defensive line who has made real improvement in 2022 is Carl Granderson. 

The Saints inability to close games out is in large part due to a defensive line that went from elite to struggle city. I bring up the defensive line because while the Saints have struggled the Eagles have thrived on both sides of the line. 

They have had some injuries lately but I fully expect Philadelphia to push the Saints around brutally just like Baltimore and Pittsburgh did. The Saints have actually played pretty good football the past five weeks and with a little better luck would have more to show than a 3-2 record, but they aren't in the Eagles' class. Sunday is going to show us the gulf between the Saints and really good teams. 

Eagles 31-14 

Carolina (+3) at Tampa: Tampa Bay is bad and beating a terrible

 Arizona doesn't change my mind. Panthers 23-14 

Atlanta (-3.5) vs. Arizona: The Falcons spiraling into the abyss has been fun, what will be more fun is having them win a meaningless game and missing out on chance to draft a franchise quarterback. 

Falcons 27-23 

Kansas City (-13.5) vs Denver: The Broncos have officially entered the Sean Payton sweepstakes! Gentleman, hang on the line, Mickey Loomis will be on shortly to take your call. Chiefs 35-10 Cleveland (+2.5) at Washington: The NFC is so bad 8-9 might not only win the South, it may get the last wildcard too. Unreal. Browns 24-20

Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.

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