I went to New York for the holidays to spend time with my family and friends; the Saints were a hot topic of discussion during the week. When anyone asked me whether I was excited or how I felt about the Saints chances in January, I just couldn't be too positive. The Saints, for quite some time now, have appeared to be in decline. They aren't peaking right now when they need to be and their best days seem to be behind them. I would be foolish to ignore it. So would you.
In fact, a family friend of mine told me over dinner that he was thinking of betting on the Saints to win todays game with the spread being fourteen points. His line of thinking was that the Saints were at home and the Buccaneers, well, aren't very good. On paper, that logic makes complete sense but anyone watching the Saints continue to struggle for the past few weeks would have known it wouldn't be that easy. Thinking that the Saints would win but not by the fourteen points, I told him not to make the bet. Sometimes, I hate being right.
For the first half of this football game the Saints finally got their act together. On offense the Saints scored early and often, got the running game going and were able to move the ball efficiently. The defense was still giving up some significant yardage but they were back to making big plays like Darren Sharper interceptions. It was exactly what we all needed to see; all was right again in Who Dat Nation. Then, for reasons that are completely unknown to me, the whole thing fell to pieces. The Saints gave up twenty unanswered points.
I believe the great Jim Mora once said..."We gave 'em the freakin' game. In my opinion that sucked. What's that?Playoffs!? Don't talk about...playoffs!? You kiddin' me? Playoffs!? I just hope we can win a game!"
It's tough to think about the Saints in the playoffs when they have trouble against teams like Tampa Bay. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Saints should be playing their best football right now. Instead, they're playing their worst. That's got to be at the heart of every Saints fans displeasure right now. But being negative, angry or upset doesn't make someone less of a Saints fan. We all understand the season isn't over and the team is still 13-2 but it's totally within the rules of fandom to be torn up about a disappointing performance and the possibility of more in the playoffs. This was a disappointing performance.
Bullets, bullets, bullets:
- A little nine year old girl in a black and gold dress sang the National Anthem with everything she had. She did a great job and actually got the crowd and little into it, including myself. Bring her back for more games.
- While walking out onto the field to start the game, Sean Payton went out of his way to say hello to Tony Sirgausa and shake his hand.
- Pierre Thomas looked splendid in one half of work averaging ten yards per carry. He missed the second half with bruised ribs. I was pleased with the overall running game and the play calling balance early in the game. That has always been successful for the Saints this year and we see how well it works.
- I've got to say I am quite shocked that Tracy Porter actually came down with the ball on that jump play in the end zone. What a great play. Having him back in the lineup is crucial and getting back Greer will be key for this defense.
- Thomas Morstead and Courtney Roby are getting pretty good at collaborating on downing punts inside the opponents five yard line. It seems like it is becoming a regular occurrence.
- On one play the referee announced Zach Strief as an eligible receiver. He was standing on the sideline.
- I still can't believe some of the weak tackling I see. Mike McKenzie was a serious offender in todays game. Instead of wrapping up his receiver after he caught the ball, McKenzie went for a low shot with his shoulder but it wasn't enough to take him down. The receiver kept going.
- Charles Grant must be listening. I give him credit for having a decent game today, getting some pressure and putting another notch on the old sack belt. So Charles, if you're listening, good job...now do it again.
- Of course on the other end, Will Smith put together yet another solid performance with seven tackles including a sack. What a good year for him.
- The Saints have scored 500 points this season. Whoop-de-freakin'-do.
- I didn't focus too much on Malcolm Jenkins specifically but did notice him on a few plays. From reading everyone's comments, it sounds like he may have played even worse than I thought.
- I don't have any beef with Payton's play calling today. I like that he went for the field goal and punting the ball in your own territory in the fourth quarter is the smart move. In fact, it allowed the Bucs to run it back and score early, thus giving the Saints the ball back and a final chance to win the game. It should have worked out perfectly.
- Unfortunately, Garrett Hartley couldn't come through when it counted most. I don't know what to say about the Saints kicking situation anymore. The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess. Pretty deep stuff, huh? I really thought Hartley was finally going to be the answer and the end of this three year carousel the Saints have found themselves in but it looks like the team may have to go back to the drawing board once again. In case you're wondering, Carney can not suit up for the Saints again this season.
- I hate to say it but I think the magic has run out. Once, it was opposing kickers that missed last second field goals and keeping the Saints alive. Now, it's the other way around.
- Depending on the outcome of the Vikings game tonight, the Saints may need to beat the Panthers for home field advantage through the playoffs. Not an ideal situation given the Panthers have been playing very well recently and are a hot team.
- However, perhaps homefield advantage isn't all it's cracked up to be anymore.
One of the teachers being honored today before the game works with my wife.
Meachem celebrating his touchdown.
The last name of one of the winners is actually "Saint." Gotta be rigged.
Shockey consoling an upset Reggie.
Payton waiting until the last second to call a timeout.
Halftime ballet performance. They might as well have left them out there to play the second half for the Saints.
Tracy Porter getting a fatherly congratulations from Gregg Williams after his interception.
Reggie throwing his helmet and walking angrily to the bench.
Pierre now in street clothes.
Sir Saint getting into it.
I thought I was getting a picture of the game-winning field goal. I was wrong.