Twenty-six years for this?
I hadn't seen a Saints game live since 1983 (the last game of the season, vs. the Rams, we win and we go to the playoffs. We lost). When we bought tickets months ago, this game loomed large, and got loomier and loomier as time went on and the "perfect season" began doing its fan dance onstage. But in the three weeks since the loss against Dallas, interest in this game on both sides collapsed. The Saints played their junior varsity, the Panthers fans stayed home, and the whole affair had a weird, fictitious vibe.
And our camera sucked. What was the point in all this, I wondered. Well may you wonder, as well, after the jump.
Okay, photos, yeah. For some reason that neither of us could fathom, our camera was stuck in "Wait at least one second to trip the shutter" mode. Why is it that cheap digital cameras never say in their user manuals, "Don't even attempt to take action photos with this"? Or maybe that's what "Taking care to timing event, not to take picture please" means.
What it means in practice is that all we could do was frame a photo, push the shutter release at the snap, and pray that something of interest would happen precisely 927 milliseconds later. Apparently we should have lit a candle before the game as well, because Someone wasn't listening. Or maybe it was just too cold.
The team comes out before the game all smiles and fist-pumps and kisses and hugs. This was pretty much the high water mark.
Closeup of Roman Harper. Turn around, Roman! Up here! Hey! Well, at least cover someone.
This was the play on which Jonathan Stewart went over 1100 yards for the season. Why is that other teams always seem to reach milestones against the Saints? Perhaps more to the point is: why were all those wildly-cheering Panthers fans oblivious to the fact that this "historic" occasion was entirely due to an injury to their top runner? Without DeAngelo Williams on the sideline, Stewart doesn't even come close.
Mike Bell in the process of getting dropped for a three-yard loss. Bell had a 1.6 average. Hamilton had a 4.8. Bush had a 7.0. Bell had more carries than Bush and Hamilton combined. Was anyone of importance paying attention to this?
For whatever reason--probably a combination of the extreme cold and the fact that the Panthers' season ended today--the crowd was sparse and quiet. Lots of empty seats. Or maybe this is just a random bad photo that I'm attempting to assign a meaning to.
Or maybe not. THIS is what a random bad shot looks like. I have no idea what this is. Saintsational Dave is offering a free t-shirt to whoever can come up with the best explanation.
More randomness. Here are some impressions, in no particular order...
• This was the coldest I've been at a game since Saints-Steelers in '68 at Tulane Stadium. It was also the coldest home game in the history of the Carolina Panthers. It was also the first time since they tore down Tulane Stadium that I've ever watched the Saints outdoors. And the first time I've seen the Saints lose outdoors. Come to think of it, I have never been present at a Saints victory since Tulane Stadium was terminally renovated. Maybe it's all my fault.
• The Saints were scraping the outside bottom of the barrel. Rod Leisle wasn't even listed in the game program. He came on the field and we wondered, "Who the hell is 95?" Was Anthony Waters upside down?
• Overall, the JV defense played pretty well. The Panthers had only one sustained scoring drive the entire game. Take away Stewart's 67-yard run on the second play, and they held him to 3.8 yards per carry. And you can hardly blame them for giving up field goals when the offense or special teams handed the Panthers a short field.
• Speaking of special teams: they were...well, not bad. Roby's fumble sucked, of course. And Hartley's kickoffs (why was Hartley kicking off?) weren't great. But the coverage for the most part was solid, and Morstead did a good job with the few chances he had to punt. That was a joke. Thanks, I'll be here all week.
• The offense was pathetic. During halftime we watched a competition in which a high school quarterback-receiver pair had one chance to complete the longest pass they could manage. It was a perfect 50-yard strike caught on a dead run. They wore black and gold. Mark Brunell also wore black and gold, and that was the closest he came to equalling that accomplishment. After watching his play, I have to admit that some people (we won't name names, here) completely overestimated what Brunell has left in the tank, which seems to be little more than vapor at this point. I was actually hoping to see Chase Daniel play in the second half, because we really, really need to find someone to back up Drew. Brunell wasn't so much making bad throws (although he was doing that) as making bad decisions: throwing late, or to covered receivers. Anyone who doesn't think that one player can make so much difference to an offense needs to re-watch this game.
• Now, having said that...and this is directed at you, Mr. Panthers Fan: we played with more than just our quarterback sitting on the bench. Our best running back; our top tight end; and second tight end; and our starting center also sat out. Our best guard and a starting tackle had limited playing time. On defense, only one of our starting linebackers had any time at all, and our line was mostly second-stringers. So what was all that strutting we saw after the game all about? What was with all those learned pronouncements about "Those guys will be one-and-done"? Didn't you realize what you were watching? Was it the cold, again?
• And while I'm going off on Charlotte, permit me to continue. The fans were not, for the most part, rude or unpleasant. They were, for the most part, invisible. They might as well have been props. Even at their loudest, I still had no problem hearing the guy two rows and ten seats over when he shouted "Who dat!" Nobody spoke to us; nobody welcomed us, razzed us, trash-talked us, sympathized with us...nothing. A bunch of robots, or maybe a bunch of displaced New Yorkers. Do we treat visitors like this in the Superdome? Seriously, it's been a long time: do we? Because if we do, shame on us. This was like being alone in front of an immense, freezing television with bad commercials.
• And the food is terrible. No matter how much we may love the Saints, and certain other aspects of New Orleans (Mardi Gras, jazz, political corruption), we should never lose sight of the fact that it is our cuisine that really sets us apart. Other cities can brag about their culture, and Chicago is actually more corrupt than we are...but nobody eats like a New Orleanian. The flip side is, nobody is disappointed as often as a New Orleanian. But even so...wouldn't you think that a place called "The French Quarter" and rated four out of five stars on Yelp.com would be something more than a hamburger place? I wish there had been a Frostop's.