If Sean Payton Had a Time Machine...

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 22: New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton answers questions from the media during the NFL Annual Meetings at the Roosevelt Hotel on March 22, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite a NFL owners imposed lockout in effect since March 12 the league is conducting it's annual owners meeting in New Orleans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

We all remember the last game the Saints played in 2010. It was a surprising playoff upset delivered to us by the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks. We mainly remember how poorly the defense performed as Matt Hasselbeck and his tight ends seemingly scored at will. Was this loss a result of overconfidence or more of the injuries suffered in the regular season finale against the Bucs when our hopes of attaining the no. 1 seed were riding on the lowly Panthers somehow defeating the Falcons?

Yesterday, Coach Payton expressed some regrets over how he approached this game. You'll remember that Malcolm Jenkins, Jimmy Graham, and Chris Ivory were all injured against the Bucs and were then unavailable to face the Seahawks the week after. These key injuries have Coach kinda second guessing his strategy for the regular season finale.

"We thought, hey, it would be easy enough to get in there (in the Bucs game), pay attention (to the Falcons-Panthers score) and then very quickly if we felt it went a certain direction, we could begin to rest our guys," Payton said. "That didn't happen quick enough. A lot of these injuries happened early. But still, though, looking back at it, that's something we think about, something I think about."

"I don't know that we felt like Carolina had a chance to win that game," Payton said. "It's hard to say that. But it would have been a game three years ago if Jake Delhomme is the quarterback. Then maybe they might have had a chance. ... I 'what-if' that a little bit."

Pat Yasinskas has this additional Payton quote:

“I beat myself up or what if the last game of the year where Atlanta is playing Carolina at the same time we’re playing Tampa,’’ Payton said. “There’s always that outside chance that you feel like something could happen differently and the fact that that involved a No. 1 seed was pretty significant. It was played at the same time but playing that game differently and resting some guys.’’

Payton’s voice trailed off as he mentioned the fact Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Ivory and Jimmy Graham all got hurt in that game and had to miss the playoff game at Seattle.

Hindsight is always 20/20, so I don't blame Payton for the decisions he made against the Bucs. In the NFL, surprising upsets can happen any week. That said, everyone on the planet (including John Fox) pretty much thought the Panthers had no shot against the Falcons that week, so I'm not sure what Payton was thinking.

Losing Jenkins, Graham, and Ivory certainly didn't help us against the Hawks. Perhaps the biggest loss was Jenkins as the Saints secondary looked lost against what Hasselbeck was doing to them. Roman Harper has kinda been labeled the goat of this game and I have to believe that not having Jenkins on the field with him may be partly to blame. After all, he didn't suck that much during the regular season.

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