First of all, I would like to congratulate myself on the letter I wrote Wednesday to the mad rookie-hugger Roger Goodell. Obviously it was the main reason the lockout ended that very same evening.
Brilliant work, Jack! Brilliant! It's just what I do kids. I'm always here if you need me.
Of course, it would've been better if the Saints had capitalized on the replacement-like call the regular officials made on the Sproles fumble, but I guess you can't ask for everything.
Here are the five main things I took away from Sunday's game:
1. That's More Like It. Yeah, so the Saints lost a squeaker and now they have a Cleveland-esque won/lost record, so what? There are a few huge differences between yesterday's game and the previous three. The entire team had their swagger back; they were chippy and aggressive and ready to compete. It was almost as if the team suddenly realized they could play tough and America wouldn't think there were bounties involved. Forget the Super Bowl and even the playoffs, I enjoyed myself watching the Saints play hard for sixty minutes.
2. Welcome Back Mr. Brees. Maybe the O-Line was a little better, maybe the game plan was a little smarter, maybe his receivers remembered what they were supposed do (catch the ball for you non-football fans), but I think the bulk of the credit belongs to Brees (446 yards passing, 3 TDs, no picks). He had the aforementioned swagger and he also looked less pressured to single-handedly provide something that may just not be possible this year. Just do your thing Drew and we'll be okay out here in the Who Dat Nation.
3. Malcolm Jenkins Will Rip Your Face Off and Then Check To See How You're Doing. I Like That. My teeth hurt 1,500 miles away from some of Jenkins' hits yesterday. He wasn't perfect but he was very, very good with the little things that make receivers think twice about giving themselves up in his territory (namely getting hit really hard). After the last Packers kneel-down to end the game, it was really something to see Jenkins make a bee-line for Aaron Rodgers. I'm assuming by his posture, and Aaron's reaction, he was going to check on Rodgers' eye. Seeing that made me super proud to be a Saints fan.
4. Aaron Kromer Must Be the Most Brilliant Offensive Line Coach In the History of the NFL. I'm starting to feel a little bad about all of the criticism I'm heaping on Kromer (but heck, if I was handed the head coaching job and was 0-4 I'm sure Kromer wouldn't be congratulating me on a job well done). I think it's time I gave Coach Kromer some props: Since his attention has been taken away from his primary coaching responsibility, the O-Line hasn't done such a wonderful job. The absence of his undivided attention to the O-Line has to have something to do with that. In all honesty, I kind of feel bad for the guy. I'm sure it's not a lot of fun being Aarom Kromer right now.
5. Garrett Hartley and Dave Thomas: A Tale of Two Non-Goats. You just can't blame this loss on Hartley. He had to line up to kick the game winning field goal three times. The first one he made, the second one got called off and the third time he missed. Hartley takes a lot of heat from Saints fans and in this case it's just not deserved. You also can't blame the loss on Dave Thomas' holding call that negated the field goal Hartley made. From what I saw, it's very well possible the field goal gets blocked if Thomas doesn't put the hold on the Packers player he was defending.
A loss like yesterday's stings hard when a team is in the hunt for a high seed in the playoffs, but when a team is searching for its soul and a positive direction, losses like the one yesterday don't hurt nearly as bad. In fact, I took way more positives away from this game than I thought I would.
I for one am glad my team is back and apparently ready to play some football.