The leaves are changing, Jack-o-lanterns are appearing on porches all over town, and the Saints are either stunning the league or wetting the bed. It must be October.
In the Drew Brees era, the Saints have seen both season-defining victories and stunning losses in the month of October, more than any other month of the NFL season. Here are examples of October's Tricks (ugly defeats) and Treats (sweet victories).
Trick - Oct 29th vs Baltimore Ravens, Lost 35-22
The Saints started the '06 season white-hot with a 5-1 record going into a showdown with the Ravens at the Dome. Steve McNair owned the Saints defense and Brees threw two pick sixes in a humbling loss that started a 1-3 slide over the next 4 games.
Treat - Oct 15th vs Philadelphia Eagles, Won 27-24
The Saints at 4-1 faced perhaps their toughest challenge of the season against perennial NFC contender, Philly. The Saints gutted out the biggest win of the young season in a game that may have only been topped by the rematch in the NFC divisional playoff.
Trick - Oct 7th vs Carolina Panthers, Lost 16-13
The Saints hit a season low, going 0-4 with this home loss vs division rival Carolina. The Saints squandered a 7-point 4th quarter lead to David Carr (!!!) and John "Double Agent" Kasay (once again!).
Treat - Oct 14th @ Seattle Seahawks, Won 28-17
Back on primetime for the first time since their Week 1 humiliation against the Colts, the Saints finally won their first game of the season by stunning Seattle with a three touchdown lead early in the first half, never looking back. The Saints went on to win four consecutive games.
Trick - Oct 6th vs Minnesota Vikings, Lost 30-27
The Saints squandered a vintage performance by Reggie Bush in the return game to allow Gus Frerotte (!!!) and the Vikings to walk out of the Dome with a victory on Monday Night Football. The Saints dropped to 2-3 with this loss (which still haunts me to this day!).
Treat - Oct 26th vs San Diego Chargers (in London), Won 37-32
A thrilling back and forth affair not for the faint of heart, the Saints finally put together a solid performance after a ridiculously up and down October of '08 , evening their record to 4-4.
Trick - Oct 25th @ Miami Dolphins, Won 46-34 (First Half, pre-Brees TD)
Down 24-3, the Saints trailed for the first time all season, looking mortal for a change. The first game I decided to see at a sports bar that season, with Dolphins fans no less! Hoping for a miracle, these looked like your daddy's Saints.
Treat - Oct 25th @ Miami Dolphins, Won 46-34 (Second Half, post-Brees TD)
So, about that miracle. The Saints pulled off a beautiful comeback, encapsulating the relentless determination of the '09 Saints in their Super Bowl season. Who had the last laugh at that sports bar? Yeah, yours truly. These were not your daddy's Saints.
Trick - Oct 24th vs Cleveland Browns, Lost 30-17
Awful, dreadful, flat-out terrible. There are a lot of words to describe this loss by the Saints and none of them are good. The Browns absolutely stunned the Saints in the Dome with high school trickery and scoring on 2 of the ugliest pick 6's Drew Brees has ever thrown. David Bowens still barrels down the field in my nightmares!
Treat - Oct 31st vs Pittsburgh Steelers, Won 20-10
Just one week following the Cleveland loss, the Saints put together their most impressive performance of the season against the eventual 2010 AFC Champions. The Saints left it all on the field that Halloween night against Pittsburgh, playing inspired and relentless football for four quarters. Strength versus strength, the Saints offense outlasted the Steelers defense and made the plays they needed to make, when they needed to make them; on offense and defense.
Trick - Oct 30th @ St. Louis Rams, Lost 31-21
The game that may have cost the Saints the Super Bowl XLVI title. The difference between defeating San Francisco in the Superdome or losing to the 49ers on the road all came back to this one game and its implications on the NFC standings in the 2011 NFL season. The Saints came out flat and played uninspired football for the first three quarters of this embarrassing loss to the winless Rams.
Treat - Oct 23rd vs Indianapolis Colts, Won 62-7
One week before the St. Louis debacle, the Saints put on a performance for the ages. Following a surprising loss to division rival Tampa Bay the previous week, the Saints needed to rebound against a team they should beat, the winless (and Manning-less) Indianapolis Colts. They didn't just win, they took the Colts behind the woodshed and beat them like a rented mule (or any other colloquialism you can think of). On Sunday Night in front of a worldwide audience, the Saints set franchise records for points scored and margin of victory.
It was a perfect example of what the Saints could do when they played up to their potential and not down to the level of their opponent (as they would do the following week at St. Louis; sorry I'm just not over it!).
The month of October really has been Trick or Treat for the Saints since 2006. The Saints have already found victory this October against San Diego but there are two more games in the month, Oct 21st at Tampa and Oct 28th at Denver. The good news is there has already been a treat and maybe more to follow, the bad news is that there is always a trick mixed up somewhere in there (except for '09).
My instinct tells me that the trick will likely be this Sunday against the Bucs. The Saints usually have tight contests with division rivals on the road and I don't expect this one to be any different. I hope beyond hope that they pull out the victory but if we end up losing one of the next two, I think it will be this one.
That leaves Sunday Night Football against the Broncos on the 28th. The Saints in primetime usually end up with a top notch team performance, even on the road. I can see the Saints pulling out the victory in Denver much easier than in Tampa just because that's what the Saints tend to do.
Here's to more Treats than Tricks from the Saints this October. Two losses would be like getting a bag full of candy corn and popcorn balls! Not cool neighborhood cheapskates, not cool. Who Dat!