The San Francisco 49ers are headed for a showdown with the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday afternoon. It's hard to imagine a bigger game for the Saints outside of the next one or the playoffs. They're 5-5 and among the hottest teams in the NFL right now. For them, everything is riding on this game. The 49ers, meanwhile, are hoping to solidify their playoff position as one of the top seeds in the NFC with a win.
While it remains to be seen if the 49ers will prevail, one thing is for sure: this game, this Saints team, and the Who Dat Nation will be bringing it.
The 49ers have played several away games in tough venues this season, but nothing compares to what awaits them when they step on the field Sunday afternoon. If the noise isn't bad enough, they are playing one of the hottest offenses in the league. We could mull over the numbers, but this is about the game not the numbers.
Ever since Katrina, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has been a super home advantage for the Saints. Sunday will be no different. The 49ers will be lead by Colin Kaepernick who has never, ever seen the likes of anything close to the Dome. I can imagine it may be overwhelming for Colin and who would be surprised. Many a veteran has come out of the Superdome wondering what the hell just happened, all with their ears ringing. The 49ers may be ready for this game against the Saints, but have they just purchased a one-way ticket to the center of the perfect storm?
Storm clouds began to form over New Orleans last year after the Saints Divisional playoff loss to the 49ers, as whispers of a pay-for-performance scandal began to build to an audible roar. In the few seconds it takes for life to change a sunny day to a tornado from Hell, the Saints, their organization, and fans took it on the chin. Allegation after allegation. All of a sudden, the Saints looked dirtier and more crooked than a politician. If the Saints being portrayed as criminals wasn't enough then whatever wind was left in our lungs was sucked out after learning about Sean Pamphilion's betrayal of Steve Gleason.
When the dust settled it became clear that the Saints were only waiting for Lord Vader's (Goodell's) final disapproving suspensions and fines. Where would the Saints go for refuge? No coach? No players? No integrity for the game (or so they say)?
The Saints had been through one of their darkest times as an organization. Their names had been dragged through the mud, set on fire and buried. But the finest metals make it through the fire. It was time the Saints began truly glittering like gold.
In the darkest moments of our lives when all seems lost and those who we respected and trusted turn their backs on us, there's only one thing to do. Look within. And the Saints looked deep and hard; they found the strength within to move forward.
Like a prize fighter in the fight of his life, their first steps were shaky and wobbly. Everyone considered them out of the fight. They said 0-4, Goodell did his damage. The Saints were out of it, seeing stars, and maybe the fans started dreaming of a next season.
But they found their feet. They took a few more licks on the chin, but this time they weren't going down. This wasn't going to happen to the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees and company were built from only the best kind of stock from which one could be made. The Saints picked themselves off the mat and swung back. They showed the rest of the league that we weren't going down without a fight.
They stood their ground against the Chargers. They snuck out of Tampa with a win only to get slapped back to reality by the Broncos. They crushed Micheal Vicks spirit and goal-lined the Falcons. They demolished the Raiders and now have the 49ers waiting in the wings.
This game isn't just about the 49ers, and that's what the rest of the league fails to understand. This isn't about Colin Kaepernick or even just the playoff loss. This is about the whole damned struggle the Saints have endured. This run the Saints are making is the culmination of the entire storm we've all had to go through.
Come Sunday the gloves are off, and the once dead, forgotten, pushed aside Saints are coming out swinging. Hope the 49ers have the hatches battened down. There's a Black and Gold storm coming right at them.