As the Saints' regular season was coming to a close, Saints fans across the world had one thing on their minds: getting at least one home playoff game. All the Saints had to do was beat Carolina in their place and this would be possible.
Well, we all know how history wrote itself as the Saints squandered away the NFC South crown and put themselves in a situation where they could have not even made the big dance at all. From there just making it to the playoffs, much less getting their first playoff win on the road, was suffice for many fans. But for others, much like me, way more was expected.
The Saints were clearly the better team on paper than the Philadelphia Eagles, but in the end, the game had to be played and the Saints had to play in sub-freezing temperatures in an unfriendly environment. The situation was undesirable, but it was manageable and it certainly could've been worse. The Saints were doing each and every thing that they needed to do for success to be had against the Eagles except for one thing: Drew was playing like a dog. The run game was moving along, the offensive line was playing excellent, and the defense was containing the high-octane Eagles offense; Drew was just clearly uncomfortable.
At times during the game I wondered if Brees would always be their Achilles Heel on the road in the playoffs. He had shown similar signs in their previous road games, so there really wasn't reason to believe otherwise. But then all of a sudden things changed. I was put in my place and was refreshed on why I need not question the method to the madness. Drew started completing his passes and two unlikely heroes, a running back in Mark Ingram who previously had been well on his way to earning the title of "first round bust" and a kicker coming out of unemployment in Shayne Graham, carried and kicked the Saints to victory. The Saints' first road playoff win had come, the critics had been silenced, and a newfound confidence seemed evident. What a sweet night it was.
Even aside from the win, though, Saints fans wanted more. The first road playoff win in team history had always been the initial goal now that the opportunity had presented itself, but there was always a yearning for something greater. That "something" was a rematch with the Seattle Seahawks and a chance to get revenge. In the locker room after the Saints' loss against the Seahawks during the regular season, Sean Payton told his team to remember what they were feeling as they would be back for another fight with Seattle, sort of how he told the Saints to remember the Miami locker room back in 2009. Well I'd be damned if he wasn't right, and now the Who Dat Nation's wish had been granted.
As weird as it may sound to say this, I believe the Saints are in the perfect situation to escape Seattle with a win. Once again they will not be given any chance to win and now they have a friend in revenge on their side. The Saints have the mental advantage to win this game, which is a large part of the formula to success in the NFL these days.
I also believe that coach Payton has gotten smarter since the first matchup. Trent Dilfer described the situation best when he said it seemed like Sean came into the game cocky and brought their "Dome style" to play. I 100 percent agree. The Saints tried to be too methodic the first time instead of trying to get the Seahawks off of their game by playing fast and aggressive. The fact that the Saints found out how to beat a team by pounding the ball down their throats and stuffing the run, while on the road, gives me a lot of confidence that the Saints can and will win this game. Declaring that the Saints will win this game may be brash, but I just can't help but believe that the Saints are out to prove the world wrong.
Well Saints fans, we've gotten what we asked for, but this time, we're bringing the Popeye's.