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Saints vs Chargers: The View From Section C41

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Here are some snapshots and personal accounts from my experience attending the miraculous win in San Diego this Sunday.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints hadn't played a game in Southern California in 12 years, when Drew Brees led the San Diego Chargers to a 43-17 beating over Aaron Brooks and his infamous backwards passing ability.  As a lifelong Saints fan and a Los Angeles resident since high school, I waited a very long time to attend my first Saints game... and it was worth the wait.

The first thing to notice was the number of Saints fans in town for the game.  This wasn't necessarily surprising considering the large number of New Orleans transplants living in SoCal, like my own family, but it was welcoming to see the number of people I encountered and engaged with that came from New Orleans to see the Saints on the road.

We arrived early, to avoid crowd congestion at the gates, and to soak in some of the atmosphere.  The tailgating games were strong, the fans were ready, and the weather was beyond ideal:

Pregame

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The first Super Bowl I ever watched as a kid was XXII in January 1988, played in this stadium, and I'm sure this is the exact same scoreboard from back then:

Old Scoreboard

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Some Saints fans decided to have a little fun at the Chargers' expense:

Sign Fans

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On the same spot his career nearly ended, Drew Brees led a rousing pregame huddle:

Huddle

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October means it's time to remember to support breast cancer awareness:

Anthem

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Finally, it was time for kickoff:

Kickoff

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The Saints drive the field and Mark Ingram walks into the end zone untouched:

Ingram TD

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Next up is John Kuhn, ready to receive his first TD of the day:

Kuhn TD 1

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Philip Rivers had the Saints defense on their heels early and often:

Rivers Red Zone

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The obligatory "Dave Cariello cheerleader shot":

DC Cheer

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Why are the Chargers so desperate for a new stadium? Look a their "Jumbotron", yikes:

Jumbotron

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Despite Qualcomm's age and lack of modern amenities, its location and climate make it an ideal place to take in a game:

Panorama

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Drew Brees releases the TD pass to Michael Thomas.  The tide begins to turn:

Thomas TD

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John Kuhn takes the handoff on what would be his third TD of the day, and ultimately the game-winning score:

Kuhn Winner

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Now, I'd love to say I had photos or video of any of the final three Chargers turnovers or the Saints sacks/pressure that occurred over the game's final seven minutes, but I was not prepared for any of that to happen (obviously) and enjoying the fact that those things were happening far too much to capture them on my phone!

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Drew Brees came out to take a curtain call from the abundance of Saints fans who bought up huge blocks of tickets behind the Saints bench:

Brees Curtain Call

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Outside of it being a road game, it was an ideal first Saints game to go to.  The Saints have played better, much better, than this over the years, but its arguable they may have never been this determined (and lucky) over a seven minute stretch in their history.  It was the antithesis of the January 2012 playoff ending, up north in San Francisco.

When the defensive line collapsed the pocket and B.W. Webb stepped up to snag Philip Rivers' 4th and long pass out of the air, the crowd ERUPTED.  I leapt into the aisle and fist pumped before proceeding to high five every fleur-de-lis clad person in my vicinity.  I'll shamelessly say... no... proudly say, I hugged my wife in the longest embrace possible, soaking in the moment as long as I could, barely keeping back the wave of emotion.  We laughed and celebrated with tears in our eyes.  I thought of my dad, who I lost over the summer.  We never got to see the Saints in person, he would've loved this moment.

Yesterday, our very own Dave Cariello wrote an article titled: Saints Win Over Chargers Means Absolutely Nothing.  Now, the content of the piece made complete sense, considering the argument he took, which was that the Saints are still and will continue to be a sub-.500 team, and were lucky to have even won this game.  His hypothesis though, that the win itself meant nothing stands in direct opposition of everything I and the thousands of Saints fans in attendance experienced.  Outnumbered and in enemy territory, our voices carried over the home crowd, even to the point of Philip Rivers' final drive feeling like his team was the one on the road.

The chants of "DE-FENSE" for the Saints defensive unit on the final drive and the deafening roar and Who Dat! chants after the Webb interception brought chills, and still do as I write this.  I'm not sure if this translated at all on TV, but we had taken over by that point.  I understand that in the grand scope of the 2016 Saints season, there is little hope for playoff berths or championship dreams, and it's easy to say this win meant "nothing", but when embracing loved ones and strangers alike, flooded with emotions of joy and bewilderment, it meant absolutely everything.

As I predicted in last week's picks article, this game was pretty much what I expected:

This game should be often times infuriating, but ultimately exhilarating, with Brees finally winning in San Diego and the Saints winning their first game of the season.  Saints win 34-28.

Simultaneously, it was absolutely nothing like I could have ever expected.  Down by 13 points, with just under 7 minutes to go should certainly spell certain doom, but these Saints showed heart and resilience.  I'm proud to say I was in attendance at one of the most unbelievable Saints performances of the last decade, for better and worse.  It was a caterpillar of a game, It started ugly, but ended beautifully.

While these Saints are likely to be another 7-9 team, and even that might be generous, we just need to take seasons like this, moment by moment and embrace the insanity, like this past Sunday.  For myself and the rest of Who Dat Nation in attendance at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, this stands as an unforgettable moment in time, and that moment meant everything.

Yours Truly

Who Dat!