To get ready for the upcoming New Orleans Saints season, we’re rewatching all of last year’s games to remember what happened to who and pick up clues on the Saints 2023 approach.
Week 4: The 1-2 Saints made the trip across the pond to England to face the 2-1 Vikings. How come every game – except for one really important one – between these two teams always ends in agony for the Saints? Hassan Jones anyone?**
What To Remember:
This is it for the Saints offense. Alvin Kamara doesn’t play. Michael Thomas is done for the year. Andy Dalton is your new quarterback. He’s got, um, experience… the left side of the offensive line is Calvin Throckmorton and James Hurst. Brace yourself.
There is no conspiracy against the Saints by NFL officials. It’s a great narrative, but every team feels like the refs are always out to get them. If you’re reading this, then you’re just aware of all the times the Saints have been hosed by the refs. I mean, we have the NOLA No Call which prompted legislative action and the greatest petty sit out of watching the Super Bowl that has ever happened. But other NFL fan bases are just as paranoid. Ask a New York Giants fan about the 2003 playoff game against the Niners. Ask a real Patriots fan about roughing Ken Stabler back in 1976. Ask a Raider fan about the Tuck Rule.
All that said, wow, the Saints didn’t get a break in this game. The Saints take the lead in a football game for the first time in what seems like forever 22-19 with 10 minutes left. The Vikings get the ball and on third and three, the Saints are called for a (maybe) holding penalty. On third and 10 the Saints are called for a (really bad) hands-to-the-face penalty. On third and seven, the Saints are called for (probably was) pass interference.
The one thing that is true about officials in the NFL is certain crews officiate the game in certain ways. Some don’t want to see any contact between the defensive backs and receivers, some don’t care if the receiver gets mugged. The random application and interpretation of the rules is the real issue. But refs are human beings.
The Saints get a huge boost offensively from former Saints/Vikings running back Latavious Murray. Then right after the game the Broncos sign him from the Saints practice squad. He winds up leading them in rushing for the season.
Dalton isn’t bad, but the Saints keep making mistakes. Dalton fumbles just before half and it gives the Vikings a cheap three points. The Vikings catch the Saints totally flat-footed on a fake punt and get another field goal, Deonte Harty fumbles on a punt.
But the defense shows some real life. I don’t know what it is the last few years, but it takes bout 3-4 games before the pass rush shows up. Kirk Cousins gets knocked around some. Tyrann Mathieu makes an amazing pick (his first real positive contribution).
Will Lutz drills a 60-yarder to tie the game at 25, but the Vikings go right down the field after a long pass to Justin Jefferson and make it 28-25.
Saints are out of timeouts, but so what? Dalton hits Chris Olave in between about five Vikings and the ball is at the Vikings 43. The Saints still have time on the clock to run a couple of quick passes. It’s the perfect time to be bold, throw the ball down the field, act like you’re going to win, or maybe throw a deep pass down the sidelines and two Viking defenders will hit one another and it’ll be a walk-off touchdown.
Instead, the Saints go conservative. The Vikings clamp down on the sidelines and it’s two incomplete passes (even though Olave almost makes an amazing catch).
Here we go Lutz from 60 again, almost the same spot he tried from about 15 minutes ago. The kick is high, it is long.
It grazes the left upright.
It spins down and hits the crossbar.
It flutters above and drops on the wrong side for the Saints.
It’s a Double Doink. It’s another tragic loss to the Vikings for the Saints. Where are those 2009 NFC Championship Game highlights? I want to see Adrian Peterson fumble again.
What We Thought at the Time:
Hey, Latavious Murray looked pretty good, maybe he can add some pop in the running game. Dalton was all right. At least he wasn’t jittery in the pocket. It was great to see the pass rush. It was great to see Taysom Hill back. How do the Vikings have such a good record when they don’t seem like they’re that good?
But what we knew was, in every NFL season, there are teams that are good, and teams that are special. Good teams win games. Special teams get bounces that go their way that adds to a team’s confidence. After four games the Saints didn’t look that good, and they definitely didn’t look that special.
Up Next: Back home in the Dome to take on the Seattle Seahawks.
** Hassan Jones was the name of the wide receiver who caught a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half of the Saints first playoff game against the Vikings in 1987. That made the score 31-10 and we all realized we weren’t going to win. The Vikings won 44-10. The city cried.
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