Oct 18, 201609:59 AM
Full Sport Press
'The games we play in New Orleans and beyond'
Back From The Dead
Drew Brees leads the Saints to a wild shootout victory over the Panthers
all photos from the associated press
Just another day at the park, right?
The Saints faithful got every penny’s worth of their entertainment dollar on Sunday. The highest of highs and lowest of lows ran hand-in-hand down Poydras Street on a day that saw Drew Brees light up the stat sheet for 465 yards and four touchdowns and lead the Saints to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. A lead that would vanish in the second half as Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers roared back in a seemingly last-ditch effort to avoid hearing the death knell ring on their 2016 season.
It all seemed like it was going to be so easy, but then you realized that’s not how the 2016 Saints play football. The 21-point lead was just a juicy appetizer to see if you could stomach what was to follow. Hold on, folks. I think the Panthers just got another pass interference call in the end zone.
Anyway, the fireworks were on full display in the Superdome. Brees, who would eclipse 50,000 yards passing with the Saints on the day, was hitting the long ball. Brees would connect with Brandin Cooks for an 87-yard touchdown, Coby Fleener (he’s coming on, folks) on a 50-yard touchdown and later hit Cooks again on a 49-yard improvisational beauty. Cooks would finish with 173 yards receiving. Beyond that, the Brees to Michael Thomas pipeline kept flowing with the rookie catching five balls for 78 yards and a touchdown. Thomas has number one receiver written all over him and now leads the team with 26 catches on the year.
The game was a fantasy football bonanza. Big plays were punctuated by big hits and plays that didn’t work did work via a yellow flag. Right when you weren’t paying attention to special teams, TommyLee Lewis rips off a 59-yard punt return. Right when doubt held you in its arms, Graham Gano, the Panthers kicker, shanks an extra point to tie the game. If it were a playoff game it would be talked about for years to come.
Forget about analysis with this team. How could you analyze a team that cut two starting defensive backs from last year’s team, then loses their top…what…five defensive backs this year? Honestly, there might be some guys from the Red Cross suiting up in the Saints defensive backfield at this point.
And on the offensive side you have an offensive line where management didn’t bother to upgrade shaky guard play and are now without their top two left tackles. And then what happens on Sunday? The line puts together a solid game (yes, I’m intentionally forgetting about that very forgettable series by Tony Hills). It’s absolute wacky sauce.
It’s crazy just writing about it. So, get ready New Orleans. This is the norm. No game will ever be out of reach, and, conversely, the Saints won’t have any victory locked up until you hear the fat lady sing. The season could be barnburner after barnburner.
As the Saints pulled their season off the ledge, they also may have put the Panthers season to sleep for 2016. The team that went 15-1 with Superman and an All-World defense last year is completely lost in the woods at 1-5.
Cam Newton, always nattily attired for the post-game conferences, was in full-pout mode after the game. If Newton — no longer a young star, but a veteran entering his sixth campaign — had come out and acted remotely normal and just gave the typical interview, I would say the team had the slightest glimmer of hope. But this team is toast.
As the Black and Gold faithful made their way home or to the bar, they would soon be greeted with more great news delivered in a blue and green package — the Atlanta Falcons lost, 26-24, to the Seattle Seahawks. Funnier still, to end the game, they were absolutely robbed by a non-call on Richard Sherman’s obvious pass interference against Julio Jones.
While the non-call filled the Saints fans hearts with joy, they had to at least empathize, or not, with the Falcons after watching an afternoon of referees being more lost in the passing game than a Hoosier walking east of Esplanade Avenue at 2 a.m. It was almost as if they were creating new interpretations of the pass interference call as the day went on. Whereas the day began with good physical play being allowed, even 15 yards downfield at times, as the game wound on the flags piled up. Before it was all said and done the Saints would have three pass interference calls against them in the end zone.
Worse than the referee’s interpretive dance with the rule book on the defensive side of the ball was the latest episode of everyone’s favorite game show, “What in the Hell Constitutes A Catch, Anyway?”
As the Saints were trying their best to get up off of the mat after the second-half barrage by the Panthers, Brees faced a third and three with six minutes remaining (which might as well have been a lifetime). After a little jitterbugging in the pocket he looped a perfect pass to Josh Hill who brought the ball down — both feet in, ball under control, falling out of bounds — for a crucial touchdown along the rollercoaster ride of a day. Unfortunately, the referees were paralyzed, made no call, and then huddled for over a minute.
Then they naturally made the wrong call.
Sure, they got it right in replay but it was just that kind of day. Anything that could happen, did happen. Except for a Panthers victory. Unlike too many recent Sundays where the Saints could’ve won if just one more play could’ve gone their way, this Sunday was different. This Sunday, like so many throughout the years, saw a legendary quarterback put the team on his shoulders and say, “I’ve got this.” And his team believed, fought and went out and brought home a victory for the Black and Gold.
So raise a glass, New Orleans. The Saints are back in the playoff hunt. It’s going to be a wild ride.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing - 3 Floyds Brewing's "Zombie Dust" Pale Ale
Playlist Recommendation - White Zombie - "More Human Than Human"
Around The Way
Mark your calendars, LSU fans. The Tigers game versus the Florida Gators has been rescheduled for Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge and it’s going to be an interesting edition to a series that dates back to 1937. This year’s game was rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew and botched by the SEC to such a degree that many thought the game might not be played this year, especially after LSU AD Joe Alleva stated that the school wouldn’t cancel a home game to make up for Florida’s lack of execution.
The teams finally came to the conclusion that the game would be played in Baton Rouge this year and the next two games in the series will be played in Gainesville. Kudos to Joe Alleva.
Now everyone can put the conspiracy theories behind them and talk smack on the internet for another five weeks before the teams will finally meet. Football internet rules!