They don’t necessarily follow each other and play at significantly different levels but within the course of four nights Who Dat Nation and the Roll Wave lovers saw both of their favorite teams, the New Orleans Saints and Tulane Green Wave, send statement wins out to the football world at large. In short, it’s been a heck of a week to be a fan of New Orleans football.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints rebounded from their brutal loss to the L.A. Rams — a game in which they lost Drew Brees — in a major way by travelling to Seattle and beating the Seahawks 33-27 in front of their vaunted 12th Man crowd at CenturyLink Field.
In a day where Who Dat Nation was begging for the defense to win the game for the Saints, the first blast was shot by the Saints special teams — and more specifically by the rookie returner Deonte Harris — in what will hopefully be seen as one of the most important plays in a championship season.
After the defense stopped the Seahawks deep in their own territory, Harris caught the punt at the Saints 47 yard line, split the first two flailing defenders and shot the down the left sideline for a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown sending Who Dat Nation into a state a euphoria while at the same time delivering a statement.
Yes, the Saints were without Drew Brees and, yes, they could win this game.
The Teddy Bridgewater-led offense struggled early, so the second shockwave that was sent throughout the Pacific Northwest and the NFL at large was delivered by the ever-so-opportunistic Saints defense. The Seahawks tied the game midway through the second quarter and their running back Chris Carson was galloping into the secondary on his biggest run of the day when Saints cornerback Eli Apple ripped the ball from his arm and safety Vonn Bell scooped it up and took off for a 33-yard touchdown. The crowd at Rendezvous Tavern, and I assume the entire Black and Gold nation at large, went bonkers and knew, absolutely knew, the Saints could win this game.
Later, the Seahawks would fight their way back into it and make it a seesaw affair, which is an absolute lie because New Orleans began rolling. Stats are too often liars and this game was a prime example. The Seahawks rolled up meaningless yards and, in the very end, a very meaningless touchdown to make the score respectable. It was all illusion as the Saints put the Seahawks away in such a way that every coach in the league will tell their team to not worry about who is or is not playing quarterback, this team is still deadly.
Props to Bridgewater, who now holds the Saints championship dreams in his hands, at least for the first half of the season. The deep ball is still missing from the offense but Bridgewater did what he had to do in the second half and managed a victory quite nicely when everyone doubted this outcome.
Any game plan moving forward, as it did in the past, will rely heavily on Alvin Kamara, possibly the best running back in the game. Kamara went A.K. on the Seahawks on Sunday. Kamara just could not be tackled by the first guy that hit him and went off for 69 yards rushing, 92 yards receiving and two touchdowns. I love this man.
What. A. Win.
Tulane Green Wave
As amazing and important as the Saints win was it could easily be argued that it was not the biggest win for a New Orleans team this week. That distinction would go to the Tulane Green Wave after their wild 38-31, come from behind victory over the Houston Cougars on Thursday night in front of a national audience on ESPN.
The Green Wave’s victory wasn’t unexpected, they were favored after all, but if you follow the program you know the outcome was more than just a win. This football program absolutely needed this victory and fought, scrapped and faked their way to it. Tulane simply would not be denied.
Yulman Stadium was half-full (honestly they really need to get the folks in the expensive seats to show up) but everyone there was there for a reason — victory.
The crowd was loud, even in dismay as the Cougars rolled to a 28-7 lead in the first half. The crowd was just as loud in the second half after the defense made stop after stop and quarterback Justin McMillan and running backs Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphin caught their groove and found the holes.
The Green Wave fought all the way back, outscoring the Cougars, 24-3 in the second half, to post the team’s biggest win in years, but, of course, not without major drama.
After the Green Wave’s Merek Glover nailed a 44-yard field goal to give the Wave their first lead of the game with just over four minutes left the Cougars would drive deep into Tulane territory and, with the help of a suspect roughing the passer call, tie the ball game at 31 with 21 seconds left.
The Green Wave got the ball at their 25 and knelt down to run out the clock and head into overtime. Nope. That’s just what everyone, including the Cougars, thought was going to happen. Instead, the Green Wave fake kneeled and gave the ball to Amare Jones, who took off for a 17-yard gain setting up a play that will go down as one the greatest of all time in Tulane football’s history.
With 12 seconds on the clock Tulane’s left-handed gunslinger McMillan dropped back and fired an absolute dart to wide receiver Jalen McCleskey, who caught the ball at the 27-yard line, split two defensive backs and outran another one into the end zone and straight into the Olive and Blue history books. The elation inside Yulman Stadium can’t be described. It was literally a “you had to be there” moment.
What. A. Game.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Yulman Stadium – $3 dollar beers, y’all!
Playlist Recommendation: Choppa – “Choppa Style”
Around the Way
Thursday night saw the Tulane Green Wave honor the Little League champions of the world, the East Bank Little League straight out of River Ridge. Congrats again to everyone involved and here’s hoping that every institution in New Orleans and the region thinks to have a special night for these kids.