For the first time in a looooong time, I got to relax in the fourth quarter of a Saints game. I kicked my feet up and casually sipped a glass of red wine without even the slightest anxiety that somehow, the opposing team would find a way to mount a comeback against mine. No need for blood pressure meds, xanax, vodka or a breathing machine. After all, I was witnessing a classic case of “We’ll eat your young” type football, courtesy of Drew Brees and an inspired Saints defense. It was quite pleasant.
We finally witnessed the Saints play a complete game and even though it was against the craptastic Oakland Raiders, this fan will take it! It was refreshing to see the Saints display a commitment to running the ball. It was a commitment that paid off, as they once again racked up more than 100 rushing yards.
They were aggressive on defense, hunting down Raiders QB Carson Palmer with an insatiable desire to see him slammed into the turf. And finally…FINALLY, our defenders are catching the ball when it comes their way. Even Roman Harper managed to snag an interception. That’s right…he didn’t just let the ball go sailing through his arms. He actually caught it! The Saints defense did such a good job, they managed to get an excessive celebration penalty, meaning they actually had something to celebrate. My how things have changed.
The boys in Black and Gold sit at 5-5. They’re still #3 in their division with an unlikely shot of catching the Falcons. But their Wildcard hopes are very much so alive. They are playing inspired and focused football. And beyond that, they seem to actually be having fun. This team that started 0-4 even got a shout-out from Bob Costas during the Sunday Night Football game as the “team to watch” closing in on the playoffs. Costas knows, just like the rest of us, that when the Saints are clicking on all cylinders, they are EVERY team’s worst nightmare.
The Saints appear to have gotten their groove back at just the right time. They have reached that butt-clenching part of their schedule where they play division- leading teams three weeks in a row. Beating the 49ers, Falcons (again) and the Giants won’t be easy but we’re certainly starting to get the sense that doing so isn’t exactly a long shot, either. Saints QB Drew Brees told reporters after yesterday’s win that when it comes to this team, you’re better off expecting the unexpected.
“We’re on our way. Had you told us or anybody after 0-4 we’d be looking at 5-5, and at some point winning five of six with that schedule we had in front of us. A lot of people might have looked at that and said that’s unrealistic. But here we are.”
Maybe they won’t make the playoffs. Maybe they’ll just play the role of spoiler on the road to 8-8. It’s hard to say with these oh-so-unpredictable 2012 Saints. But the good news is, they’re fun to watch again. Suddenly, Sundays aren’t so damn painful.