by Bert Bartlett
The lines getting into the Louisiana Superdome on Sunday were longer than usual. The recession may not be as bad as assumed in Pittsburg, as there were plenty of Steeler fans in them, in white jerseys and black hats, several ominously holding up We ‘Dat placards for all to see. Many of these visitors seemed like they had minimum height and weight requirements to travel, like 6’4”, 240, and over. What, did their front office send linemen cut from their past several training camps, as a way of saying, thanks for trying out? The tension got palpable. Even the women had a stout and sturdy air about them. I thought Saints fans traveled in relatively big numbers. What exactly was I getting myself into here?
The Saints were decked out in all black, not a preferred uniform for them, as they have never fit a Darth Vader image. But it was Halloween. Their costumes were conservative compared to those in the crowd, according to ABC News, a Guinness World Book Of Record 17,777 of them, for this kind of party (I’m curious – who counted, and how?). The spectrum of outfits was innumerable. Among other things, there was a robed, phallic image of the Lombardi Trophy, women walking around in wings and a halo as if it were casual daily wear during lunch hour downtown, and one sport with a cape, confused whether he was Batman or Robin, but decidedly for the home team, as evidenced by his skin tight Saints helmet/mask. There was a woman (or was it a man?) with a fleur de lis thong on behind, the flower of the lily precariously close to falling thru the cracks. At ‘dat point, it was definitely time to watch the game.
The Saints and Steelers commenced trading punches like footage from the old movie Rocky, when Sly Stallone and Clubber Lang stood mid-ring and snapped each others’ heads, them bouncing back like bobble head dolls (!). The teams acted like wind-up robots, too, both refusing to give an inch by their goal lines in swapping 3 and out defensive stands, though some ill-advised, slow developing running plays were called from both sidelines.
No wonder they call the guy “Big Ben”. Saints defensive end Will Smith is listed at 6’3” and 282 lbs. When he got pressure and jumped on Roethlisberger’s back, the quarterback momentarily stood there and treated him with the minor inconvenience of a rag doll, before finally succumbing to a sack. Timber! Roethlisberger’s dubious legacies have yet to be written in full, but he is the most difficult quarterback to tackle from a stationary position in pro football history. Countless, would be sackers have rolled off of him like butter.
Drew Brees stood deep in his own territory and unleashed a pass. When James Harrison of the Steelers rolled inside unblocked on a blitz and pummeled him, some in The Nation were relieved to see #9 just get up. This was crème de la crème NFL football 2010 style, with plenty of quickness, and tons of hard hitting. There likely have been plenty of players from both teams limping in and out of hot tubs this week. As it wore on, and neither team yielded, the match resembled virtual reality in the popular Madden video game, whatever they call it.
Defense does appear to be undergoing a renaissance amongst the better teams in the league (did anyone out there predict Green Bay over the Jets, 9 to zip?), as scoring seems down on average, and the league less resembles the National Basketball Association on artificial turf. Receivers have become more reserved, and less vocal divas. Points are having to be earned again. The NFL isn’t very trendy this year (which is fine with me). One could deduce the game is being played harder, fundamentally.
The Saints déjà vu on defense was watching Darren Sharper get a turnover, scooping a fumble out of the air, courtesy of great hustle on a tackle by linebacker Marvin Mitchell. The fourth quarter play commenced shutting the curtains on the Steelers. The liberal sprinkling of Terrible Towels in the crowd, un-offensive because of their color tone, petered out.
New Orleans loves resurrections, but the contest was one of sixteen and out of conference, and is still in third place in their division. Yet as the clock wound down, and the crunk lyrics of Here We Come – To Get You wailed in the stands, the baritone of it felt true, and the Saints showed they could stand toe to toe with as good as what the league has to offer, and may still have much to say about who ends up being top dog in the NFC.
This would have been perfect for a bye week, but the Saints have to go to Carolina to play this Sunday, before taking a break. The Panthers’ record is horrible at 1-6, but they have seemingly always mustered up something for the Saints. Cornerback Jabari Greer is expected to return to action after being hurt, which helps. A World Series score of 3-2, if it is a win for New Orleans, is totally acceptable. This is a take nothing for granted time of year.