by Bert Bartlett
A meaningful statistic flashed across the television screen during Monday Night Football. The Saints were the only team in NFL history to have at least 10 different receivers catch at least 20 passes over the course of a season. Former Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long would have had a hard time deciding which player’s jersey replica to wear during the games. Every Man A King! (Though historians may claim he would have settled for #1, with his own name printed on the back, and at the state’s expense).
A Little Hollywood Since making the team in 2008, Saints linebacker Jo- Lonn Dunbar has flashed ability when given a chance to play. Why he hasn’t been on the field more, only the coaches know, and they aren’t inclined to go public as to why. But he sure was a welcome insert for the Saints early against the Falcons, bull rushing inside, grabbing the considerable thigh of Atlanta running back Michael Turner, lifting him up and promptly putting him on the ground, like a steer on Rodeo Night. Dunbar brings a reckless exuberance to the position, reminiscent of what Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson brought to the Dallas Cowboys many years ago. And since much of playing defense is all about attitude anyway, Dunbar set a much needed tone for it for New Orleans, particularly on the heels of the ghost tackling exhibit in Baltimore the week before. Let’s go full circle and hope that if the Saints return to the Super Bowl, a surprise reverse in receiving the opening kickoff will be called, and #56 will get to run with the ball, too. Souls Of The Saints is capable of chairing the Jo-Lonn Dunbar Fan Club. Strike up the band, er, bar – for Jo-Lonn!
Blitzkrieg The Falcons threw the house at Drew Brees, rushing everybody, making no bones about how they intended to stop him. The Stones Of The Saints still formed a respectable pocket, in which the quarterback was able to step up and into, to proceed with his downfield deliveries. However, be forewarned, opponents in the post-season will no doubt duplicate this plan of attack, and Coach Payton should have some new wrinkles to counter, such as some short release and drop-off patterns to receivers, who should be able to exploit vacant land. Maybe even the draw play, long an afterthought in New Orleans, will make a comeback. Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory can run it. Reg-gie?
Ice, Ice, Baby There are plenty of other players that are the heart and Soul of the Saints, but Drew Brees is definitely the veins, of the ice variety. On the fly, he deftly flicked a lateral to Thomas that did not detonate in the third quarter, but then was not as lucky in attempting to make something out of a sack, pushing a basketball pass that resulted in 6 cheap points for the Dirty Birds. Subsequent to that, when their defensive end’s deflection turned into an interception, Brees promptly put a sure tackle on him, unlike most quarterbacks in the league, who mostly jog around and watch defenders score touchdowns off their picks like children, because tacking isn’t in their contracts, and their oh so pretty arms may get hurt.
After the two miscues, Brees methodically marched the Saints 90 yards over several minutes, to ice away Hotlanta. He has unusually forced some things this season, but when it comes to who is under center for the Saints, we’ll take #9 every time, over consensus league MVP Tom Brady, homeboy Peyton Manning, water bug Michael Vick, and young whippersnappers Aaron Rodgers and Phillip Rivers. We are supposed to look ahead at New Year’s, but nobody is looking forward to another signal caller in New Orleans for quite some time, unless it’s mop up time. Speaking of which…
Virtual Reality Playing a game to win it, in the hope that somebody else loses, is an awkward way to be motivated for it, but that is the case when the Saints host Tampa Bay on Sunday. When Sean Payton looks over his clipboard at his play selections, he may cast one eye to the Superdome scoreboard, to see if Atlanta is losing (quite unlikely, to the pitiful Panthers). When the Falcons start opening it up on Carolina to formally wrap up their division title, hopefully the head coach will call off the dogs, and immediately start resting those who need it. In a matter of days, there will be far more important football to play, and his team does not need to be extended deep into the third and fourth quarters, fooling around with the Bucs. Let them have a Moral Victory.
Getting Safely Crunk On New Year’s (excerpts);
I got my Saints T Shirt,
I got my Saints dog tag,
I got my Saints team jersey,
I got my Saints ball cap,
I’m A Saints fan, I’m A Saints fan…
I know you think I’m trippin’,
But man I really ain’t,
I’m just a die- hard,
New Orleans Saints fan…
(White, black & gold…
That’s what I choose…)
Souls Of The Saints appreciates your readership, and Sincerely Wishes You and Yours A Healthy & Happy 2011…