by Bert Bartlett
The day after the Saints came up short in San Francisco, the headline on the sports section of the Times Picayune read “DEFLATED”. Though not fit to print, “PISSED” would have been the more apt headline. Sore losing is not the core of the sentiment, as Saints fans have been leavened by plenty of losses over the years, which is part of the franchise’s heritage, as evidenced by the gallows humor of the old ‘Aints bags. No, the sting of this one is knowing that this team was quite capable of winning it’s second Super Bowl in three years, and was better than the ’09 outfit. In his season closing press conference, coach Sean Payton laconically called it a “missed opportunity”.
Souls Of The Saints would gladly trade all of this year’s individual and team records on offense to just match one; the last team to commit 5 turnovers and win a playoff game were the New York Jets in 1982. The Saints spent the entire game digging themselves out of this hole, and eventually inched their way unto the lead. In the second half, until the frantic finish, the Saints outclassed the 49’ers in every way. San Francisco was doing absolutely nothing on offense and resembled a pen of fortunate pigs.
Regardless of who one was pulling for, the last 4 minutes was wildly entertaining, at least. Is that what California wildfires are like? Does anyone remember the Water Wiggle, the plastic toy on the end of garden hoses manufactured by Wham-O ? Maybe ‘Dat’s what was needed to extinguish San Francisco’s comeback.
It’s best for all parties that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has parted ways with the Saints. He has done a good job here and has a ring to prove it. And coaches don’t commit turnovers, or drop interceptions, or fail to recover fumbles. But down the stretch, why Vernon Davis was not aggressively double covered in Williams’ scheme of things was nauseating. He was the only receiver who had done any significant damage to the Saints in the game, and was a mismatch in man to man coverage for Malcolm Jenkins, or any defender that size, as Jimmy Graham of the Saints would be. Did ‘ya notice on Graham’s go ahead TD that he was covered by three red shirts? If there were two white shirts shadowing Davis, he may not have been thrown to in the split second reads that Alex Smith had to make, and not to mention, one of the white shirts may have been able to make a play, or prevent a run after catch. Aw well, more material for the Woulda’ Coulda’ Shoulda’ Collection…..
Much of defense is about philosophy and attitude, and it’s best that the Saints renovate defensively at this juncture. In his tenure here, Williams’ constant blitzing was part compensation for his front four’s inability to put pressure on the passer. So familiar names on the Saints’ defense may no longer be, and not only along the front. The bottom line why a facelift is needed? In the past two playoffs, on the road, the Saints have scored 36 points in charlatan Seattle and 32 points in San Francisco, and been eliminated by both. That’s absurd.
Misery has some company in the way the season ended for the Saints. After going 15-1 and being many pundits’ choice to repeat, the Green Bay Packers looked like just another mediocre team at home against the New York Giants, no world beaters themselves, and were promptly eliminated. So the two most prolific quarterbacks and offenses in the conference will be watching it’s championship on television. As it turned out, had the Saints held on, the Giants would be visiting here for the right to play in the Super Bowl. The last two times the Giants have come here, they were routed by twenty something points and looked like Jayvees scrimmaging the Varsity. The turn of events does does jam one thing home though, that offenses win games and defenses win championships still isn’t just a cliche.
Yet there may not be enough Road Home money in the Saints coffers to invest as much as they’d like to in defense. Contracts for the likes of Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Tracey Porter, and Jonathan Vilma are up for renewal, to mention a few. And that’s all we want to say about the eternal Next Year at the moment.
Last week’s post intimated Candlestick Park was not a particularly pleasant place for Saints fans to watch their team play. Below are some excerpts of experiences by a few New Orleans natives who live in San ‘Fran. The impressions don’t speak well for the Bay Area Tourist Bureau.
I can give you the scoop of what it was like as a Saints fan inside Candlestick. It wasn’t pretty at all. Not many Who Dats to begin with. 49’ers fans were horrible. Throwing peanuts at me the whole game, hitting me with their red towels. And then when they won, they continued to rub it in, but more taunting, shouting out “Saints suck!” often, as I’m walking away. What’s the point? The won. Why try to rub it in my face?It’s one thing if I was there with a few hundred people. It was just me and one other fan by ourselves, for at least fifty yards before you found any others.Before the game, I hated the 49ers fans. Now I have no respect in the least. Foul mouthed (profanity was flying the whole game “f… the Saints”!), inhospitable, even physical confrontation (peanuts being thrown and slaps from towels are not OK.)Friend told me afterwards they went to games before, but refused to go now. Perhaps that’s why there were not many of us in the stands.I would like to think that we treat our visitors with a sportsmanlike, southern, hospitable welcome inside the Dome.Don Moses’ experiences were published in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. A link to it is below.