The blame game started early. It was just one of those days that felt like a goddamn disaster from the beginning so I had to keep track of every bad mistake, every seemingly ridiculous decision, and every untimely turnover that could ultimately be held responsible for costing the Saints the game. So I took notice when Sean Payton emptied the backfield on back-to-back offensive plays against a suspect run defense and they both resulted in interceptions. I threw my head back in dismay when Drew Brees tried to force those two passes into the tight coverage of the most opportunistic defense in football. That fleeting feeling of impending doom came back with a vengeance when Michael Thomas picked a hell of a time(s) to remind Saints fans that he is - indeed - still a rookie. The special teams unit following up what should have been a miraculous go-ahead touchdown by being ill-prepared for a play that has become common place over the last month quickly drew that ire. The referees being complicit in letting it happen by missing an obvious penalty and not using common sense to decipher a white shoe on a white sideline had me wanting to criticize the officiating.
Unfortunately - as much as I would like to - I can't just point my finger at one of those people and say "you're the reason". Hell, I can't even point a whole bunch of fingers at that entire collection of people and say "they're the reason". That loss yesterday was so much more than a hard fought game that the Saints found a creative new way to come out on the wrong side of. It was a depressing reminder of the real reason that this team hasn't been able to get over .500 after improving to 4-4 the last few years, which is that they are simply no better than average.
Sure, there's more to be optimistic about this season than in recent seasons. However - at the end of the day - a team that squanders their defense's best performance in a goddamn decade by turning the ball over 4 times and being unable to kick a potential game winning extra point without GIVING UP points just isn't very good. Maybe the piss poor attempt at officiating the game deciding play was a classic display of whistle blowing ineptitude, or maybe it was the football gods way of saying that the Saints did far too much wrong to reign victorious yesterday. If it's the latter then I would have a tough time arguing with them, because good teams find ways to win, and the Saints have done nothing but find head scratching, heartbreaking ways to lose.
For that reason, it's increasingly tough to believe that anything has changed. Their season might not be over just yet, but it certainly does bear a striking resemblance to seasons past that were - for all intents and purposes - ended with a catastrophic home loss that sent them streaking the wrong way down the standings. A chance to inch closer to a division lead with an Atlanta loss, and the Saints soil themselves on a PAT? If that doesn't make you feel like deja-voodoo is at work then I don't know what will. I want to say the Saints can bounce back on a short week and put this behind them, but recent history says differently so I think I'll take a wait-and-see approach to the second half of a season that has begun playing out in sickeningly familiar fashion.
P.S. Great call stripes...