With Injuries Mounting on the Defensive Line, the Saints Will Need to Prove Their Depth Wasn't Merely of Perception
Look, this news sucked…
…and this news, while sucking more than enough in its own right, makes that news suck even more….
The former begs questions about the long-term durability of a blossoming, endlessly athletic freak whose career will inevitably be defined by the return on the investment that ‘two firsts’ has come to be both fondly and sarcastically known by. The latter begs questions about a super-skilled pocket-penetrator's ability to regain his form as the shockingly fleet-of-foot destroyer of worlds he developed into prior to a previous season-ending setback as he heads into a contract year.
What neither should beg, however, is questions about the Saints’ ability to fulfill their Super Bowl aspirations this season. As simplistically dismissive as the following reads, injuries inevitably happen to every team in NFL. Therefore, while you’d prefer they don’t afflict starters down the stretch, the best case scenario is that you suffer them at readily reinforced positions. Everyone was basting their turkey to the Saints' defensive line depth on Thanksgiving, and I regret to inform you that depth isn’t only an amazing thing to have when it's allowing you to flagrantly fondle yourself to an embarrassment of available riches.
Let’s not forget, there were people that thought Trey Hendrickson was a better player than Marcus Davenport earlier this season. Granted, those people were prisoners of the moment and/or future inhabitants of an insane asylum, but it even being up for dumbfounding debate speaks to the evolving capabilities of a third round pick whose annually exciting August audition finally resulted in him earning an impactful role in meaningful games. Shy Tuttle might be lesser known, regardless of his starring role in a timeless GIF, but rest assured that his overall play of late is anything but bashful...
With Cam Jordan routinely causing chaos as a catastrophic combination of consistency and production, the Saints’ pass-rush is in good hands, whether or not all hands are currently on deck.
I don't mean to undersell these injuries. Losing both Davenport and Rankins for the year on the heels of a likely last-second loss of homefield advantage to their most complete in-conference competition definitely does feel a lot like the Saints stubbed the hell out of a toe or two while stumbling around recovering from a stomach-churning gut punch.
Still, the truth of the matter is that this team already passed its most trying and torturous test with flying covers. The defense held up its end of the bargain when it largely served as Teddy Bridgewater’s emergency floatation device as he soaked in the sun during an undefeated stretch as the starting quarterback. Now, it is the turn of an offense that just smacked around the best defense in football like it refused to pay its gambling debts, despite their most recurring matchup nightmare looking as though he was busy daydreaming, to pick up the slack.
If the rest of the linebackers get healthy enough to free up the dog that is Demario Davis, a lesser sheltered secondary gets its shit together, and Drew Brees continues creating chemistry by making good on the disguised blessing that was a throwing arm made fresh by over a month free of football then offsetting a decided drop in quarterback pressures shouldn't be a remotely unreasonable ask. Two of the three were presumed strengths of this team before the season even started, so it's quite fitting that they'll have to show exactly why for the New Orleans Saints to prove themselves to their fullest potential as they approach the postseason.
You Are, Quite Literally, Better Off Tending to Your Mediocre Meat Than Questioning Sean Payton's Aggressiveness
Let’s start with indisputable fact. Sean Payton, for all his ingenuity, is not always right (::insert audible gasp::). What he is, however, is right far more than often enough to justify his unconditional and unwavering belief in just about every decision he’s ever made.
I’m not sitting here and saying that the pit that was already in my stomach didn’t develop a pit in its stomach when the Saints lined up for a two-point conversion early in one of those sick-and-twisted games whose fate feels like it’ll inevitably be decided by its result. I am sitting here and saying that in the sizable scrotum required to drop 46 points on the skull the best defense in football, largely without the help of two of your biggest matchup nightmares (Cook due to concussion and Kamara due to undisclosed ineffectiveness), reside the nuts to never look at one single yard as an actual obstacle.
Simply put, questioning Sean Payton is a fool’s errand. Not because all his calls are entirely beyond reproach, but because his answer is always going to be made smug by a stupefying success rate. We are talking about one of the most unapologetically aggressive coaches in all of sports. Someone who sparked a second half Super Bowl comeback with the most fearless onsides kick in NFL history. Therefore, and I feel like this hardly bears mentioning, you are undeniably better off staring down at the shitty slab of meat in your hand - be it inferior, expired, infantile, infertile, or impotent - than asking for an explanation from an absolute authority on offensive football. No matter how confident you are in your beef, it’ll never come remotely close in grade to the stake that a crazed competitor like Sean Payton has in his unrelenting plan of attack for the New Orleans Saints.
You do have to appreciate the passion of each and every member of the Who Dat Nation. That said, if you find yourself feeling particularly inquisitive while in a random postgame meat-and-great with a revered risk-taker….either beat it (figuratively or literally) or be ready to get grilled by the master, because Sean Payton has made far smarter people look stupid in...ahem...butchering the doubts of his naysayers.
The Saints Defense Looked Slightly Drunker Than the 49ers in What We May Look Back on as a Highly Intoxicated Preview of the NFC Championship Game
I'm not sure I can conjure up the appropriate words to fully describe a back-and-forth, seatbelt-less roller coaster ride of a game. If I can then I probably already did countless times over the course of a HoF career throughout which Drew Brees has been left to carry his team up-and-down the field while dragging the dead-weight of a dysfunctional defense.
I guess what I am trying to say is that, in being a game that was unlike any other, it had a hell of a lot in common with so many of the Saints' others over the years. To most, it was odd to watch two of the better defenses in the NFL this season get curb-stomped. However, an offensive acid trip - complete with a couple dumb luck turnovers, some top-notch trickery, and...as has become completely customary…a dick kick or two from astounding officiating - had the Who Dat Nation suffering through cold sweats six different ways to Sunday, circa 2014-2016.
In typical be-careful-what-you-wish-for fashion, it took the Saints' otherwise dominant defense displaying the rhyme and reason of players being aimlessly led by electricity for the passing offense to explode out of the shell of itself that it has been stuck in this season. Being without multiple starting linebackers against a revolutionized offense that feasts on the middle of the field with misdirection can partially explain how they got completely devoured, as you can't scheme sideline-to-sideline speed out of an old, rusty replacement like Craig Robertson. However, Marcus Williams' bi-annual, head-in-hands undoing of his overall improvement as a player is the type of inexcusable idiocy that was all-too-common in tarnishing what was a vintage performance from both Drew Brees and his offensive line…
When it comes to playing complimentary football, the Saints offense and defense might as well be taking turns standing on opposite sides of the sideline going barb-for-barb in a roast battle. If acts of service is their love language then they've made a compelling argument that they genuinely despise each other. Even with Deonte Harris playmaking and peacemaking on special teams, they remained as stubborn to being constructive co-habitants of the same locker room as emotionally constipated college roommates.
Never mind a theatrical reversal of roles that might have been too over-the-top for Wife Swap. During a game in which stopping absolute anything, even if it was only the damn clock, was considered a monumental moral victory, the Saints needed a 55-yard FG to redeem any points whatsoever on an absolute gift of an interception to start the second half. As if that wasn’t ironically obnoxious enough, Alvin Kamara immediately stole a rare opportunity for Saints’ fan to safely take half-a-breath by putting the ball on the turf during the first play after the forced punt that followed. The Saints' defense made just barely enough plays to allow Drew Brees a chance to do what he does best in leading a late, "game-winning" charge...annnnnd he predictably proved too efficient in leaving what the entire churning-stomach of a stadium knew to be more than enough time for him to be let down. On one hand, those are all signs that this team is still avoiding putting together their best, most complete game. On the other, it’s getting pretty late in the season to just assume that they conveniently will when it matters most.
The truth is, aside from playoff seeding, I don’t know that we can make out all that many broad strokes from the big picture of yesterday’s game. Credit to Sean Payton and Kyle Shanahan, but not even those two offensive ninjas could could draw their swords and out-duel what was a flat-out dissection of each other's defense if these two teams were to meet again. I think a ever-so-slightly sedated second half speaks to that.
That being said, I personally think (with only a hint of bias) that New Orleans’ offensive performance is more replicable than that of San Francisco. Despite having to abruptly erase Jared Cook from a game-plan that might as well have had his face on the cover, being unable to solve the mystery of whatever is now blatantly missing from Alvin Kamara’s game/glamour, and whiffing on almost every gimmicky haymaker they threw, the Saints still managed to move the ball methodically enough to keep pace with the chunk yards that Kyle Shanahan kept pulling from up his sleeve and out his ass for Jimmy G. Impossible is nothing, especially if it involves an organization that was a flare for downright foolish fatalities, but the odds alone say that he won’t be able to lean so heavily on executing through smoke and mirrors with a 100% success rate in the postseason.
Honestly, it feels like nitpicking to overreact to the result of an early two-point attempt whose failure immediately foreshadowed a mathematically fucked finish. It’s a bit much to whine about Sean Payton’s middle-schooler-playing-Madden-like approach to using Alvin Kamara to chisel helplessly at an edge that was cemented by Nick Bosa ad nauseam. Wondering what the far more effective Latavius Murray did to become the team’s resident red-headed stepchild is fair, but also too firm considering the 46-point output. You can crucify a referee for being fooled into throwing an eventual 4-point flag by Kyle Juszcyzk, whose presumably broken brain apparently regenerated in time for him to back on the field catching passes the next drive, but it's not even worth treating bullshit officiating as anything other than an unavoidable occupational hazard at this point in the season...
I suppose you could also crush a promising young player for making the rookie mistake of missing on a desperation dive that, for all intents and purposes, cost his team the game, even if he did have little business being left 1-on-1 with the Hulk-like creature that is George Kittle with the game quite literally on the line...
However, trying to pick one negative thing to harp on from what was basically a 3.5 hour anxiety attack is a fool's errand that should teach us the one thing that could actually have been learned from that game. That, of course, being that NFC Champion might damn well be decided by a figurative (or literally, who even knows) coin flip with the margins being as microscopic as they were yesterday.
The Saints suffered a tough loss that should leave them with plenty of room to self-reflect on the mistakes that kept them from winning in said margins, but it wasn't necessarily a bad loss that should have them fearing a potential trip to San Francisco in January.
Raheem Mostert Has Apparently Taken His Hearing for Granted, as He Believes the Niners are Playing on a "Neutral Field" Tomorrow
I gotta be honest, this just doesn't move the needle for me in terms of motivational material. Maybe it's the fact that Sean Payton had already pre-set Sunday's sound to deafening with his bi-annual incitement of the home crowd's most hysterical behavior...
...but Raheem Mostert's words, that were ignorant at best and idiotic at worst, hardly feel remotely realistic or relevant enough to be worthy of a spot on anyone's bulletin board.
The SuperDome? A neutral field? I'll consider fielding slights when are at all neutral, because thinking Niners fans will get so much as a word in tomorrow is almost as objectively stupid as having the basis of that claim be that they felt at home in Los Angeles, which is basically a Bed & Breakfast to all opposing NFL fans.
Bill Gates wouldn't let it interrupt him swimming laps in his infinity pool of profit if someone called him a broke ass bitch. Zac Efron wouldn't so much as turn his chiseled cheekbone for a double take if someone said he had a fat face. By the same logic, New Orleans need not waste even a single decibel in justifying with a response the idea that they are anything less than highly hostile hosts to the soon-to-be hearing-impaired.
I know he was just kissing the collective ass of San Francisco, but Raheem Mostert would have had a better chance of preying on the insecurities of Saints' fans if he said that the 49ers had an edge at quarterback tomorrow. I can't imagine there's anyone deathly afraid of Jimmy Gee-I-didn't-even-see-that-linebacker outplaying a future first ballot HoFer on his own turf, but at least there is a world in which such an outcome is possible. I'm assuming Raheem Mightstart spent the last week trying to stay in the top half of the depth chart, as opposed to collecting DNA samples from all over the greater New Orleans region and sewing shut the mouthes of sixty-some thousand voodoo dolls. Therefore, the same can't be said of the 49ers' faithful taking center stage in a building that the Who Dat Nation hardly needs outside instigation to test the structural integrity of...
A 49ers Broadcaster Was Suspended for, More or Less, Implying that Lamar Jackson's Blackness is a Cheat Code
“He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing,” Ryan said on air. “I mean, you literally could not see when he was in and out of the mesh point, and if you’re a half step slow on him in terms of your vision, forget about it, he’s out of the gate.” (h/t SFChronicle)
Let’s just pretend that people weren’t already sensitive to Lamar Jackson takes because his potential at a position at which he won awards and excelled in college was doubted, ad nauseam, due to the fact that he’s highly athletic, obnoxiously elusive, and…well…at least indirectly...umm...come close, I don’t want anyone to hear me….REALLY FUCKING BLACK! Let’s just pretend Bill Polian never developed dementia while en route to a meeting of the 'Good Ol’ Boys Club' only to accidentally wander onto an ESPN set and start drooling out antiquated drivel and slobbering stereotypes through his spittle. Let's just pretend that the idea of dark skin being an asset to a young NFL quarterback wasn't all we needed to hear to have officially heard it all.
This local...wait for it...color commentator, who - in all "fairness" - probably thought he was just doing his job in eliciting eye-rolls by going the extra mile to shamelessly excuse the home team’s missteps through half-assed and hackneyed homerism, is still guilty of publicly speaking a suspendible amount of stupidity. Somewhat impressively, the racial overtones of undermining the excellence of a player who is unapologetically African American by pointing out that his shade of brown is comparable to that of a pigskin through the “trained eye” of someone watching through 6-inch spectacles from the nosebleeds are actually outdone by the pure, unadulterated idiocy of this opinion.
Never mind how rare it would be of a trusted football voice to go full-galaxy brain in belittling the brilliance of a white pocket passer who made every single NFL organization, including his own (people forget Baltimore initially passed on their savior for their back-up tight-end), look stupid by defiantly defying the doubters. Forget that no one has ever claimed that a starting pitcher who depends on SPF 7-and-a-1/3 to keep him off the IR with sunburn is especially unhittable because the ball is hard to pick up coming out of his pasty white southpaw. Thinking a common contrast is remotely close to a noteworthy aspect of the Ravens’ rushing attack, when you could and should be talking about an insanely innovative scheme and a transcendent talent with an overwhelming arsenal at his disposal is actually not what I would consider thinking at all.
Truth is, we don’t even have to race to make an inherently racial comment about race. The ball could be bright pink - because the NFL found a new way to monetize breast cancer, obviously - and Lamar Jackson would still have his opposition desperately biting on play fakes like they’ve been made delusional by spending 3.5 quarters starved for a second-and-long. He could be wearing a Klan outfit instead a jersey and carrying a Tiki torch instead of the rock and he’d still be chopping up defenses for chunk yardage. If you can’t tell the difference between a black dude, a pitch-black jersey, and a brown football then you should, in theory, also think that Joey Bosa's painfully white ass matches his gold pants. Simply put, you are too goddamn dumb, tone-deaf, and blind to analyze a sport as fast and deceptive as football, never mind play it.
Even if you’ve been exhausted by sports’ topics becoming black vs. white, your thoughts on this should be as black and white as it gets. Objectively speaking, it takes a unpaid vacation-worthy amount of ignorance to think that the kryptonite of what is statistically one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history is the camouflage of melanin, regardless of said melanin being treated like a scarlet letter under center until all-too-recently.
TL;DR - If you think you're having an original thought on how an MVP candidate's skin color might influence his performance...don't, because it's not remotely as revolutionary as it is a much less favorable r-word.
The Saints...Passed...on Letting Suspect Officiating...Interfere...in What an Undeniably Ugly and Torturous Win Over the Panthers
In a season that is very much Super Bowl or near-suicidal seasonal depression, it’s hard to feel great about sneaking out a victory against a team that realistically didn’t belong on the same field as the Saints in a game that, pretty much out of nowhere, seemed doomed for a disastrous fate. Simply put, there was a lot to dislike about blowing multiple double-digit leads and needing to summon a little late-game wizardry between #9 and Magic Mike to strip the Panthers of a potential upset and just barely claw out a win in the SuperDome.
PJ Williams doing his absolute best (i.e. worst) to make November 24th ‘Marshon Lattimore Appreciation Day’. The defense appearing to think the term “running back” was more of a rigid restriction than an antiquated name for a versatile position in looking at Christian McCaffrey as if he were a flying pig every time he exited the backfield to run an uncontested passing route. Sean Payton letting the long-overdue excitement from Jared Cook’s coming out party turn him so hysterically pass-happy that you’d think he had too much cake and was suffering from a sugar rush in having a 40 year old arm repeatedly sling it downfield. The devil on his shoulder apparently slapping Latavius Murray’s first half stat-line out of the hands of the angel on his other shoulder in forming the makings of a pretty good malpractice suit for a guy whose usage hasn't exactly added up given what he showed in his midseason audition for the vacated role of Mark Ingram. A collective amount of discipline that you'd sooner expect to see from a third grade classroom on Halloween, as highlighted by Cam Jordan taking out the frustration of early-season slipped sacks out on a defenseless QB with a ferocious forearm shiver that kept alive both a dead drive and any hope whatsoever for an overmatched rival...
Fortunately, those reasons can all be overlooked. As unsatisfying as it was to barely beat a .500 team whose back they repeatedly had against the ropes in their own building, it was even more satisfying to beat a ridiculously one-sided group of officials who gave the Saints the ironic middle finger the entire football world was patiently waiting for with the biggest “fuck you for holding a grudge and making us do our jobs competently after we boned you raw" call of all-time. You can't convince me this gets overturned against anyone other than New Orleans in New Orleans (as evidenced by Jared Cook's phantom offensive PI being upheld earlier in the game), nor should you even want to waste time trying if you’ve watched officials blatantly big league far more egregious challenges all season…
And yet, as the Saints were pushed into the shadow of their own end zone with the score tied and time ticking down, a defense that had been dismantled on the day stepped up and snapped that finger clean off with a scoreless stop that may have, in the moment, increased Marcus Davenport’s value to three firsts...
....then handed it off to Drew Brees so he could do the honors of delivering it down the field for Wil Lutz to boot directly up the collective ass of a crew that clearly had it out for them in bearing false witness to a game whose penalty discrepancy reads like the description of a 3.5-hour mugging...
Never mind the Panthers best shot, the Saints also withstood a blatantly bullshit low blow from refs whose transparently spiteful message quickly got crumbled up and thrown right back in their stupid face.
Hard to feel too, too bad about decisions and mistakes that are, at least in theory, easily correctable and injuries that are presumably quick-healing when the most impactful fix was the one they managed to overcome when every penalized push was met with an "enough is enough"-style shove once the game was truly on the line.
Someone is Lying and No One is Winning in This Ugly Chapter to the Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph Saga
I haven't the slightest clue what was, or just as likely wasn't, said in sparking a scrum that probably shocked the world a little too much in reminding us that you need to be a certain level of savage to play football professionally. Anyone who either pretends or implies that they do is simply too lazy or biased to re-chisel a narrative that they had already set in stone.
So, while I find it odd that Myles Garrett seems to have conveniently stumbled upon his race card in the back of his wallet, like it was one punch away from earning him a free sub, a full week (or 3.5x the statute of limitations on topical stories in 2019) after Twitter was prematurely begging him to swipe it in expensing his temporary insanity, I'm about 60 shades of melanin away from being at liberty to tell someone how to go about dealing with even highly-disputed racism. I might wonder how none of the other large and predominantly black men within ear-shot happened to pick up on the alleged prejudice. I don't, however, wonder whether or not the guy who took to the podium to put forth an Oscar-worthy portrayal of the innocent victim after inciting the brawl in the first place (which is more a fact than it is even a remote justification) was shameless enough to do so in the aftermath of dropping an n-bomb, or something of the hate.
Point being, while this is all hypothetical, what's not is not that every party is some level of guilty and all sides of this story suck. Myles Garrett for trying to club a quarterback over the head with a blunt object like he was trying to hunt-and-gather hypocrites. Mason Rudolph for being a disingenuous dickhead as the damsel in distress. The NFL for being a league whose braintrust calls for the type of blind and thankless faith of Mike Tomlin going empty backfield on 3rd and long with the blehest of bleh backup quarterbacks under center...
Obviously the slur of all slurs would make for yet another unforgivable ingredient in what was already a highly distasteful recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, it's inclusion (or lack thereof) is a secret that will never truly be accounted (or unaccounted) for, so we're forced to judge on what we definitively know. That, of course, being that we could exhaust every sightline in discussing this situation from every possible angle, ad nauseam, and never find one that wasn't a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad look for the variant degrees of any and all assholes and idiots involved, discrimination or no discrimination.
The most fair-is-fair and balanced account would be that a white player, whose job is literally made secure by black players, instinctually blurted something that reminds them that the tortured history of their ancestors isn't entirely in the past out of football-induced frustration and, in return, had his whole brain put at high-risk by the very thing that is used to protect it. You don't need to be a devoted subscriber to Disney+ to know that the closest thing to vigilante justice is about the furthest thing from the poetic justice of even a happy-ish ending.
The Idea That Colin Kaepernick Doesn't Want to Play Football is, Impressively, One of the Dumber Narratives Surrounding This Never-Ending Saga
So let me get this straight, Colin Kaepernick has been waking up everyday at 5AM to workout for the last three years and looks like he's been sprinkling protein powder on every piece of hate mail he's ever received and devouring it in between sets for... what purpose, exactly? On the off chance that Fuck the Police Weekly comes calling for a shredded cover athlete for their next issue?
To believe that Colin Kaepernick doesn't want to play football is to believe he woke up the morning of his suspiciously-timed workout, stretched, blew three years dust and rust off his right arm, and proceeded to launch deadly accurate darts up, down, and all around the same type of field he's been shunned from 2016...
The guy still wants to play football or he wouldn't be in absolutely stellar shape to play football.
Now, whether he wants to swallow his pride in suckling on the teet of the league that not only haphazardly threw this shit together last minute, but also threw it together years too late in a lame attempt to appease a celebrity sellout and slither around a future law suit like the snakes that they are is a much, much different question...
More importantly, it's one whose answer the NFL has long been made privy to since Colin Kaepernick first prioritized principles ahead of playing a sport run by those entirely complicit in letting him be made a pariah out of a peaceful protester by those repeating their annoyingly contrived nonsense with the frequency of a 'Tickle Me Elmo'.
The detractors so "desperately" (i.e. disingenuously) wanted Colin Kaepernick to speak of his intentions. Then, when he finally did, they were shocked that he didn't take the opportunity to tickle the taint and powder the ass of the money-hungry operation that was guilty enough of colluding against him that they agreed to pay him millions of dollars in defeat?
That's honestly only surpassed in stupidity by telling yourself that he doesn't want to play football.
Colin Kaepernick didn't make sure to keep his spiral tighter than a virgin asshole just to exterminate the MAGAtes that, for years, have fed shamelessly off the false notion that a former Super Bowl QB's athleticism and arm talent evaporated quicker than this country's collective mental capacity. That may be all he ends up accomplishing after refusing to sign up for what sure sounded like a booby trap of a litigious loophole hidden behind the "shield" that protects only the same exact people that let his name and reputation be skewered for 30-some-odd months. It's likely he did cost himself whatever small opportunity existed for him to become a backup quarterback by following up his workout with an insubordinate assertion of a readiness that was all-too-apparent in his performance. He probably did speak too audaciously in challenging the cowardly, thin-skinned, Caucasian corpses taking time away from running NFL organizations to bankroll the re-election campaign of a "man" that called him (and others) a "son of a bitch".
However, to be surprised by his refusal to bend over backwards in/on the same field where he knelt away his job security on behalf of a cause more critical than a completion percentage is to have actively paid less than zero attention throughout this extended ordeal in blindly and deafly pushing a political agenda where one was never, ever intended to exist.
Unfortunately, we're already nauseatingly familiar with the stink on that all-too-common load of crap. Colin Kaepernick having his clear and concise message consciously convoluted to make him out to be the one predominantly responsible for his continued unemployment? Same shit, different day. Dude clearly wants to play football, he just doesn't need to if an entirely hypothetical chance to carry a clipboard is dependent on the submissive concession of his dignity.
Ah, now that's more like it.
Another record-setting dose of Michael Thomas, a hyper-active injection of Alvin Kamara, a dusting of Jared Cook, and an unglamorously effective amount of Latavius Murray. Mix it all up and serve it with a defense that's proven itself to be something damn close to dominant and....VOILA!...you have whatever ailed the Saints as much as Terron Armstead's flu last Sunday, regardless of whether or not the person under center already has a spot cleared for him in the Hall of Fame.
To put it in more matter-of-fact terms, until we see otherwise, the fate of the 2019 New Orleans Saints isn't riding on the arm of Drew Brees. That was made pretty clear when their record went unscathed with Teddy Bridgewater taking the wheel. The health of the most accomplished of helping hands certainly gives the offense increased efficiency and the entire roster more margin for error, but Sean Payton had to learn the hard way that there's a limit to the amount of air his arsenal can raid nowadays. I say the following as a positive, but it's not 2011 anymore. No matter how much the mad scientist schemes, a balanced attack is the only thing that is going counteract the predictability of the 'AK & the UnGuardable' show. Fear not, however, because it's the exact type of offense that pairs perfectly with a defense that apparently needs not its premier corner to routinely force offenses off the field by hook or by crook.
The absence of another proven and reliable pass-catching option will continue to seem annoyingly avoidable, as you'd need the very bottom of the box scores to be in brail to at all feel the impact of a Saints' receiver not named Michael Thomas. However, if this team plays to where its bread has been buttered then it shouldn't matter that every opposing secondary isn't already considered toast. It is probably a fool's errand to discount the killer instinct of the galaxy brain shared by Drew Brees and Sean Payton and assume them incapable of throwing it back and emasculating an opponent with a patented SuperDome shit-kicking, but it's far from the sheer certainty that it once was. I had to pinch myself in bringing myself to type this, but this team is driven by its defense...even if its fearless leader and the two most dynamic weapons at his disposal repeatedly creep up from the backseat to heavily "opine" on its direction.
Look no further than yesterday for proof. Don't let the garbage time stats fool you, because the secondary - sans Marshon Lattimore (and led by the Eli Apple of his eye) - occupied the entirety of the void his absence left under Mike Evans' skin...
Chris Godwin got on the board against an overmatched rookie in CGJ, but ultimately snagged less passes from Jamies Winston than the Saints' defense did. Cam Jordan didn't so much as slow down in running right over whatever "Speedbump McGee" was put in front of him, and a highly potent downfield passing attack was forced to play into Demario Davis' torture chamber by checking down as they tried, and completely failed, to avoid turning the ball over. The early production of the offense was aided by the quick work of the defense and when the former slightly slowed the latter made damn sure it didn't much matter...
To this day it seems weird that simply possessing the ball is even remotely as important to a Sean Payton-led team as putting up points, since the Who Dat Nation has been pessimistically programmed to think of any one punt as a concession of defeat. However, running the ball is complementary to a passing offense with limited options, that is in turn complimentary to their unconditionally undeterred defense. That's what we've learned since Drew Brees has come back, and it is fortunately a lesson that - historically speaking - bears its best results through December and beyond.
I know I'm arguing with a small segment of fans who are more than likely being made to sound prepubescent and stupid by the idea of their team losing its most impactful defensive player for the rest of a season that probably already felt a lot like being led into a room blindfolded on your birthday and having the surprise be yet another kick to the genitals. The Cleveland Browns hardly got to bring any happiness before they got humbled, so I'd imagine their sad sack supporters have difficulty feeling sympathy for anyone else that hasn't felt the unrelenting pain of decades of Doomsday-esque dread, Mason Rudolph included.
That being said, going the "he started it!" route, as if we are talking about a push-for-push shoving match on a playground and not one man reacting to a relatively run-of-the-mill tussle with what could be considered attempted murder in up to 10 states, is beyond idiotic. Even if Mason Rudolph did indeed "start it", I double checked the math and it turns out that one wrong plus one felony do not - in fact - equal a right.
Never mind Myles Garrett reacting in such an insane fashion that people automatically assumed slur and had their race cards out more prematurely than a kid waving a $20 from three rows back at a college bar. What Myles Garrett did was so egregious and shocking that I initially missed Maurkice Pouncey kicking him in the head as a retaliatory defense of his quarterback. With that being the case, you can surely deduct that my eyes didn't spend too much time trained on the helmet tug, or even the groin "kick", that prompted it.
Sorry, but this third grade logic doesn't apply to a sequence of events that compares favorably to trying to burn someone's entire house down because they flicked a lit cigarette at you. It just doesn't, and I presume that would be pretty obvious if the worst case scenario were to have come at all close to playing out last night.
Sure, Mason Rudolph could have given Myles Garrett a slight crick in his neck and a rising stomach pain, but Myles Garrett could have turned Mason Rudolph into an absolute vegetable of a patient that's in a perpetual state of drooling. Even in a sport that used to celebrate the type of brutality that we now know broke human brains, one of those things is simply not like the other in reaching a degree of senseless violence that not even the most psychotic of superhumans sign up for. I'd say that is best encapsulated by a quote that couldn't possibly state something more obvious...
I'll concede that Mason Rudolph is not anywhere near as innocent as he let on...
However, he also couldn't potentially be found guilty in a court of law (not that this incident should go anywhere near that far), so excuse me if I consider the "case" against him to be about as pressing as an alternate side parking ticket. Anyone that's played sports knows the retaliatory act always gets more attention, and I think that saying probably applies a wee bit more when the retaliatory act is an attempt to cave in an opponent's skull.
Speaking of Myles Garrett...
I question whether he thinks he participated in some sort of 'Instant Classic' last night. When "what happens in 8 seconds" is the type of assault that typically causes blunt force trauma then it overshadows the result of a shitty Thursday Night Football game between two largely boring teams in the same way that an unexpected hurricane might overshadow the taste of the wings at a beach party. There's not a coach or teammate in the Browns' locker room that had the tone or temperament of someone that just won a football game, and it's because said football game was just evvvvvver-so-slightly less rare than the attempted bludgeoning that brought it to a barbaric end...you goddamn lunatic.
And just like that, Jamaal Williams has a fan in me. While there is nothing worse than being cued up to answer a question that got so muffled in the clouds while making its way to your head that it might as well have been spoken in Swahili, there is nothing better than being reminded that professional athletes are - at least off the field - just like us.
Honestly though, has there ever been a better instance of the truth setting someone free? I can both relate to and appreciate him showcasing a Barry Sanders-like change of direction in jumping from an extended and uncertain utterance to a lame attempt at crafting a crappy excuse. However, his full disclosure of his dismissiveness shed the building tension of the social awkwardness with such ease that you'd think the latter played linebacker for the Chiefs.
As the saying goes, you don't bullshit a bullshitter, and if the era of content overkill has taught us anything it's that a fair amount of media availability is predicated on prompting professional athletes with nonsense narratives. Credit to the Jamaal Williams for rapidly recognizing the need to open himself as an outlet to be laughed with instead of laughed at, as it required a level of candor that we should all aspire to reach when trying to complete a conversation that we have no interest in having. Ironically, while he was shockingly inattentive to the group of people sticking microphones in his face, he was highly attentive in detailing a soundbite better than almost any they could have literally asked for during a bye week.
Wait, what? Two and a half years later and only now is the NFL open to offering the very same workout that could have at least offered them a defense, albeit one that makes the Buccaneers' secondary look solid, against the collusion case they were ultimately ecstatic to pay away?
Never mind this being suspiciously set up as nothing more than a formality, as I can't imagine how good Colin Kaepernick would have to look throwing against air on four days notice on the busy eve of a midseason Sunday for his case for a roster spot to be made any organization's priority. I think both stubborn sides of an argument that somehow takes the cake and eats it too as the divisive overlord of the inherently stupid "stick to sports" bullshit can finally agree on one thing, and that is that the timing of this beyond idiotic.
Like, this bone couldn't have been thrown when the back and forth barking was both daily and deafening? Only now - after millions of dollars have been spent to make this go away, the President is too distracted by an attempt at his ousting, and everyone has debated themselves indifferent - do we get the league taking a single step to check the pulse of a former Super Bowl quarterback before toe-tagging his career?
No matter how disingenuous it may be, I'm happy that Colin Kaepernick is finally getting this opportunity to - at least theoretically - sink or swim based solely on his own athletic merit. On behalf of everyone else, however, I'm fucking furious that we had to scream, yell, bitch, and moan amongst friends, family, and foes about the professional qualifications of an accomplished player for what felt like a damn decade before the most perpetually desperate of prospective employers agreed to stand witness to a single spiral.
The timeliness with which the NFL begrudgingly...well...bended thy knee in offering a solution so seemingly simple makes their process of answering "what exactly is a catch?" seem prompt, which I suppose makes this long overdue and presumably empty gesture foolishly fitting of the league offering it.
The Saints Put Forth a Downright Sinful Offensive Performance in Being Harshly Humbled by the Falcons at Home
I was not naive and/or biased enough to think that the Saints were unlike every other professional sports team, never mind just their NFL peers, in being immune to resting a little too comfortably on their laurels. But man, needing a wake-up call that would make the repetitive, eardrum-piercing iPhone alarms you set for yourself seem tame while coming off the bye week sure seems like odd timing.
Two weeks to prepare for the hostile welcoming of the most hated of rivals. Yet, it legitimately looked like a rejuvenated roster that was fully-dialed in while overcoming the absence of Drew Brees had strongly considering calling in sick prior to showing up with the cross-eyed focus of a 20-something with a long weekend's worth of booze on his breath. To put it mildly, the Saints' performance, specifically on offense, sure made this once appreciable sentiment stink of complacency in retrospect...
Inexplicable, if not unforgivable, L's always have a weird way of being delivered by those with which you are most familiar, so the Saints getting served by the Falcons isn't nearly as ridiculous as their records indicate. The truth is that the Who Dat Nation probably should have known they were in for an absolute anomaly of an afternoon when a run defense with an irrefutable resume of impenetrability let A-Town's pedestrian rushing attack stomp all over their yard on the opening drive. That alone should have been a pretty clear indication that you could crumble up any sort of conventional wisdom and throw it in a pile of pointless precedent that always seems to grow larger during divisional games.
An excuse for an offense that somehow leaned heavier on a 'Michael Thomas or bust' game-plan immediately after being given plenty of time to recalibrate, however, that is not. You want to point to Andrus Peat going down and Terron Armstead playing through the flu to give a pass to a protection plan that would make a used-car salesman smirk then be my guest. However, what was presumed to be a revamped rushing attack that, through a slight squint, could resemble the Alvin & Ingram show was offered all of 11 combined carries (with only 7 coming after their opening drive) to take pressure off a depleted line during a game that a Lattimore-less defense kept within a single score until the 4th quarter. It hardly makes a dent in his otherwise rock solid display of coaching this season, but Sean Payton play-calling was as questionable as the efforts of the wide receivers not wearing #13, who somehow managed as many catches on 45 pass attempts as their coach snagged with his weekend proposal...
Purpose to panic? Hardly, but what we witnessed on Sunday was a cause for the same exact concern that had Saints' fans deafeningly dumbfounded as the trade deadline passed quietly. The offensive line has more than proven to be far better than it was in letting the Falcons' benign front four cripple their game plan, but the complimentary playmakers that got locked up by a suspect secondary while Drew Brees went touchdown-less in the SuperDome cannot say the same. Someone has to step up opposite the the NFL's most unguardable, and it's much harder to believe that's going to happen after failing to take any advantage whatsoever of what should have been a more than merciful matchup at home.
If anything, it's a massive understatement to say that what the Saints suffered on Sunday was a bad loss, but it gave them a good goddamn look at what needs to be improved and/or emphasized if they want to make good on the promise they all seemed motivated to keep while somewhat miraculously heading into the bye week at 7-1. Maybe their midseason form was undermined by a week off, or maybe football is just a fickle, fickle game that is quick to make no sense whatsoever. Whatever the case may be, it's important lesson learned for a team that may have gotten a little too gratified with their grades after acing a massive test with Teddy Bridgewater under center, as they looked undisciplined in suffering a demoralizing defeat at the hands of those least likely to let them forget it.
Mitch Trubisky Has Shifted His Work-Week Focus to Shutting Off Every Truth-Telling TV That Dares to Remind Him of How Much the Bears Suck
Truth be told, I can totally empathize with where Mitch Trubisky is coming from. I can definitively say that I also wouldn't want to show up to work only to have TV's in all corners of the office loudly and defiantly debating the exact extent to which I am despicably bad at my job. It might just be the most salient and Undisputed point made on sports' television in the last five years, but it's hardly the First Take I'd want to bear witness to while desperately trying to figure out how to remain gainfully employed over my morning coffee. As dead-on-balls-accurate as they may be, it makes total sense that a complete bust of a quarterback doesn't want to hear blowhards bloviate about the ramifications of his professional failures to millions of people while in the building in which he's trying to fix them.
That being said, that's probably a mild inconvenience that I would have kept to myself if I were him. Needing assistance is clearly not new to him, but silently pressing the mute button may have been the move as a guy drafted egregiously high to fill a position that requires a thick skin and a short memory. I honestly don't think anyone emotionally invested in the Bears could think any less of their quarterback at this point anyway, so it probably doesn't matter that he doesn't understand that "earmuffs" and "tunnel vision" are merely metaphorical suppressors to sensitivities or that he's incapable of using the well-deserved mockery as motivation. Still, I can't imagine that griping about having to watch people criticize his team when he's the primary reason they are damn near unwatchable is doing him any favors in terms of public perception.
On the list of Chicago's priorities, granting Mitch Trubisky some professional courtesy and/or peace of mind falls about 300 spots below finding him a mildly redeemable replacement. Therefore, may I suggest clicking the power button and biting his tongue on small bothers while hundreds of thousands of much more bothered midwesterners are one step and a light nudge short of going to extreme lengths to cut it out of his head?
Bill Polian Finally Emerged From the 1960's and Waved the White (No Pun Intended) Flag on His "Lamar Jackson Should Play Wide Receiver" Take
USAToday- “I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was,” Polian told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, referring to the Baltimore Ravens coach and former GM who drafted the explosive, multi-dimensional talent with the final pick in the first round in 2018.
Alluding to offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Polian added, “And Greg found a way in how he’s developed a system to use those dynamic skills. Bottom line, I was wrong.”
You know what they say, it takes a big man to admit when they are wrong.
I'm not so sure "they" were referring to a situation in which an old, out-of-touch analyst stated the blatantly obvious after having his casually racist corpse dragged up, down, and allllll the way around the entire sports' landscape for a year and a half. I suppose it would be safer to clarify with the "big men" that originally authored that phrase to make themselves feel better about being defiantly dumb for a prolonged period of time. Unfortunately, they've undoubtedly been dead (ass wrong) for quite awhile, so I'm going to go with my gut here and say that Bill Polian passed the statute of limitations in which receiving credit for taking responsibility is due.
I mean, Lamar Jackson dipped, dodged, and - most importantly - passed around a dominant defense in scrambling his way into the MVP race at the same position that his biggest and crustiest detractor implied he shouldn't even bother trying to play before he was offered amends for such race-based idiocy. Consider this, if it took a pregnant woman that long to realize she may have missed her period then by the time she first admitted that the pull-out method doesn't work she'd be doing so while weaning a toddler off of her tit.
I guess it's not entirely out of the question that Bill Polian has been napping since Week 1. However, assuming he has cracked open one eye and/or caught even one highlight this season, the timing of this apology is about as prompt as his long-belated induction into a nursing home. His opinion being erroneous went without saying as it was leaving his old, dry lips. Therefore, him making sure to offer a half-ass concession before croaking doesn't really count for much, though I do appreciate it providing another gratuitous opportunity to praise Lamar Jackson as an unconventional quality quarterback while incessantly mocking him as a hardheaded and close-minded baby of a boomer who created one of longest running nonsense narratives in all of sports.
The Chargers Twitter Used the Infamous 'Wolf of Wall Street' Clip to Dispel the Rumor of Relocation to London, but There's Just One Tiny Problem...
Let's, for just the time being, agree to look past the fact that the Chargers' social media manager problem doesn't have a seat at the end of the table when it comes to discussing the inner-workings (or lack thereof) of a franchise whose move to Los Angeles has objectively been an abject disaster. The truth of the matter is that the clip above could be of Chargers' owner Dean Spanos himself denouncing the entirety of the British Empire in front of a backdrop of stars and stripes and people still wouldn't believe he's ruled out packing up his team and hopping across the pond so long as he's been promised a Brexit bump to his bottomline pending his Brentrance. That, however, is neither here nor there, as this defense being entirety disingenuous isn't even the biggest issue to take with it...
What I find most problematic is that the overused pop culture reference in question is completely non-applicable to the situation at hand. If you filed every person that is super concerned about the Los Angeles Chargers taking their perennially underperforming talents overseas into the room in which Leonardo DiCaprio acted his ass off in pledging allegiance to a corrupt company, you'd still need to hire about a 100 extras to fill the gaps of overall apathy.
It's not the fanbase's fault, as they have obviously been dissipated by the disrespect of Dean Spanos, who basically spit in San Diego's face in order to fill the roll of second fiddle in a big city that was more interested in hiring a one-man-band. Regardless, aside from opposing fans looking to attend an unofficial home game in sunny SoCal, almost no one that isn't coked out of comprehension could reach the level of excitement portrayed above in response to the whereabouts of the NFL team taking temporary residence in a half-full soccer stadium.
I'd consider Dean Spanos more of a snake than a wolf anyway, and that's mostly because he doesn't have the support of anywhere close to that large of a pack in Los Angeles (or anywhere else, for that matter). I'd appreciate his organization's use of social media reflecting that better, even if gathering followers for a nomadic failure of a franchise is a job as thankless as that of Philip Rivers.
Sure Starting to Sound Like Teddy Bridgewater Has Lined Himself to Win This Year's Quarterback Lottery in Free Agency
Damn. That quick, huh?
Don't get me wrong, I'm hardly in the quiet car on the 'Pay Teddy' train. Yes, even if Drew Brees keeps turning back the hands on Father Time's clock and that money is being shelled out by a team other than the Saints in a city that will unquestionably adore him less than New Orleans. Considering all that he's been through, and the enduringly optimistic attitude he's maintained while going through it, there isn't a quarterback more deserving of signing a huge contract with a grandiose amount of guaranteed money and, realistically, an impossible-to-live-up-to average salary.
I didn't mean for that last part to come off so doubtful, as I'll continue to emphasize that I love Teddy Bridgewater, but when I say "quick" I'm not even referring the entirety of the five-game win streak during which he pumped cup his price tag by keeping the Saints on the fast track to Super Bowl contention. The truth is that the volume on the hype machine didn't get turned up until he made gator food out of the Buccaneers' secondary in his third start. It echoed long enough to last through an extremely humdrum win over the Jaguars until the bass got kicked into overdrive during a dismantling of the vaunted Bears defense in Chicago. Still, while Teddy was a lot of great things for an otherwise complete Saints' team (safe, smart, stable, and everything else an otherwise complete team needed him to be), what he wasn't was some deadly accurate, 20-30 million dollar quarterback.
Again, I'd be more than happy to see someone compensate him like him and do hope that's a shoe that eventually fits, but he's got what I'd consider two impressive starts that exceeded the average interpretation of game management under his belt this season. Long story short, whoever is stepping on the gas in backing up the Brinks truck for Teddy will be banking high on his Payton-less potential in paying an egregious amount of interest on this dime, which will likely serve as his swan song as a starter while heading into free agency...
There are countless worse options to overpay, and I think all of New Orleans would tell you they'd consider Teddy receiving a monster deal from a QB-desperate team the next best case if he understandably doesn't care to keep waiting out Drew Brees as the heir to a perfectly fit throne. Still, his value already being tagged somewhere in the mid-twenties is a pretty eye-popping reminder of how rash NFL organizations get when it comes to trying to the fill the position that gives you the best odds of being revenant.
It's not happening. Only in the wildest dreams of a Who Dat Nation of fans, that find faith in every flex that follows yet another inevitable first down catch from someone who has turned Cant Guard Mike from a twitter handle to an irrefutable fact of life, does Michael Thomas stand a chance of being recognized as the NFL's most impactful player. That's due in small part to him forever feeling subconsciously slighted and caring about endearing himself to voters as much as he cares about endearing himself to the corners, who might as well be nameless and faceless, whose confidence he chokes the life out of every Sunday. However, it's due mostly to playing a position whose value predominantly pales in comparison to that of those entrusting him with targets.
Of course, the idea that even the best wide receivers are quarterback-dependent has been counter-punched by the unconditional efficiency of a player whose every route run, whether it be at the cue of Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Brees, now comes with the expectation that it will end with him being more open than the MVP race...
Still, the options under center would have to be few and far between come Week 16 for a pass-catcher to break decades of precedent in having the league's most decorated award be within their catch radius.
That, however, doesn't mean it's not worth offering the argument. As deaf as the ears on which they may ring, Michael Thomas' numbers speak for themselves. Receptions. Yards. Catch rate. They voice a level of production and consistency that are setting the pace for history in putting to a damn whimper the play of every single one of his pass-happy peers...
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray have taken turns picking up some slack, but the offense of a team that enters the bye on a six-game win streak despite losing its All-World QB for over a month has largely been dragged through the strength of its schedule by the unrelenting vice grip of its money man...
You want an out-of-the-box (score) stat on which to judge a season that, to this point, has been superior to the one that earned Michael Thomas what was the richest wide receiver contract ever? How about ROI? The return the Saints have gotten on their investment into what's typically considered a complimentary position has been their main source of success. Never mind it being the cost of doing business, because if you had to put a price tag on a performance that has thus far transcended the toughest of circumstance then it might well exceed the 21+ million dollars that Michael Thomas is due this year.
Simply put, we're talking about a guy that knows full well what it's like to serve as the exception to a rule. That far, far more than likely won't prove true when the MVP eventually gets awarded, but - at the midseason point - counting out a competitor as crazed as Mike is as futile an endeavor as guarding him.
In What Has to Be the Coaching Controversy of Matt Nagy's Nightmares, He Apparently Didn't Check Where His Kicker Wanted the Ball Placed Before Killing the Clock
Matt Nagy's crotchety and convoluted defense of his decision to punk out and play for a 41-yard field goal, as opposed to putting even the slightest sliver of faith whatsoever in his offense to gain what would have been precious plus yardage, may lead you to believe that there is nothing that grinds his gears more than being asked how well they are greased...
The mini-camp mind games that he used to torture a team that was probably still waking up in a cold sweat to images of abused uprights, on the hand other, point to a man whose skin is made the most penetrable by field goal failures...
From the outside looking in, it sure seems the bees that buzz the loudest in Matt Nagy's bonnet while baffling his self-bloated brain are questionable kickers and kicking related questions. Therefore, it must feel like he was being swarmed by a hive of hornets after the former slipped up and booted down the door inviting more of the latter into his already cluttered kitchen...
I mean, talk about fighting a two-front war against a monster of your own making. Being stuck between a rock and hard place would probably feel like being swaddled in a warm blanket on a cool midwest evening in comparison to the Bears' in-over-his-head coach having to duel it out with the demons (not named Mitchell Trubisky) that have sabotaged his peace of mind.
The only reason this isn't the double jeopardy of coaching controversies is because it would more accurately be described as the 'Double Doink' of coaching controversies. Only one thing could make worse the nonsensical notion that running against a prepared defense automatically equals a loss of four yards. That one thing is the kicker who failed you, however innocently, making it sound like you desperately tried to secure a sure win in a safe but forgot to close it and set the lock. You could have already easily made the argument that Matt Nagy was more super cowardly than super calculated, but he somehow looks dumber today than he sounded on Sunday.
At the end of day, Eddy Pineiro is absolutely right. He simply has to do his single, solitary job in nailing a game-winning field goal of an entirely reasonable length. That's obvious. Unfortunately, what's also obvious is that a run-of-the-mill missed kick becoming a coaching issue speaks volumes about the stupefying circumstances surrounding it. Not even considering where his kicker might want the ball after precariously putting away the playbook and having literally nothing else to worry about makes the unwavering claim of smartly playing it safe seem a hell of a lot more like a case of being stupidly paralyzed by pressure.
Matt Nagy went out of his way to put himself in the crosshairs during his perfunctory press conference and - wouldn't ya know it - the guy who should realistically be to blame accidentally stumbled into the trigger. Really makes you think that the guy treating a podium like an intellectual high ground should have been a bit more...ahem...cautious about talking in circles while reprimanding a room of reporters. Especially since he's apparently the type to triple-check that he's within the confines of the crosswalk before blindly waltzing into oncoming traffic without looking both ways.
Thumbs Up, Cards Down: Drew Brees Was Very Much Back as the Saints Ruled With an Iron Fist en Route to a 6th Straight Win
Let me start by reiterating something entirely unnecessary. On behalf of the tens of thousands of Who Dat's who loudly let his name ring off the resounding walls of the SuperDome during an afternoon in which he wasn't much more than a spectator/stand-in to a familiar form of Drew Brees' brilliance, Teddy Bridgewater is hereby a beloved person, player, and - pending the conclusion of what's shaping up to be a special season - legend in New Orleans...
As for his revered replacement, any doubts that may have been shamelessly spread amongst those that aren't anywhere near as intimately knowledgeable of the state of Drew Brees' throwing hand as one of the most well-managed teams in the NFL were put to rest yesterday. Never mind blabbering on about two more weeks of rest as if that's not the equivalent of an eternity to a crazed competitor whose numbered days as a professional athlete probably have him on the verge of an existential crisis, because knocking the rust off against an inferior opponent prior to 14 days of pressure-less preparation was clearly the right decision.
I would have been more than fine with going the cautious route in starting Teddy, but Drew Brees needed to get back into the swing of things, as evidenced by an uncharacteristic mismanagement of the clock that - regardless of being a product of endlessly questionable officiating - took points off the board at the end of the half...
He needed to get re-adjusted to the unmatched intensity of the NFL gameday experience, as evidenced by him turning the ball over on an absolute head-scratcher of a "shit, I hit the wrong button"-type YOLO pass to a fullback in double coverage...
When in midseason form, he doesn't make those mistakes, so yesterday was as good a time as any to get him up to speed prior to a point in the schedule when it becomes full-speed ahead. In turning a long-shot into a laugher as the game wore on, he certainly seemed to step on the gas in zooming past any concerns about the health of his hand or his readiness to readily rely on it.
The Saints, as a whole, did what they have done with an increasing level of dominance since the beginning of the season in imposing their will on the opposition. Since the outlier in Los Angeles, they have not coincidentally been undefeated in the trenches. The defense has gone from stuffing the run to flat out scaring teams out of even trying to get the ground game going, and the scary part is that I don't even blame the opposing coaches. I understand Kliff Kingsbury resorting to desperate measures in fighting up a weight class, but calling a 4th down dive into the middle of this defense on his own 30 in a one score game was damn near a fireable act of offense...
Especially since it sparked the fuse to the type of scorching one would typically expect from a Drew Brees-led offense in the SuperDome. The clock struck 'Taysom Time' and a spanking much like the one Patrick Peterson endured while being dragged into the end zone at the legs of an unguardable adonis put an emasculating exclamation on the afternoon...
Honestly, it's becoming close to a misnomer to merely say that this team is resilient, because this iteration of the New Orleans Saints is damn near regenerative. It's as if you cut a limb off and it immediately starts growing back stronger. If Drew Brees' performance was an indicator of things to come then his injury will prove to be blessing in disguise in keeping a 40 year old fresh for a strong finish. If Latavius Murray continues to be half the bell-cow back he's been while Alvin Kamara has been reinforcing his rubber limbs for the stretch run? A dynamic duo comparable to the illustrious Ingram & AK connection is hardly out of the question that was being worrisomely whispered amongst the entire fanbase while he sat collecting dust on the sidelines in September. PJ Williams finally got suspended for driving drunk in the dawn of last winter's depressing disappointment, and what has happened since? Dennis Allen has spawned some hybrid of PJ Williams and a pit bull out of a 4th round rook as Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has attacked his opportunity with inexhaustible aggressiveness...
These Saints haven't just kept pace in jumping over ever hurdle set in their path, they've managed to hit the ground accelerating in turning every perceived negative into a long-term positive. Teddy Bridgewater got a flat on the bicycle he rides to and from every home game yesterday, and that is somehow legitimately in contention for the most demoralizing thing that's happened to the team since he started his stainless stint under center...
We are talking 7-1, with the Saints having already pinned the strength of their schedule in running off six straight, and yet we've somehow yet to see the most complete version that either side of the ball has to offer. You couldn't possibly ask for more out of the team without sounding like the most spoiled of brat. That, however, doesn't mean that they won't have much more to offer in giving an elite and energized quarterback an upgraded arsenal of weapons to compliment a suffocating defense after spending a well-deserved week of rest greasing the gears and undergoing a total tune-up prior to an increasingly promising postseason race.
Long story short, when it comes to the trajectory of the New Orleans Saints, I'm not so sure the most adequate representation isn't both simply and symbolically a thumbs up.