I Don't Know That Disappointment Is as Painful as Devastation, but the Saints Certainly Posed the Question With a Well-Deserved Playoff Loss
No mystifying missed tackle-enabled “miracle”. No inexcusably egregious act, or lack thereof, of officiating. No…well…once-in-a-lifetime, nauseatingly commercialized frozen moment in NFL history to distract from the fact that the New Orleans Saints, for the third year in a row, hardly even showed all their cards in bringing a premature end to another ‘Super Bowl or bust’ season without a chip to their name.
I’m sure many will disagree, but I can’t help but feel more disgusted by what happened on Sunday than I did by what happened when the Saints were making playoff football a more emotionally excruciating watch than a movie where the protagonist overcomes all other odds just to get hit by a bus while walking triumphantly into the sunset before the credits fatally roll. That’s probably a bit of recency bias, but the truth is that recency is all that really matters when you’re talking about trying to win another championship before the clock strikes midnight on a future first ballot HOF quarterback. Recently, everyone thought Drew Brees’ early season injury had a much fresher arm operating at peak performance when it mattered most, so there’s no bias necessary to say that him chucking a complete clunker at home against an undermanned secondary during what very well might have been his best and/or last chance to add another Lombardi to his legacy was a demonstrative disappointment.
Embarrassment. Relative to agony, that feeling probably falls pretty short on the hierarchy of haunted dreams, but it’s almost sadder that who I still consider the most complete team in the NFC bowed out of the first round in frighteningly forgettable fashion. From the top-down, a highly-talented roster led by a top-notch coaching staff simply shat the bed. The transcendent tag-team of Drew Brees and Sean Payton got taken to the cleaners by Mike Zimmer and allowed…::chokes back vomit::...Kirk Cousins to craft a whole ass tale of redemption out of no more than three or four very timely passes. An offensive line that was finally back at full strength certainly didn’t help matters, as the Vikings moved Everson Griffin inside and absolutely emasculated its weakest link, but the two men who have spent well over a decade mending otherwise brilliant minds to make their protection look pristine picked a bad day to have their worst days.
Honestly, the only time the Saints showed any urgency whatsoever prior to the 4th quarter was when the NFL's predominant defier of time constraints inexplicably decided that he absolutely had to sneak in a snap prior to the two-minute warning, and proceeded to use said snap to premeditatedly throw a soon-to-be easy interception into the double coverage of a player that hadn’t made a big play (while covered) in well over a month. Their ability to scratch and claw their way into overtime was cool and all, but at the end of yet another sad day it’s just a reminder that an offense that absolutely rolled through December, regardless of opponent, was absent for the vast majority of a home playoff game against inferior competition.
Credit Taysom Hill, Deonte Harris, and Trey Hendrickson for doing their best to keep the Saints' hopes alive, but the ultimate complimentary pieces having to serve as saviors speaks to what really cost them this game. That, of course, being that their best players apparently learned absolutely nothing about performing under pressure from the haunting heartbreak of suffering back-to-back, unprecedentedly devastating playoff defeats.
Marshon Lattimore spent 3rd down after 3rd down routinely getting dusted by a receiver who had his own rust to knock off in Adam Thielen. During the potential game-winning drive alone, Alvin Kamara lost precious time, meaningful yardage, and two of the many mind games he’s been oddly playing with himself all season. The beacon of consistent disruption that is Cam Jordan underwhelmed with his inability to anchor the defensive line and keep contain in limiting Dalvin Cook. Wil Lutz sent what is typically an automatic three points sailing wide-right instead of sending his team to the locker room tied at the half. Hell, even Michael Thomas, who presumably ran the wrong route on the play where Drew Brees quite literally dropped the ball in the red zone, was mediocre relative to the All-World expectations he’ll eternally have set for himself.
The talent atop the roster didn’t just fail to show out, it largely failed to show up, as evidenced by Drew Brees having seventy-six yards passing through three quarters and depending on his defense to grant him yet another opportunity to win the game after foolishly fumbling away a golden one late in the 4th quarter.
“Any given Sunday” and what not, but I can’t help but feel excruciatingly let down by a team that I truly believed to be irreproachably resilient after going with 5-0 without their consummate leader being able to lend so much as a healthy hand. So much so, in fact, that it makes me question their ability to rebound from this. There’s nothing to rally around this time. The only fingers to be pointed are in the mirror. For this team to put a bright, shiny exclamation point on a resurgent era of (regular season) success they’ll need to do a hell of a lot of soul-searching throughout an offseason that has no business being as long as it already feels. Throughout said offseason, their depth will likely take a sizable hit and their starting quarterback will have to carefully avoid the cliff that 40+ year old professional athletes are liable to plummet off of at a moment’s notice.
Long story short, there are plenty of reasons to doubt that the Saints can give themselves as good of a shot at a Super Bowl as they had this year, especially with this year ending the same way of far too many others during the do-or-die moments. A talented team simply spent the vast majority of an afternoon they eagerly awaited choking on their own tongue. Even if there were two ways around that fact then they have since been blocked off after having been used as detours from the harsh reality of their own missteps in painstaking postseason pasts. So don't bother arguing whether or not the offensive pass interference that allowed Kyle Rudolph room to leave the Saints locker room in ruins should have been called...
If last season taught the Saints anything it's that leaving their fate in the hands of the officials is a suicidal endeavor. Yet, they still spent a mind-blowing amount of time doing anything other than helping their own cause on Sunday, so I can't say I really understand being stunned by getting exactly what they deserved...
You don't have to stop riding with them to acknowledge, through backseat driving, that they started on their road to a Super Bowl by uncharacteristically swerving all over the goddamn place and ended up with a rightful result in watching their well-equipped ride go up in smoke.
The Saints Worked Out Antonio Brown This Morning, Which Isn't Anywhere Near as Intriguing as it is Alarming
Wait, what? No. Why?
Is the Saints’ organization just trying to give Roger Goodell & Co. a headache worthy of long-term hospitalization so that they aren’t around to orchestrate, in conjunction with the officials, a second straight subversion of a Super Bowl-worthy season? Is this all just an attempt by one of the league’s least favorite franchises to guarantee that AB will be put on the Commissioner’s Exempt List and thus won’t be available for postseason pickup by any of their potential opponents? Is Sean Payton just trying to break the tension of an upcoming playoff run by gifting his locker room the comic relief of the first-ever live performance of the highly-anticipated hit single ‘NO WHITE WOMAN 2020’?
While I appreciate the middle-finger-to-the-shield aspect of all this, I'm going to need a better explanation than doing "due diligence" on someone that shouldn't even be due internet access in the psych ward where he should be taking up residence. After all, if the question is whether or not New Orleans needs Antonio Brown then we've had the answer since Teddy Bridgewater took over and led a passing offense that was average in everything other than winning percentage to an undefeated record. With Drew Brees looking as though he recently found refreshment in the fountain of youth, the reward of adding a highly talented ticking time-bomb (that is basically destined to be defused by the NFL anyway) to an offense that is finally firing on all cylinders hardly broaches the risk of introducing a plague of a personality into an otherwise awesome locker room.
I don't need all Saints to be saintly, nor am I above celebrating a clutch touchdown scored by a nightmare of a narcissist or a self-sabotaging sociopath. However, with this team being so damn likable and deserving of a championship the last few seasons, sprinkling an alleged sexual assailant who is undeniably guilty of being an insufferable asshole into this team's chemistry would definitely make it a tinge distasteful. Both on and off the field, Michael Thomas is everything that is right about the New Orleans Saints, so to consider complimenting his play with a person who is the YIKES-to-his-yang when it matters most just feels downright dirty.
I was on board with adding another proven pass-catcher (preferably one without a severe psychological complex and/or brain damage) at the deadline, but the Saints' offensive performance of late hasn't just supported staying put at the position, it has been damn near defiant of needing reinforcements. To only now take steps toward addressing it as a need when the need no longer appears present is as flat-out baffling as a potential postseason plug-in of thy preeminent self-destructive distraction is highly concerning.
For the sake of my unconditional faith in Sean Payton, I honestly hope this workout wasn't orchestrated in anything even remotely resembling good faith. Not because Antonio Brown, when/if actually allowed on an NFL field, isn't physically capable of making an already great offense entirely unstoppable. But rather, because the one thing a team whose previous two seasons have ended in odds-defying and soul-shattering defeat doesn't need on their side is the worst kind of juju, and - to AB's dismay - I'm not talking about Smith-Schuster.
Right now, the Saints are only in dire of health, focus, and trust if they want to get where they are more than talented enough, as currently constructed, to go. I'm not sure any athlete has ever done a more demonstrative job of proving they represent none of those things than Antonio Brown, who is one flipped switch away from being back on the bat-shit crazy bullshit that got him quickly cut from an organization that was even able to control the impulses of a literal serial killer for more than ten days. You can't even tell me the last time Antonio Brown went 48 hours without being a problematic pain in the ass. What could possibly be learned during a workout that would make anyone, never mind one of the best coaches in the NFL, believe he could go a whole goddamn postseason without...well...being himself?
If you had asked me on Sunday what my thoughts were on Janoris Jenkins, I would have told you he’s more jackass than ‘Jack Rabbit’. Therefore, it would be disingenuous for me to let the black-n-gold lenses I have to view his addition through color him anything other than an asshole...
Personally, I think the r-word is about as much of a “slur” as it is a form of “slang”, in that you need to really stretch the definition of either word for it to fit either agenda. Regardless, a flat refusal to apologize for using what is now universally understood to be offensive language on social media - during practice, no less - is arguably as r-worded as anonymously talking senseless shit to professional athletes on the internet...
Janoris Jenkins lucked out in getting scooped up by a Super Bowl contender, but - with him having been already been involved in enough idiotic incidents for one word to get him cut from a team that lacks defensive talent - I think we can safely say that was due to more dumb luck than evil genius...
He might be one whose numbers are as forgiving as the complete shit-show of a secondary that had him looking like Deion Sanders relative to his positional peers, but a capable corner nonetheless. I don’t know that he’s one you'd feel great about starting in a playoff game after no more than a few weeks in your system, but you could do a lot worse as your in-case-of-emergency cover corner. Lord knows the Saints certainly have over the years, which explains why they put in the claim to protect themselves against Eli Apple potentially losing his back-and-forth battle with his own confidence when the lights are at their brightest. Again, I don't particularly like Janoris Jenkins the person, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel better about having Janoris Jenkins the player on my team as PJ Williams limped off the field late against the Colts.
Who knows? Maybe New York is purgatory for pissy pass defenders and New Orleans, in a way that is fittingly saintly, provides a nurturing environment that allows for their attitude and athleticism to flourish. No matter how frustrating you may find Eli Apple’s play of late, you can’t deny his almost immediate transformation from petulant problem child to competent complimentary corner after being trading from the Giants to the Saints last season. Culture clearly mattered in that (alleged head) case, so at least there is reason for Sean Payton & Co. to believe enough in their room to add a certain team's malcontent to it.
I think all Saints’ fans are in agreement that Terrell Suggs and his postseason experience would have been a preferable Christmas gift to a dinged up d-line. Still, Janoris Jenkins qualifies as another talented toy for a defense that has a history of going through them faster than a teething puppy...even if he is does come with a warning label and require a high level of maintenance to keep him together.
In Yet Another Record(s)-Setting Performance, Drew Brees Re-Introduced Himself as One of the Greats of Past and Present
To be honest, I’m fresh out of new ways to acknowledge, applaud, and admire Drew Brees’ continued greatness. When he “finally” threw the 540th touchdown pass of his career - after the officials made it clear that not even the most flawless game in NFL history will go by without them raining on the Saints’ parade, this time with a bullshit call that put history on hold until the second half - it honestly felt like the 540th time we’ve celebrated a living (and growing) legend. After reading off the following laundry list, it appears that isn’t anywhere near as hyperbolic as you’d think…
At this point, I feel stupid for not having a boilerplate statement prepared with blanks being left open for the specifics of mathematically inconceivable milestones and the increasingly defied age at which they were met. I guess what I am trying to say is that I am almost exhausted beyond words by the excellence of a quarterback who broke the record for career touchdown passes and the record for completion percentage in a game with a performance that felt pretty damn familiar. The truth is, if two contested catches had hit the ground over the course of Monday’s master class then it realistically would have had the eerily similar look of a lesson that you couldn’t pick out of lineup of those he has taught dumbfounded defenses over the last decade plus. For that reason, I was left looking like Teddy Bridgewater in the wake of a performance that was both awe-inspiring and somehow relatively run-of-the-most-finely-tuned-mill...
As for what his resurgence means for this season’s Saints team? Well, it can ditch the disguise, because it couldn’t possibly be more clear that Drew Brees’ thumb injury was just a flat-out blessing. Credit to Sean Payton's savvy, Teddy Bridgewater’s temperament, and the defense’s dominance for keeping everything in cruise control, because that early undefeated streak is at least partially responsible for Clark Kent hitting the phone booth when his duty is most urgently calling. The Saints’ ultimate equalizer is peaking, and what's largely been a pretty average offense looks primed and postseason-ready as a result. The freshness of a player who has looked 40-years-young is the closet thing to a failsafe or a fix-all, and that’s a hell of a thing for a team dealing with a bunch of injuries on the opposite side of the ball to suddenly fall back on. It helps that Drew Brees has a tool at his disposal, in Michael Thomas, that is unprecedentedly infallible in execution, but the important thing is that the arm utilizing him isn't dinged up or diminished like it appeared to be late last season.
I am interested to see what's in store this Sunday in Tennessee. The safest bet for a blowout is the Saints playing in the Dome in primetime when their All-World quarterback has his heart set and his eyes focused on putting another record in the rearview, and having the Super Bowl team in attendance for their 10-year anniversary might as well have guaranteed it a Monday Night massacre. It almost wasn’t even fair to expect the Colts, and a QB that looked much like…well…someone who was shocked to find out that he was taking the reigns of a presumed contender from a revered star who retired ten or so days before the season, to put up such an uphill fight.
For that reason, I want to see if a depleted pass rush can show better than it did against a solid offensive line that’s been entirely intact all season. The secondary won’t be granted the collective mile of margin for error like they were offered by Jacoby Brissett’s off-target throws, so whether or not they are able to give Ryan Tannehill fear-induced flashbacks to the days in which Adam Gase whispered sour nothings into his ear will speak volumes about their playoff readiness. Home-field advantage is but a pipe dream so seeing the offense keep their foot on the gas and/or an opponent's throat outdoors would also be a soothing sight for sore eyes.
That said, they couldn’t have put together a more comforting bounce-back game than they did against the Colts. The return of a remotely reliable AJ Klein allowed Demario Davis to put his full range of disruptiveness on full display and the secondary, which will be leaned on more heavily with the defensive line down three firsts worth of talent, was solid when it had to be. Most importantly, the unstoppable force we’ve seen routinely shatter records from under center kept gaining the type of momentum that even the most immovable of objects would worry about meeting head-on when it matters most.
Domination. A mercilessly clinical shredding unlike almost any we could ever dream of actually seeing. What Drew Brees did in manipulating the secondary he vividly envisioned in his own head, like each defensive back had its own string on the dummy defense he was puppeteering, was the exact type of stuff his legend will come to be made of. Sunday’s slaying of shadows probably won't occupy too much time on his career highlight package, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as important, if not more so, to the explanation of his excellence.
Above is your proof that only a thin line exists between insane and amazing, with the former often ushering in the latter. Saints’ fans weren’t just quick to take the under on the timetable of Brees’ thumb injury out of blind optimism. There was very much reason to believe he’d magically maneuver out of the constraints of modern medical practices. That reason was because he’s a psychotic competitor, which means he can often be mistaken as merely a psycho whenever he’s not literally competing against anyone other than his own insatiable self...
To be fair, I’m being biased. I would be fast to make fun of almost any other quarterback who stayed well after practice to play with himself for an hour. That bias, however, is born of watching a “6 foot tall", athletically limited passer pulverize professional football, in a way almost no other quarterback has, by way of deadly accuracy and such an acute awareness and understanding of defenses that he often times doesn’t even have to see them to actively avoid them (or coax them into avoiding him). I don't know that it's always true that you play like you practice, but it's a saying that would certainly explain why Drew Brees regularly looks like he's effortlessly acting (and reacting) out a premonition on game days.
I understand the desire to crack jokes at the expense of someone dapping up invisible men after executing an audible on an entirely open field, because "mental reps” are nearly indecipherable from manic episodes. However, with a 40-year-old being only one week removed from the type of prime performance that was him two touchdowns short of the record NFL record and a couple hours away from starring in a time slot where he’s proven beyond torturous, I think I might suppress that urge...
Those who are well into retirement after winning a Super Bowl alongside Drew Brees a goddamn decade ago are enamored with his certifiably insane preparation for a reason, and it’s because the results call for more reverence towards the otherwise irrational than an unconditional belief in organized religion.
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.