De'Vante Harris Couldn't Help But Pose With His Former Teammates After Ending Up On The Wrong Side Of Their Swagger
Culture. Often times, it's just an intangible that not-so-coincidentally correlates with your state in the standings. Look no further than yesterday's game for an example. The Saints are part of the NFL's elite and the Buccaneers operate better as a quarterback carousel than they do as a functional NFL franchise. Case in point, how both teams are viewed off-the-field couldn't run more parallel to what they've put forth on the field. Simply put, the impact culture can have on a team of professional athletes is debatable at best and overstated at worst, as - more often than not - talent trumps all in explaining the outcome in sports. The amount of talent in New Orleans is, without a doubt, the independent variable to their winning formula, while the undeniable fun they've had in creating a collective personality over the last two seasons is the dependent variable. Perhaps that's fitting, however, as there is nothing "independent" about a group whose love for one another is palpable.
De'Vante Harris is a young, likable corner who defied the odds of undrafted free agency to claim a spot on a Saints' roster when their secondary was the primary concern. Unfortunately, he's also someone who struggled mightily to retain that spot as the vast majority of his best plays occurred during practice to the point in which it became a running joke as he eventually forced the team's hand in cutting ties. The truth is, the only reason it's not fair to say that he got run out of town is because every Saints fan within driving distance would have offered him a lift if it meant they never had to see him blow another coverage in black & gold. Given that he was as victimized by vitriol as much as he was by opposing quarterbacks, he had plenty of reason to come into yesterday's game with vengeance on his mind.
Yet, when said game ended he couldn't help but put aside the fact that he's now on the wrong side of a rivalry and be buddy-buddy with the former teammates he views as family. That, as much as the post-turnover posing and the Stomp The Yard-style celebrations that accompany every Saints' win on social media, speaks to the cohesive culture of a locker room that - from the outside looking in - leaves you so desperately wanting to be sucked in by a level of synergy that even has their competition actively jacking their swagger...
This team isn't just special on Sunday's, and no one knows that better than a player who considers himself fortunate to have been a small part of it, as opposed to feeling scorned by the fact that he no longer is.
The Saints Are Sitting Atop The Conference As NFC South Champs, And That's All You Need To Know About A Semi-Forgettable Sunday
To call the start to yesterday's game uninspiring from the Saints' perspective would be all too kind. The ease with which Jameis Winston navigated down field on the open drive while looking comfortable both in and out of the pocket despite crappy conditions reeked of the same type of familiarity that always seems to serve as the ultimate equalizer in divisional games. It didn't get much better from there, as the offense that got humbled in Dallas looked like it it did nothing more than travel to Tampa Bay by horse and carriage during their ten days off. The run game was less than legless, as it averaged negative yards per carry in the first half. For the second time in as many weeks, Drew Brees was far from blameless, as inexplicable turnovers basically slide-tackled the Saints' defense as they were just finding their footing. All in all, the 14-3 deficit they carried into the locker room felt entirely deserved, as the fumble they opened the second half with didn't leave much reason to believe that halftime was all that helpful.
Insert Taysom Hill.
Ironically that could make for a very fitting name to a chapter in the book if the Saints end up making this season worthy of it's own literature, but his blocked punt served as the foreword to an entirely different story...
Referring to it as a wakeup call wouldn't even do it justice, because it's almost as if it snapped the offense out of a six quarter trance. The Buccaneers suffering from hemophilia is just about the only thing that can explain how helpless they were when it came to stopping the bleeding as the Saints' swiss army knife seemed to seal their fate with just one timely stab.
All the sudden, the unit that was damn near allergic to punting for a month straight reappeared back on the field with a renewed commitment to force-feeding a resurgent rushing attack while the quarterback who was once a lock for MVP finally found his keys. A defense that has proved dominant in becoming a catalyst for the offense as opposed to a byproduct of it kept up their streak of terrorizing quarterbacks, and before you knew it there were 25 unanswered points were tacked on to scoreboard that so instantly became lopsided that you'd swear it got struck by lightning. Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas, Cam Jordan, and Sheldon Rankins - just to name a few - stood out as incredibly complimentary football (and the positive field position that comes with it) cured the proverbial coughing fit that ailed the Saints for 2.5 quarters about as quickly as a touch from the Lord and Savior himself.
The start provided just about every ounce of cause for concern, but as a wise man who probably coached a bipolar team once said, "it's not about how you start, but how you finish". The Saints finished the game looking like every bit the part as the NFC South Champions, and they finished the day sitting in the driver's seat for home-field advantage. If the foot truly is back on a gas pedal that temporarily looked to be jammed then there's no reason why the Super Bowl shouldn't have to go through New Orleans. We'll see if that's how the season plays itself out in the coming weeks, but in about a half hour's time a couple underwhelming weeks were put far, far behind them. The Saints found their mid-season swagger on the leg of Bryan Anger, and immediately reminded everyone how goddamn good it looks on them...
ESPN- The Saints have unfortunately gotten used to wet and windy weather at Tampa Bay over the years. Back in 2013, they had a lightning delay that lasted more than an hour in the first half. When asked about he possibility of rain on Sunday, Sean Payton said...
"It doesn't look like it's gonna rain — it's gonna rain. It's 95 percent chance of rain. There'll be some wind, 10-12 miles an hour. We know the direction it'll head from — their locker room toward the pirate ship. I think the footing is going to be important relative to the shoes that we're wearing. Today we're outside (for practice), wet ball drills, the whole nine yards. So it's just understanding ball security, understanding the conditions. We've been there before when we were sent in at halftime to go eat oranges for a half an hour, then stretch and come back out and play. You know, it's South Florida."
And there you have it, perhaps the most accurate forecast in the history of the inexact science that guessing the weather, and I don't even say so sarcastically.
"It doesn't look like it's gonna rain...it's gonna rain".
I promise you this isn't meant as an ode to Sean Payton's preparedness like those clips of Sean McVay showing off his memory to a room of reporters that don't even realize he's acting like the kid that keeps everyone after class. Instead, what reads like a highly-detailed parody of the most unreliable of occupations is actually spoken like someone, or really anyone, that has spent more than six hours in Florida and thus knows the predictable unpredictability of it's precipitation like the back of their hand.
The only way the Saints and Bucs are sneaking in that game without storm-like conditions is if they somehow fit the entirety of it into the 30 minute window immediately following the very last drop of an early afternoon shower. Be forewarned if you see that sun start to shine as it might as well be the fire to the type of alarm that can drown the whole damn stadium in 10 seconds flat. The lightning rod of NFL Head Coaches doesn't need a green screen to guarantee you that. Matter of fact, having one to point to might actually make him less believable.
Personally, I'm not of the belief that someone who clearly lost the locker room, primarily by losing the ear of his All-World starting quarterback, deserved to finish what was already a lost season. I understand that Mike McCarthy has a Super Bowl ring, but I just fail to see some huge disparity in disrespect between getting canned late in the year and getting after the year. From a professional standpoint, they both seem pretty non-optimal to me, so why not just get the inevitable out the way when a failure to do so has your team defying historical odds by way of clear dysfunction?
This, however, has nothing to do with my opinion and everything to do with Sean Payton's, which is understandably influenced by the fact that he sees a lot of himself in Mike McCarthy. Even if you set aside the fact that both interviewed for the Packers' job during the offseason in which they were hired by their respective teams, as of last week they were two of the NFL's longest tenured coaches whose leashes were unquestionably made longer by both working alongside the elite quarterback they won a championship with.
That's not even an indictment of their leadership as much as it's a fact. Without 2009, Sean Payton wouldn't be putting on a coaching clinic in New Orleans in 2018. Hell, without 2009, he almost certainly wouldn't have survived being shunned to professional purgatory in 2012, and he definitely wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to triumphantly tunnel his way out of a three year stretch of 7-9 last season. That championship bought patience and trust with a long-suffering organization. Perhaps more importantly, it strengthened an existing bond with a quarterback who wouldn't so much as mutter a discouraging word as he went on to be stuck in the Groundhog Day-esque scenario of helplessly throwing a defenseless team to mediocrity over, and over, and over again.
The truth is, It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, because Drew Brees and Sean Payton share a brain, a chip on the shoulder, the difficult decision to come to New Orleans, and the life-changing experience of aiding in an entire region's recovery. That's why Mike McCarthy's dismissal isn't as unfortunate as the circumstances surrounding Sean Payton's continued employment are fortunate. The latter's otherworldly offensive mind plays largely into the equation as well, but the main reason Mike McCarthy couldn't keep riding his peak through to the end of this valley is because Aaron Rodgers had grown goddamn tired of sitting shotgun with him. Honestly, if not for a rare and special kind of kinship, we'd probably be saying the same thing about Sean Payton, because there were a nauseating amount of times in which Drew Brees deserved far, far better as he had to fend for himself as a complete and competitive team was being rebuilt around him.
From the front office, to the sideline, to under center, the Saints' organization has been spoiled by the unwavering belief they've had in each other for well over a decade now. That belief is finally starting to pay dividends again, but it's not one that exists amongst all that many teams in professional sports. Though one could see why Sean Payton, in particular, might expect it to be.
10-2 ain't bad. I mean, you can't really complain about a 5:1 success ratio in just about anything other pulling out, so - while I admit that Michael Thomas comes off as salty in this week's spreading of spite on social media - it's a small price to pay for the amount of sodium he's rubbed in the wounds he's opened in opposing secondaries. To the victor goes the spoils, so - considering the Saints' record - the Cowboys were nothing if not opportunistic in mocking the previously unguardable for a performance in a primetime game that was as underwhelming (due in part to the double-team of questionable officiating, for both teams) as that of the rest of his offense...
That said, even when it comes across as sour grapes, the truth still burns bitterly. Therefore, regardless of being in the right place at the right time when Drew Brees tried to toss one into the turf, Jourdan Lewis isn't exactly setting any snap-count records this season.
The court of public opinion is one in which statistical evidence comes secondary to the scoreboard, so Michael Thomas is going to have to hold an 'L' off the field just as he did on the field. However, at least he can take some solace in how heavily weighted that scoreboard has been in his favor thus far. He's emptying the entire economy size can of Morton's this season, and only twice has he had to use it to season his pride. He definitely won't settle for those odds, but Saints' fans are more than happy to.
After Passing Him In All-Time Sacks, Cam Jordan Paid A Celebratory Tribute To The Late, Great Will Smith
As I tried to wick the moisture from my eyes with a series of blinks, I came to the conclusion that I needed this. By "this", I do not mean a solid cry after watching the bizarro world Saints get served on national television, but rather a tug on the heart strings in the form of a sentimental reminder of exactly what this team is, which is a cohesive group that's got as much love for each other as they do the organization itself.
Much like Michael Thomas can be viewed as the new, improved, and more petulant version of the man whose celebration he quite literally dialed up in a victory over the Rams, Cam Jordan is - in a lot of ways - the 2.0 upgrade (or, perhaps more fittingly, the 'level up' adaptation) of the late, great Will Smith. Therefore, for both of them to pay their respects to the past, albeit in a mind, manner, and with a motivation that couldn't possibly be more different, says something special about this Saints' culture.
The truth is, there is a lot of Will Smith to be seen in the play of Cameron Jordan. The commitment to taking on a leadership role as someone who pays just as much attention to the grind of playing defensive end as the glory of it is almost uncanny. Tragically, the only ways in which to still see #91 are in either a highlight video or a moment of mourning. So, for lack of a better phrasing, it's pretty damn cool that the All-Pro face of a resurgent defense has both an appreciation and an athletic resemblance to someone who represents the highest high and the lowest low in franchise history. On a night in which the eyes of the Who Dat Nation grew shockingly sore, seeing that patented flex get pecked in the opposing backfield certainly was a sight for them.
Credit to Cam Jordan for...well...being exactly who Cam Jordan has been, both on and off the field, since he arrived in New Orleans, and Rest In Peace to the Super Bowl champion who kissed that massive bicep many a time in mapping out a blueprint for how to best do so.
Humble apologies are owed. Last night's complete anomaly of an entirely disjointed performance from the New Orleans Saints didn't just force the tipping of a whole hell of a lot of caps to a defense that put one of the best offenses of all time in a 60 minute submission hold. It also made me wonder how I can convince DeMarcus Lawrence to give me some lottery numbers after I spent the last few days openly questioning his sanity. It's due solely to his shockingly prophetic words that we can't say "well, no one could have predicted that", because he laid out the plot so perfectly that you'd swear they had already seen the movie.
And ya know what, maybe at some point in time he had. It certainly felt like a call-back to the kind of game that, what seems like many moons ago, used to drive Saints' fans up the wall when an offense that's grown to bully opponents with balance inexplicably went three-and-out with three straight passes on their first drive. When a coach who has gotten better about going off only his gut had used both challenges before everyone had even gotten to their seats to watch a game that eventually called for more red flags than a Reuben Foster scouting report, things started to feel a bit too fucking familiar.
The most accurate quarterback in league history (and the ultimate creature of habit) was noticeably off the mark before the Cowboys' had even gotten the opportunity to pin their ears back, so I think what the Dallas' defense truly exposed - other than the absence of Terron Armstead - was the difficulty of playing three football games in eleven days while trying to maintain the momentum of a double-digit win streak. That's not to take anything away from a unit that walked every single step of their talk in strangling the life out of the Saints' offense. However, an offensive line that's been nothing short of dominant in taking on premier pass-rushers looked lethargic on a night in which the most dynamic of weapons were dropping the ball like it was hot. Mix in the seemingly forced decision to go for it on 4th down when points were at a premium and an untimely timeout that allowed the Cowboys to pass (interference) their way to a sure win, and even Sean Payton looked out of sorts in a situation he typically revels in. There's ten straight games, against all different kinds of competition, worth of evidence to prove that the Saints are every bit as good offensively as the numbers say, so you'd have to imprisoned by the moment to consider last night anything other than an aberration.
If there was a positive for the Saints to take away from a game that, even by Thursday Night Football standards, was an ugly disgrace to the sport, then it was the amount of opportunities their defense gave them to win after a rotten start for Eli Apple. Aside from some poor tackling on the occasional QB scramble, they completely shut things down in a second half and made all the game changing plays that the offense couldn't seem to find. To the victor goes the spoils, so the Cowboys will get most of the praise for subduing the previously unstoppable, but the Saints' front seven very much proved themselves in getting after Dak with consistency and holding Zeke in check.
If I absolutely had to pick out a game from last season that compared most favorably to this one, I'd say it was the loss to the Falcons in which they left points on the field as the defense kept them in it with turnovers, Kamara got knocked out early, and Brees tossed a game-ending interception that had no business leaving his hand. I only bring that up because I don't think it's all that much of a coincidence that both those atrociously officiated, poorly coached, and hard-to-watch games were played on the road during a night of the week that's most prone to producing weird outcomes.
To say that I think the Saints needed this reality check would be a retrospective copout, but with ten days to prepare for a team they owe a thing or two, I don't think that being force-fed some humble pie was the worst thing that could happen to them. It sucks that they are no longer in the driver's seat for home field advantage, but heading into the playoffs the winners of 15 straight was always a pipe-dream. They were probably going to need the Rams to trip up again along the way regardless, so let's hope they got their complete stinker out of the way in a situation where the entirely unexpected probably should have been a bit more expected. They unequivocally got their asses choked out last night, so a strong dose of mortality should serve as motivation moving forward.
Analytically Speaking, The Saints' Offense Is Unprecedentedly Efficient In Doing What They Damn Please
Typically, the intricacies of analytics aren't something I concern myself with. I totally understand their usefulness, but I studied more than enough graphs throughout my education to feel inclined to keep a separation between school and sports. That said, what we have above is only as much of a percentage-driven chart as it is the closest possible thing to a connect-the-dots style drawing of the lead lion looking authoritatively down over the rest of his kingdom. Of a multigenerational era in which offenses has been increasingly unstoppable, statistically speaking, that of the 2018 New Orleans Saints stands alone atop the mountainside like Mufasa.
You don't exactly need to be a mathematician to add up the outliers of those axises, and what they equal is a unit that's unparalleled in both holding onto the ball and doing with it what they will. The strongest of flames aren't supposed to produce the slowest of burns, and yet a sinister Sean Payton, a puppeteer of a passer in Drew Brees, an indomitable offensive line, and a top-heavy list of weapons that's increasing in length each and every week are somehow incinerating their opponents in way that's record-breakingly slow but sure. 'Bully ball' is probably an overused cliche, but there might not be a better way to describe the style of a group that, by my math, is more liable to both beat you up and beat you down than literally any of their contemporaries. They aren't just keeping the ball from their competition. They are doing so in a way that compares favorably to placing your outstretched arm on the forehead of a child while he or she hopelessly tries to hit you in the torso.
To be honest, as awestruck as I have been watching this Saints' offense, the visual above aided in that shock. I mean, how could one not be surprised that they are operating with a level of effectiveness and efficiency that has two teams that combined for over 100+ points a week and a half ago squinting up at them as they shine markedly brighter than what many considered the brightest? The answer is that they can't, because as someone who has watched this machine operate so damn smoothly for over a decade now, I can barely comprehend that the peak of their production could have still been so far above and beyond. 2009? 2011? You name it. They are all in that cluster somewhere, which means that they comparatively fall back to the pack when put up against the black & gold boatracing we've seen orchestrated this season. Increasingly forgiving rules have helped, but so have peerless seasons from just about every aspect of an offense that...::checks calculator::...will bludgeon you to death, one stone's throw at a time.
In An Attempt To Inspire His Team, DeMarcus Lawrence Said Something Very, Very Dumb Ahead Of A Game Against An Impassioned Opponent That Never, Ever Forgets
Objectively speaking, a rant fit for a 'When Keepin' It Real Goes Wrong' sketch was a very, very dumb thing to spew to the media. I say that not as a Saints' fan, but as a person who has watched them take just about every perceived slight personally at the encouragement of a Head Coach that loves nothing more than finding vindication in victory. Credit to someone who shares a locker room with Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott for having nothing short of a delusional amount of confidence in a super secret plan to out-muscle one of the most impenetrable offensive lines in the NFL while outwitting both Sean Payton and Drew Brees, I guess. However, when you talk brazenly about how you're going to beat up a bully, it's typically best that you don't let them hear you.
It's not too tough to tell tone through transcript when said transcript explicitly and descriptively threatens violence, so the tone of DeMarcus Lawrence's words lead me to believe he thinks he's preparing for the type of offense that spent so many years finessing its way to 50 burgers. The truth of matter is that this iteration of the Saints is just as likely (if not more) to run through you or over you as they are around you, so revving them up prior to a primetime matchup required the type of foresight most commonly seen from a deer standing helplessly in headlights.
Any given "Sunday", be damned. About the best chance an average Cowboys' team had of beating a strikingly superior Saints' team that's playing as good of football as Sean Payton has ever coached was to hope to catch them sleeping off all the cheese they've been told not to eat prior to their second Thursday night game in as many weeks. That wasn't anywhere near likely to come to fruition a couple hours ago, as they've seemingly been immune to their own press clippings in gaining momentum like a boulder rolling down a mountain with each passing week, but it's a whole hell of a lot less likely now that they have some...shall we say...inspiration to internalize. My understanding of religious studies is a bit rudimentary, but I have a tough time believing that David pompously puffed out his chest before taking down Goliath, and Goliath has got nothing on the Saints' stoutness in the trenches.
Don't let all the laughing, dancing, and candy consumption you've seen on the sidelines fool you, because the fun merely follows the feeding frenzy. The Saints have proven themselves a team full of insatiable dogs when the game is at all in doubt, and DeMarcus Lawrence just kicked awake the most irritable rottwieler in the pack...
Therefore, all complaints of "running up the score" can be directed the way of DeMarcus Lawrence when Jason Garrett is left clapping himself insane like this monkey toy on national television while Drew Brees does a little more maintenance on his MVP odds...
...or when Dak Prescott finds himself awestruck by a dominant run defense, a prominent pass-rush, and an amount of yards and touchdowns he has never before seen grace the scoreboard at Jerry's World. The only points getting shaved are coming at the expense of that stupid, self-important star come Thursday, because a spite-driven Saints' team has just been given all the more reason to make sure they keep their unmatched arsenal of weapons sharp in order to best expose wounds that are now fresh for a salting.
One overeager Cowboy not only invited the Problem Child version of Sean Payton to the party but unofficially offered himself up as the muse during a season that's become a goddamn Picasso of pettiness. As my Dad always used to say, you're responsible for your own guests, and the one below undoubtedly just laughed maniacally at the idea of respecting the house of an opposing player that thought it smart to punch up at his antagonistic 10-1 team during game week. DeMarcus Lawrence desperately tried to speak into existence some sort of half-assed humbling of a team that won't stop at beating you if you give them even the slightest of justification to embarrass you. Can't wait to see how it works out for him!
After Doubling Up On His Career Interception Total On Sunday Alone, Saints' Safety Chris Banjo Was "Randomly" Selected To Take A Drug Test
I wouldn't exactly consider this surprising. As a league that takes pride in it's ability to kill a buzz, the NFL was bound to try to figuratively take the piss out of a career-best performance by literally taking the piss out of the player who put it forth. Never mind that Chris Banjo's second interception came compliments of a quarterback who might as well have attached his hand towel to the ball prior since it very much served as the throwing of a white flag, because there is nothing the NFL cares more about than maintaining what little integrity they do have through suspiciously "random" drug tests.
Anyways, if anything, this is really just a huge compliment to the New Orleans Saints and a special teams' ace that made the most of his garbage time opportunity to get in on the fun of emasculating the Eagles. Up against last year's midseason favorite for MVP and the eventual Super Bowl champions, and even the reserves were flexing their muscles in way that made the league question whether or not they were artificially enhanced. The NFL might as well have given Chris Banjo and the rest of the 'Boonk gang' boys a breathalyzer while they were at it, because you could just as easily use the same thought process to determine that a once vulnerable defense couldn't possibly play so loose, confident, and carefree without some liquid courage.
As He's Been Known To Do, Brandon Marshall Waxed Poetic About His New Team, This Time Praising The Mechanical Inner Workings Of The Saints
Considering the source, this compliment needs to be taken with far more than a grain of salt, as Brandon Marshall is known for abusing the additive that is exaggeration. We're talking about a guy who needed to see no more than approximately one practice to speak glowingly about the promise of both Jay Cutler and Geno Smith, so to trust his initial analysis is to not understand its history.
History be damned, however, because the Saints - a team that bested last year's 8-game win streak with this year's 9-game win streak - have lent credence to the type compliment that has undeniably been seen coming to fruition on Sundays. From the top down, New Orleans is currently a machine, and it's one whose productivity, regardless of cog replacement, seems to be compounding with each passing week. There's a reason it seems as though they've been drippin' with the juice lately, and it's because Sean Payton and Drew Brees demand the grind that is the mid-week squeeze out of team that knows how talented they are while knowing how little that could mean if they don't keep putting the work in. They might look and sound cocky from time to time, but their Sunday swag is in full force because of their preparation, as opposed to in spite of it.
Brandon Marshall has played in a grand total of zero postseason games while making his rounds in all the wrong places at all the wrong times. Therefore, his bullish bias aside, it stands to reason that he hasn't seen anything like the relationship that exists between Sean Payton and Drew Brees and/or the effort that goes into making the most of their excellence. As both veteran wide receivers who have gotten no more than a glimpse into the game-planning have attested, this Saints' team in special in play, personality, and professionalism.
Malcolm Jenkins: "I'm a competitor. I love Sean to death. I know what type of guy and coach he is. That was more so personal between me and him. We talked after the game. It's all good. I know Sean. They're going to go for it. I was more so upset that it was on me. I got a lot of respect for what they're doing, especially Sean." (h/t NBCSports)
And there you have it, Sean Payton's weekly personal stamp of his own personality on yet another Saints' victory. This time in came in the form of an explicit gesture between old friends turned professional foes, but there's really not all that much of a difference between that and his allegedly back-and-forth with Marcus Peters, or his destructive extinguishment of an annoying fire alarm. All are examples of what makes him the rare coaching equivalent of the agitative asshole that's loathsome to everyone he plays against and lovable to everyone he plays with.
As a member of the Super Bowl Saints of 2009, Malcolm Jenkins has a ring that's the direct result of the bullish ways of the man that chose to send a "running back" streaking against the lone starter left in the Eagles secondary on 4th and 7 during the late stages of a game that was already well in hand. Yet, even in knowing what might be coming, he still couldn't suppress the frustration that typically follows a Sean Payton-sent message...
To be honest, I blame neither person, for - as explained by both parties - Jenkins is just as much of a competitor as the guy that decided to have a premium Porsche of a player blow right past him while refusing to take his foot off the gas that far from the finish line. For that reason, had the shoe been on the other foot, as opposed to the one that was firmly implanted in the ass of the Eagles, I'm inclined to believe that Sean Payton would have needed the goddamn power of meditative prayer to keep tucked his middle finger while sharing a snarky stare with Malcolm Jenkins.
There's a reason that between them exists the type of healthy respect that allows for the occasional flipping of a bird, and it's because they have a lot in common. As far as I'm concerned, that was a "real recognize real" type situation. The recognition itself wasn't exactly family friendly, but neither is the ruthlessness required to ignore, if not compromise, any and all off-the-field relationships on-the-field.
To break down the postgame pleasantries, Malcolm Jenkins was also absolutely right in acknowledging that Sean Payton is always going to go for it there. Sean Payton was also absolutely right in acknowledging that he screwed the priciest of pooch in letting Malcolm Jenkins walk only to pay hand over fist for the massive free agent flop that was Jairus Byrd (though that last part was conveniently left unsaid). So really, facetiously speaking, the only thing that was dead wrong was how dirty the former did the latter given circumstances that probably called for a good old-fashioned "fuck you" that was unquestionably enjoyed by the instigator it was directed at.
Let me start by saying this. The "coulda, woulda, shoulda" mentality is literally one of losers. Last season was last season, and credit to the Eagles for making sure it was a (Philly) special one. This season is a much different season, and given the fact that's it's one in which the reigning champs appear to be banged up and dealing with a crippling hangover, not even the inhumanity of a "sound the alarm, pull the covers off, and open up the shades to blinding light" style wakeup call can be used as evidence to some sort of revisionist history. Whether Alvin Kamara likes it or not, The 2017 Philadelphia Eagles will forever be Super Bowl champions.
The 2018 Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, are going to need a new bulletin board, because the current one must look like a car that got abandoned beachside during the summer after getting covered with every ounce of the shit that the Saints beat out of the Birds. Again, I'm personally not a fan of the "what if..." game, but never mind what Alvin Kamara said, because yesterday's actions of handing the team that currently holds the Lombardi an 'L' of historic proportions spoke even louder than the most hubristic of hindsight.
Honestly, to say the Saints beat the shit out of the Eagles is almost an understatement, as I'm not sure the way one's competitive spirit gets exorcised from their body is through the same manner as their supper. From touchdowns to turnovers and everything in between, the most complete of clinic was held at the expense of a team that, from kickoff, looked as physically and mentally overwhelmed as the teams they faced last season.
On offense, it appeared as though Sean Payton and Drew Brees took offense to every person who drew the obvious conclusion that the Saints needed more wide receiver depth while the Saints were bringing in more wide receiver depth. It was probably just the result of going up against a secondary that was as battered and beaten as the ego of the team it belonged to, but the only reason we're not talking about the notable contributions of Keith Kirkwood and Austin Carr is because, at some during the second quarter, Tre'Quan Smith scheduled an impromptu coming out party.
During a game where the Saints merely stopped themselves from hitting 60, two of the top ten playmakers in the league, in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, were merely complimentary to what was a complete emasculation. Mark Ingram was fantastic, of course, but the real story is one we've heard time and time again this season. This time it was told with debatably the best left tackle in the entire NFL seated on the sidelines, but Drew Brees looked completely unbothered in his brilliance. Whether it was fitting the ball through a nearly non-existent window to Mike Thomas on the sideline, or creating the type of trust/confidence dynamic that had young players like Dan Arnold and Tre'Quan Smith laying out for highlight reel catches, Drew Brees was...well...familiar in his flawlessness.
They are undoubtedly benefiting from backing the most intimidating of offense, but - not as slowly as surely - the Saints defense is regaining the form they took last year. Much in the same way the absence of Terron Amstead was indistinguishable, the pass rush has been just as much of a problem for opposing quarterbacks without the services of the freakish player they traded two first round picks to select. Carson Wentz was under center looking like Markelle Fultz at the free throw stripe in how hesitant he was made by a defensive line that's trending towards dominant. Add to that the fact that Marshon Lattimore is becoming more and more lockdown, Eli Apple is becoming more and more comfortable, and P.J. Williams is becoming less and less of a liability, and it seems as the Saints' defense has made a full recovery from soreness after getting spanked by FitzMagic's wand.
All in all, I don't think it's even a lukewarm take to say that this is the most talented, the most complete, and the most cohesive team Sean Payton has coached in New Orleans. Even in "next man up" type situations, they've steadily improved and it's certainly showed itself on the scoreboard in a way that would make the causal fan double-check out of disbelief. If you believe either their words or their actions, this team doesn't even understand the concept of a letdown game. That might have something to do with growing accustomed to letting their hair down during the entirety of the 4th quarter as of late, but this Saints team is kicking ass regardless of names and they are having the most amount of fun in doing so. Their play hasn't just called for all the 'Who Dat' chants, but it's made it a viable question. Who exactly is it that can beat these Saints? When they are playing as well as they did yesterday, the rest of the league might not like the answer.
Sean Payton Lost A Bet To Doug Pederson This Past Spring, And Now The Saints Are "Stuck" Wearing The Freshest Whites In The Entire League On Sunday
NOLA- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton lost a bet to Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson in March, and as a result, the Saints will wear their color rush jerseys in Sunday’s game against the Eagles.
That’s not exactly a tough loss for Payton seeing as the Saints' all-white jerseys are among the best looks of any team in the NFL.
Payton and Pederson made the bet on jersey color when they played golf in March at the NFL’s annual league meetings. The unique bet was about which team would wear its home jersey for the matchup between the two teams.
The result of the wager came to light in July when the two coaches participated in a July conference call to discuss their pending participation in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nev. When the coaches played in the July tournament, they made another bet aimed at donating money to charity.
And there you have it. The current status of the Saints' season in a nutshell. Sean Payton clunks and shanks away an opportunity to have final say in his team's gameday attire against the reigning Super Bowl champs...annnnd they end up suited in what are, objectively speaking, some of the sharpest threads the NFL has ever seen.
If you didn't already think the Saints were rollin' 7's during this 8-game streak then the fact that the worst bet made by their Head Coach, whose gambles have been paying off in a major way, ultimately resulted in him giving what's sure to be a raucous home crowd some eye candy as a little incentive to get even louder should prove the hotness of their heater.
As far as I am concerned, The Eagles can wear all the green they want. Not just because it'll match their mood come Monday morning, but because a win is already in the bag against the team that last raised the Lombardi if there is any truth whatsoever to the phrase "look good, feel good, play good". One of the most competitive coaches in all of sports lost a wager, and it might just lead to his team doing the Birds dirty in the cleanest of whites. Talk about everything he touches turning to (black &...) gold.
Terron Armstead Is Reportedly Out For About A Month With A Pec Injury, But It Could Definitely Be Worse
I'm not going to lie, this sucks. How could losing a stud left tackle, albeit temporarily, that played 100% of this season's snaps prior to leaving Sunday's game prematurely with a what's being called a pectoral injury not suck? The offensive line has easily served as the unsung hero of the Saints' 8-game winning streak, and no one has been more important to it's silent success than the player who has played the role of the impenetrable security gate on Drew Brees' blindside as he's remained insanely comfortable in passing his way into MVP consideration. You need not look further than the following video to realize that Terron Armstead is the most important of otherwise unseen gears in the well-oiled machine that is the Saints' unstoppable offense.
That being said, I can't help but feel like this news sucks more for a player who was starting to feel better about his health after multiple seasons during which his availability was a week-to-week, if not day-to-day, concern than it does for a team that has taken some hits and continued to roll. If Jermon Bushrod keeps up what he started in relief on Sunday then paying a little extra attention, as opposed to having the benefit of paying absolutely no attention, to the left side of the line should do almost enough in making up for the absence of someone who has undeniably been playing at an All-Pro level.
Whether it be Patrick Robinson or Marcus Davenport, the Saints have done a great job of scheming their way around injuries. This one, of course, hurts more because of the particular person it happened to as much as it does the prominent player it happened to. However, having already stonewalled some of the league's more dominant defensive lines into their rearview, I see no reason not to believe that the Saints will keep riding relatively high until the return of the most rock-solid of reinforcements. Everyone in that locker room would feel better having Terron Armstead in the lineup, but if 3-4 weeks of recovery play even a minor part in making sure he's in tip-top shape 8-9 weeks from now then it could play a major part in what's looking like a lengthy postseason run.
P.S. Never change, Sean...
I don't like it. Some might expect that to be followed by "....I love it", as I tend to default to putting my full support behind each and every move made under the advisement of Sean Payton, but - in this case - I'm genuinely despondent to the idea of Brandon Marshall in black & gold.
I have no doubts that I'll get over it the first time Drew Brees takes advantage of his undeniable size, strength, and catch radius with an unstoppable back shoulder throw, but - until that inevitably comes to fruition - I'm going to remain skeptical about bringing in a man who has managed to journey around half the league without appearing in a single postseason game. Obviously, having a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time while playing a position that doesn't typically alter the playoff picture isn't entirely his fault, but how often he's been deemed an attention-hungry distraction along the way sure as hell is.
As I've stated ad nauseam since this search for a volatile veteran receiver began, I think the Saints' collective culture is strong enough to absorb almost any one personality. That said, I've always gotten the vibe that Dez Bryant's petulance was a result of a genuine - though occasionally misplaced - desire to win games, whereas Brandon Marshall's was the result of a somewhat disingenuous desire to win camera time. I can't imagine that perceived selfishness will show itself throughout the remainder of what immediately became the most promising season of his career, as he knows better than anyone that this is more than likely his last opportunity in a league of which his lack of a postseason resume is a running joke, but I'd be a fool to be surprised if it does.
Sarcastically speaking, while I liked the idea throwing up the X, I'm not particularly fond of the Saints getting in bed with everybody's ex. It should be pretty easy for Brandon Marshall to prove me wrong with an MVP-caliber QB throwing him the ball, but he's given plenty of reasons to question his ability to quietly carve out a complimentary role for himself in an offense that doesn't particularly need him. There's no risk, as he can easily get canned with the quickness, but the true reward would be him casually catching a couple balls a game while keeping his mouth relatively shut.
Sean Payton, In A Way That Only He Would, Absolutely Obliterated A Pesky Fire Alarm In The Visitors' Locker Room Yesterday
I got to be honest. For the first in months, I find myself disappointed by a Sean Payton-related story. A shattered fire alarm preceding an arsonist-esque incineration of the Cincinnati Bengals had all the makings of a mind game/motivational tactic that went just a little too far. Imagine the littering of the locker room with mouse traps to remind his players "don't eat the cheese", but on the type of steroids that might have someone destroying private property in an uncontrollable rage...
That's what I immediately presumed to have happened when I heard that a safety system had been pulverized by an emotionally aggressive head coach that loves nothing more than going to extravagant lengths to inspire his team. I swear, it didn't even cross my mind that the smoke detector might have interrupted him first, because I had already connected the dots of deductive reasoning to conclude there was a reverse psychology to him intentionally smashing an alarm to light a fire under the ass of a locker room that might have felt a little too comfortable after beating the Rams.
That line of thinking might sound very stupid to an outsider now that we know it's not the case, but - prior to this past week - you could've said the same about a head coach in the NFL getting far enough under the skin of an opposing cornerback that he'd respond with the threat of a contentiously shared local delicacy. To think that even someone as unpredictable as Sean Payton would beat the hell out of a fire alarm to prove a point might seem unrealistically reckless, but so did him partaking in a mid-season interview during which he threw rocks at the shield of the league that actively tried to get him kicked to the curb. We're talking about a competitive, competitive S.O.B. that spent the bye week internet trolling a frienemy. The choke sign to Devonta Freeman didn't exactly work in his favor, and the SKOL clap gone horribly, horribly wrong backfired in brutal fashion, but Sean Payton has spent the last year and change painting his magnus opus of not giving one single flying fuck.
So yeah, he may not have destroyed a fire alarm in the process of using it as a prop to galvanize his team. However, the Bengals calling the cops on Sean Payton exclusively is evidence that it's not entirely out of the question that he might do such a thing during a season in which his petty and combative personality might actually be reaching its peak.
X Marks The Stomp: The Saints Didn't Even Consider Punting While Marching Into Cincinnati And Marching All Over The Bengals
Put the narrative to sleep. Not for the night, week, month, or year. I mean put it to sleep, sleep. Like, pull the damn plug. The truth is that it's been on its death bed since the Saints ruthlessly ran a then promising Bills' team (my, how things change) into their own turf to the tune of six rushing touchdowns last season, but yesterday proved that whatever life was left in the idea that New Orleans struggles outdoors during games in which the home fans are in need of outerwear is no longer worth living.
As if building their own 50 burger with extra cheesing and all the sauce wasn't impressive enough, the Saints felt not one single need to punt on an afternoon in which they spent the entire 4th quarter putting the ball into the belly of the type of running back that makes you refer back to your game program (shoutout, Dwayne Washington). Long story short, the Bengals couldn't even stop them when they were actively pumping the brakes to stop themselves.
The bulldozer of momentum that the Saints are typically seen riding in the SuperDome rolled over Cincinnati in every facet of football and Marcus Williams' late second quarter interception-turned-backbreaking Michael Thomas touchdown might as well have served as the height of its powers. As evidenced by the multiple sideline shots of Sean Payton and his stable of thoroughbred running backs (like the one below) laughing and dapping alongside the wreckage, the second half was absolutely nothing more than a formality after the way in which a thorough dismantling of a first half ended.
After the Saints spent basically the entire last week in the news cycle, it feels weird that it's taken until the third paragraph to mention the focal point of those somewhat schizophrenic headlines. However, I think yesterday's demolition of a prospective playoff team really speaks to how quickly the name 'Dez Bryant' made people lose sight of the fact that the Saints were in the midst of a seven game streak that had just been punctuated by a 45 point effort and a double-digit win over the last of the NFL's undefeateds. That's not to say the abrupt subtraction of a high profile addition didn't also have the Who Dat Nation aboard the type of 24 hour emotional rollercoaster that's usually reserved for meth addicts, but the Saints never needed Dez Bryant. And honestly, that makes it all the more awesome that they did feel as though they needed to pay him tribute time, and time, and time again as if - in how long it takes me to remember a stranger's first name - they had already figured him part of the family.
I know there's a very co-dependent/'part and parcel' relationship that exists between a winning culture and winning football team. However, the fact that one day spent inside the doors of the Saints' locker room is all that was needed to turn a potentially problematic personality who may very well never take a single snap in black & gold into a valued member of the organization speaks deafening volumes. As favored teams floundered due to mid-season malaise, the team that actually was due for a letdown game drew motivation from the absence of a player they've embraced as their own despite him providing them nothing more than a little mid-week excitement.
Whether the off-the-field cohesion that had them celebrating with more X's than the groom in the most doomed of marriages is as important as the on-the-field cohesion they displayed in making the Bengals look like a Pop Warner team is a rhetorical question. The fact is, you don't respond to the most disheartening of season-opening defeats with an 8-game win streak without those things working in tandem.
If you're looking for the 'TL; DR' version then here it is, in both play and personality, this Saints' team is special and they are proving it on a weekly basis. The reigning Super Bowl champs are up next on the schedule, so I wouldn't suspect a lack of inspiration ahead from what might just be the most dangerous and close-knit of rosters led by someone who's playing like he's 39 going on 25.
Dez Bryant Was Helped Off The Field With What's Feared To Be A Torn Achilles, So That Was Fun While It Lasted
As much as this could potentially suck from the perspective of Saints' players and fans that were really juicing themselves to witness the world premiere of Flexes and X's: The Unstoppable Story, this is much, much worse news for a proud and highly competitive player that was finally getting a long overdue opportunity to prove he's still got it. Love him or loathe him (since there are very few that fall in between), Dez Bryant really looked to have played his cards right in returning to the field in a situation that could best help him pen a tale of redemption which would include a special vindictive aside in primetime at Jerry's World. Unfortunately, injuries are and will always be those random, unpredictable Jokers in the deck.
Now, it's fair to wonder whether or not he's already lived out the last and least chapter of his career. It bears mentioning that the fear of a torn achilles is much easier to recover from than an actual torn achilles, so it's still 'wait and see' for the time being. Still, getting helped off the field during his first practice of a season for which he was still conditioning is just an awful sign. Hope for the best and expect the worst, as they say, but man...what terrible, terrible luck if the fears of both the Saints and, more importantly, Dez Bryant do come to fruition.
Of course, if one were to look past what very well might end up being one of the shortest and most overhyped tenures in the history of professional sports, the Saints would still have to be pretty damn happy with where they currently sit. They'd still want another complimentary pass catcher, as Dez Bryant would make the fifth player of his position group to end up on IR. However, the beauty of making moves when you're 7-1, at the top of both your division and conference, and are fresh off having hung 45 on the head of the last undefeated team in the league is that you don't necessarily need them to work out.
I think Dez Bryant, as a player and personality, had the potential to be an excellent addition to an electric offense, but it's not like the Saints had seen enough of him to mourn his subtraction. I'm sure the mood of the room is somber, as they seemed to have rallied around the arrival of a guy that, reputation aside, seemed relatively well-respected by most of his peers, but that room still has more than enough reasons to have Super Bowl aspirations. If/when they are reached, 'X' will more than likely mark the spot of quite the unfortunate and unforgettable footnote.
Marcus Peters Is Big Mad At Sean Payton, Because Being Upset With Himself Is Apparently Out Of The Question
Here is the thing. After twelve plus years, Saints' fans have become too familiar with Sean Payton's personality to think that Marcus Peters is completely unjust in his overreaction to a statement of the obvious. It's very possible, if not insanely likely, that the pettiest of pro football coaches was unable to hold his tongue and poured a little fuel on a fire after orchestrating the all-out torching of a cornerback who, as evidenced by his response, is plenty talkative in his own right. I don't know what was or wasn't said down on the field, but if Marcus Peters and Sean Payton did exchange some words then there's not a single doubt in my mind that the latter earned every last ounce of the "bowl of gumbo" that the former is apparently arranging they share.
That being said, if you consider talking truth to be the same thing as talking trash then the truth is probably that you're trash. Again, Sean Payton probably did add a little Southern spiciness from the sidelines. However, everyone with a functioning set of eyeballs and either a financial or emotional investment in the New Orleans Saints liked the matchup of Marcus Peters on Michael Thomas. In fact, to even call it a matchup is disingenuous, because the guy that whined and cried his way out of Kansas City was entirely over-matched in trying to stop someone who's season-to-date supports his social media presence in proving him unstoppable.
I'm not going to say that I saw a dagger of a 72-yard touchdown followed by the surprise appearance of a sentimental cellphone coming prior to the snap, but I would have bet my whole damn wallet on the ball being thrown to Michael Thomas as Marcus Peters was desperately waving his arms around as if being left on an island had him feeling like he fell out of the boat. That's just a fact.
The Saints asked the same question 11 different times prior to that point in the game, and the Rams "best" answer would have gotten them kicked out the damn classroom. Of course Sean Payton felt comfortable making it a clean dozen when the game, more or less, hung in the balance. That's not "shit talking", that's truth telling. Therefore, though he appears timely in calling for the check (picture above), maybe Marcus Peters should get in the film room and stew over his own failures instead of worrying about splitting one with an opposing head coach who's as good at scheming his way behind a defense as he is at chirping his way under its skin.