There truly are no words that can encapsulate what it felt like to watch the rug get ripped out from underneath a team that was one Marcus Williams arm tackle away from standing tall as the proud owners of one of the most improbable comebacks in playoff history. Hell, if there were, The Times Picayune provided some pretty accurate insight into what they might be...
That play (or lack thereof, depending on who you were rooting for). The one that - for better or worse - will forever be burned into the brain of every person even mildly invested in it's outcome. The one that - whether it makes you sick or aides in your health and happiness - will seem impossible to get away from. The one which is sure to soon have an obnoxious name that will immediately become common knowledge to both the richer and the poorer whenever they discuss the unpredictable nature of professional football. It will eternally be married to the memory of a game that was so much more than one mistake.
There's no shortage of directions you could run in trying to explain why the New Orleans Saints lost yesterday's game to the Minnesota Vikings. The most obvious being a scoreless first half that had a game script that essentially read like a "How To..." guide for losing playoff games on the road. Unfortunately, even taking the high road by pointing out the dozens upon dozens of other plays that went unmade eventually circles you back to the soul crushing instant in which a rookie mistake provided the sadistic irony in cruelly twisting the knife into a team whose trajectory was turned downside up by potentially the most impactful draft class of all time.
All 'the good'. Drew Brees picking himself up off the turf and penning one more chapter to his 'Hall Of Fame' career with a surgical dismantling of the most dominant defense in football. Michael Thomas giving Xavier Rhodes a twirl during his coming out party as a matchup proof pass catcher. Alvin Kamara continued rise to super stardom. Marcus Williams timing his flight to hawk a ball that officially made the game competitive. Taysom Hill proving his worth in a way you'd never expect a third string quarterback to do by forcing a punt into the outstretched hand of his teammate. A converted 4th-and-10 that had it's spot in the highlight reel stolen by the the oh-so-rare walk-off touchdown. The Saints finally scrubbing themselves of the 'finesse' label that for years followed them by resiliently battling back from a three score hole in the most hostile of environments.
All 'the bad'. An early offense that was only capable of sustaining their own punter's abdominal pain. The familiar sight of enough yellow laundry to keep George curious flying in the direction of what appeared to be DeVante Harris wearing a Ken Crawley jersey. A red zone turnover that was literally and figuratively a backhanded slap towards the quarterback who was just starting to find some rhythm. Touchdown Teddy Ginn getting a wee too antsy presnap and doing a counterproductive disservice to his sur-nick-name. An untimely sack that took them out of kicking range during a point in the game in which finding themselves a field goal would have felt like stumbling upon water in the desert. Willie Snead completely misfiring on his attempt to make Sean Payton look like a genius, and - in turn - making him out to be a damned fool. Consecutive challenges that were only successful in challenging my sanity.
It will all be forever forgotten due to the fatal nature of 'the ugly', which was quite obviously Marcus Williams actively dodging his sole responsibility in turning a game sealing tackle into a game sealing touchdown. Despite the deep, dark comedic value of the meme-worthy still shot, I know that the intent of the Saints' first year safety was good. If we are being technical about it, he was actually too successful in avoiding the pass interference and keeping Stefon Diggs in bounds so the clock would run out. Therefore, I truly feel bad for a kid who almost assuredly couldn't possibly feel worse.
Fortunately, if his play this season was an indication, he has the talent to avoid letting one abject disaster define his young career. Unfortunately, for the time being, it doesn't just define his career, but the entirety of the 60 minute effort between two teams that were in all likelihood the best remaining in the NFC. Nightmares in New Orleans will no longer be fueled by Alex Smith and Vernon Davis, but rather a visual that is somehow more haunting - Case Keenum, Stefon Diggs, and the yet-to-be-named, win-squandering whiff.
My brain says otherwise, but everyone whose heart went numb as the clock struck zero knows the following to be true. Until this team delivers on the unlimited promise that it displayed throughout a special season, that one mishap will permanently mark their place in Saints' history. It's not logical or fair, but - as that one preposterous play proved - sports rarely ever are.
Sidenote: Special shoutout to the best fans in the league...