I don't think I'm breaking any news to anyone that even halfheartedly watched a game that was as defensive a struggle as an elevator full of office workers trying to pawn off passed gas, but last night's win isn't exactly headed straight to the top of Sean Payton's 'Hall Of Fame' resume.
For the third straight week, the Saints' offense was largely catatonic in a way that made the first down pick-ups that weren't flagged, which were few and far between, feel like the type of gasping breaths one might take after being shaken awake from a nightmare. The complimentary pass catchers were, once again, about as non-existent as the commitment to the rushing attack (notably Mark Ingram, who was running aggressively early), and Drew Brees looked every bit his age as a mere mortal as a result. The injuries to the offensive line piling up certainly didn't help, but I'm not sure it's fair to say they slowed them down as they were basically running in mud to begin with.
Drew Brees launching a ball that would eventually be returned for two points into double coverage was a miserable, momentum-turning mistake...
...but it was one that showed how desperate he was to make a long overdue play.
Sean Payton putting the ball in the hands of Tommy Lee Lewis, who has every Saints' fan on the verge of a stroke every time he so much as catches a punt, with the game not only on the line but also well in hand worked out about as well as one would expect...
More so than that, however, it proved that a eternally cocky coach took to out-coaching himself when nothing else seemed to be working offensively. Granted, that's not an excuse, as that play call was an inexcusable risk to take considering the circumstances, but it's more than likely a risk that wouldn't have been taken if not for Sean Payton's passion for points feeling suppressed all night.
Heading back home, hopefully until playing in the most notorious of neutral ground game, should provide a much needed spark, but not since his draft year has a fanbase been so optimistic and appreciative of Ted Ginn Jr.'s spot in a starting lineup. The availability of both him, and - to a larger extent - Terron Amstead appears paramount to getting a unit that's struggling to consistently protect it's quarterback and/or create windows for him to throw back on the fastest of track.
And yet somehow, as the offense that's had its foot on the gas pedal for well over a decade has stalled, what was once a complete clunker of a defense has transformed into a tank in rolling over opposing offenses. Like, it's not even just the stars that are shining. Much in the same way that Tre'Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood were having big games when the 40-burgers were a weekly staple on the menu, former scapegoats like Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, and PJ Williams showed out in proving that the chemistry and confidence on the backend has become contagious. It all starts up front as the pass rush has been preposterously disruptive, but the quickness to the ball has been evident in almost every single player at one important point or another. Cam Newton's shoulder definitely hampered him, but the Saints' defense had 'Superman' looking like Clark Kent in the pocket while CMC was doing about half his running in place. Absolutely nothing has come easy against them as of late, as they've been relentlessly multi-faceted in a way that compares favorably to...well...the offense during the first half of the season.
Left is right. Right is wrong. Wrong is the all-out assault that a group that once upon a time gave up 48 points to Ryan Fitzpatrick has administered to every team that has crossed their path for the past month and a half. The Saints' defense has every right and reason to feel as though they are impenetrable, because - against every odd in the making of any book - they are currently carrying the best team in football on their back...
Contrary to popular belief, neither defense nor offense wins championships. Complimentary football, on the other hand, very much does. Therefore, the Saints will have to find some semblance of it in the coming weeks.
Fortunately, there's nowhere they are more likely to find it than inside the friendly confines of a SuperDome that, in all likelihood, they won't have to leave until February. The electricity in their own building has long been a steroid in injecting energy into both sides of the ball, so there's no reason not to believe that the Dome won't be patrolled a little more strictly pending the return of a defense that truly came into it's own on the road. As long as a little home cooking gets the young receivers feeling some Southern comfort, this team could easily earn themselves multiple weeks of much needed rest against Pittsburgh this upcoming Sunday.
That really shouldn't be possible considering the offensive struggles of late, but the Bizarro World Saints are playing a level of bully ball that allows for any type of win during a time of year in which they are at an absolute premium. Screw the style points, because the Super Bowl is now one win away from going through the city in which they typically come with the territory. Cam Newton can sip on that dose of reality, assuming he's still letting the wine that Cam Jordan sent him age until the day he finally outplays him.
Can't believe letting that act of mockery marinate on his mind for damn near an entire year didn't work out for him...