That headline is much more than just a figure of speech. I don't have a cardiologist because sometimes I fear what he/she would hypothetically have to say, but if I did have someone tracking my heart rate their only prescription would be less Saints football. I think we can all agree that the thing that make yesterday's game such a breathe of fresh air was the ability to take a breathe of fresh air. Shit, I rhythmically inhaled and exhaled more during the 4th quarter against the 49ers than I did collectively throughout the previous seven 4th quarters. Win or lose, watching this team has been a bigger week-to-week test of one's health than Tequila Tuesday's so it was nice to sit and enjoy my beer instead of just sporadically using it to cure my anxiety.
The game itself? Well, that was just a friendly enough reminder of what this is. A group that has the offensive firepower to beat anyone, and enough bouts of defensive ineptitude to make someone who's a better social activist than they are a quarterback look like Joe Montana in his prime. While yesterday's win served as a much needed confidence builder it also served as a reason for fans to keep their optimism in check. It can't be overstated how important that is considering the Saints recent track record of completely imploding after scratching and clawing their way back to 4-4. It should be noted that the 49ers put up Bill Walsh-esque offensive numbers, but their current head coach is far from the transcendent mastermind he thinks he is. Forcing some turnovers was nice and all, but that doesn't erase the fact that Colin fucking Kaepernick damn near threw for 400 yards with ease. It seems like a strange thing to say after an 18 point victory, but if this team wants to be anything more than average then giving up 20 points in a half to a glorified college offense isn't going to cut it.
- A relatively unknown linebacking core is starting to take the ball away with regularity. Not sure too many people thought Nate Stu(d)par was going to be the one to help solidify the second level, but it would be tough to argue that he's not doing just that.
- Delvin Breaux was back on the field and even after recovering from a broken leg was able to scare the opposing quarterback away from throwing to his side of the field more than once. It can be easily forgotten, but other than Cam Jordan he is without question the best defensive player on the roster and his return can potentially do wonders for a defense that occasionally looks like it's coming around.
- Mark Ingram seemed to take his benching just about as personally as you would hope and turned it into a 150+ yard performance in which he averaged over TEN yards a carry. I certainly wouldn't say that his recent fumbling issue - that almost cost his team two different games - was a good thing, but if it lit a fire under his ass than it could prove beneficial long term to have two trustworthy backs.
- Michael Thomas? What else is there to say? Last week he proved there is no situation that is too big for him by going toe-to-toe with Seattle's defensive backs. This week he proved that he doesn't even need to be moderately open to come down with the ball. He's clearly earned Drew Brees trust, and therefore he's earned the opportunity to keep proving even more in the immediate future. With the Denver defense on deck, his veteran savvy in a rookie's body is a blessing to behold.
There's plenty of reasons to get excited but I hope doing so isn't for naught, because I could have guaranteed the Saints would somehow end up back at .500 eventually. It's what happens immediately after that has seemingly become an annual disappointment.