First and foremost, I am a Saints fan. My primary concern on Sundays is whether or not the Saints can come out victorious. However, I'll be damned if a close second isn't seeing if the Falcons can continue to do everything possible to avoid success. That's why this week's win over a mediocre Atlanta team was that much sweeter. Lest we forget that the last time these two teams met was in Week 6. The Atlanta Falcons were traveling to the SuperDome with a surprising 5-0 record, and the New Orleans Saints were coming off a excruciatingly demoralizing defeat that left them 1-4. What happened next completely turned the tide of the Falcons season. The Saints reached down their throat, pulled the soul out of their body, and buried it deep in the heart of the bayou. I'm serious. The Falcons proceeded to lose six of their next seven completely erasing themselves from the playoff picture, and it can all be traced to that fateful night in New Orleans. I am glad that the Saints were able to use this meaningless Week 17 matchup not only to finish off the season sweep, but to remind Matt Ryan and his merry band of underachievers exactly where that downfall started.
Stop me if you've heard this before, Matt Ryan threw a backbreaking interception with the game on the line. Quick question. Are we still considering Matty Lite an elite quarterback? I don't care how many game winning drives he has against terrible teams in his career, it seems like every time I turn around he is pissing away another game. I know a majority of my viewing experiences are when he plays the Saints, and that's where he seems to do his most dastardly work, but something tells me that's just a microcosm of who he is as a quarterback. A guy that has all tools, but lacks the ability to win when it matters. If it's any consolation to Falcons fans, I have taken to referring to him as 'the best worst quarterback in NFL history' and I find that description poetically accurate. It's okay Matt, you'll always have a starting job in this league. Mostly because you are good enough to put yourself in a position to win, just not clutch enough to finish off the task.
I know today's win was a moral victory. I know it gave the Saints a worse draft position. I got to to tell, I just don't care. After the trials and tribulations of this season, a hard fought win over a hated rival feels good. There's something to be said for finishing off the year on a high note, and the Saints did just that by winning three of their last four. As much as none of the fanbase wanted to admit it at the beginning of the year, this season was meant to be a rebuilding year. There were wins that made you feel like it was more than that, and there were certainly losses that made you feel like it was a process that was for naught. At the end of the day, as bad as they looked at times, there are some positives heading into next year. Delvin Breaux came out of nowhere and solidified himself as a legitimate shutdown corner. Stephone Anthony took his lumps, but also made a ton of plays, and is without question the best linebacker prospect the Saints have had in a long time. Hau'oli Kikaha flashed the ability to rush the passer and showed that he has a motor that just doesn't stop. Kenny Vaccaro, despite playing on a terrible defense, regained the form that had so many excited about him after his rookie year. Cameron Jordan did what so many before him failed to do, and that's live up to the terms of his contract. This defense may have been putrid, but with Danell Elerbe and Keenan Lewis returning, there is nowhere to go but up.
The Saints offense, which seemed to take a two week nap against the Redskins and Texans, played their best football to close out the season. They proved that Sean Payton and Drew Brees still have the irreplicable chemistry necessary to lead a formidable offense, even while lacking a myriad of high octane weapons. I think the final 4, or even 5 games, of the season did a lot to ease the worries of the Who Dat Nation. The Saints were competitive and showed that maybe, just maybe, talent is the only thing that is missing from this team. I find it hard to believe, after watching today's performance, that this was the end of an era. Sean Payton and Drew Brees keep talking about a plan, and I think, as ugly as it looked at times, that plan wasn't to contend for a championship this year, but to start to put the pieces in place to contend for a championship in the upcoming years. If Drew Brees performances with an injured plant foot are any indication then the talks of him being washed up are greatly exaggerated. He still has the will to win, and the gumption to put it in to action. So despite the reports (from unreliable sources) of a tumultuous relationship between the franchise and Sean Payton, I fully expect to see one of the best coach/quarterback duos in NFL history back next year. It may be the eternal optimist in me, but I expect that that partnership still has some success up it's sleeve.
It'll be weird without some of these guys around next year. Everyone of them, including Drew, faces the prospect of playing elsewhere next year. If that happens to be the case, and it will be for some of them, then there is no better way to go out then with a win over the Falcons. Pray for Freddie....