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.