Avoid Breaking Your Fans’ Hearts
by Kenneth Cooper
Whew! Glad that that’s over. Show me a fan who has ever said, “Boy, I can’t wait until the bye week” and I’ll show you a unicorn, or a budget hearing where the City Council announces that taxes or millages won’t be raised. Bye weeks offer little opportunity for excitement, football-wise. You basically sit around being a passive observer of games. That was especially true this week with LSU also being off. There was early voting for that governor’s race that’s going on. You’ve probably heard about it. You may have even voted early. Hopefully you made the right decision. According to the latest poll, half of the voters are on the verge of doing something moronic. But what are we talking about? The Saints, right?
You’ve already know it. Yes, the Saints are 7-1, fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Yes, Drew Brees is back, and Sean Payton may have the early lead among Coach of The Year candidates. Things couldn’t be going better on Airline. But no team should get too full of itself, especially one that has led us on like this before, only to let us down. To avoid that, maybe someone on the team should read this article and circulate it around the locker room. So here we go. Things the Saints might want to avoid:
- The offense peaking too soon. If the 16-game season was sex and the Saints were a man, then…never mind. This is a family friendly forum. Bottom line though, the offense has fizzled during the 2nd half of the past 2 seasons. The early season powerhouse running team imposing its will on defenses has developed a habit of fading down the stretch. Come playoff time, the only thing the offense is imposing is its struggles on the defense, forcing the defense to try to carry the team through slugfests. In the past 2 seasons, 3 of the 4 playoff games the Saints have played have come down to the last play of the game. The one exception was the Eagles game which ended on an interception with less than 2 minutes left. The offense has also scored over 30 points once in those 4 games. Maybe one good thing about all these early injuries (Brees, Cook, Kamara) is that it’ll prevent the offense from peaking too soon. We’ll see.
- Having to start Teddy Bridgewater in a playoff game. Teddy Bridgewater seems like a really nice person. His teammates love him. The coaches love him. Fans at the game chant his name, even when he’s not playing. But Teddy Bridgewater has not played great football. Before his breakout game against the Bucs, Bridgewater was rated the 4th worst quarterback in the league. Not so ironically, he followed that breakout game with an awful performance against the Jags, a performance he was on the cusp of topping the following week against the Bears before their defense fell apart. In the 5 games we were forced to suffer through, the best thing that could be said about Bridgewater is that he rarely turned the ball over. Maybe because he was too indecisive to do anything with it? Or maybe because he’s just that good at protecting the ball? Bottom line though, we don’t want to see Drew Brees get hurt again. Despite the Teddy love, it’d be a scary proposition having him on the field in a win or go home game.
- Relying on the defense to close out a playoff game. It just hasn’t worked out. They had two shots and both times they left us in utter heartbreak. In Minnesota, Stephon Diggs, 61 yard catch as two Saints run into each other and time expired. At home, fans blowing the roof off the Dome, what happens, the Rams march straight down the field, tie the game up, and send it into overtime. Twice already this season, the Saints have jumped out to big leads (Seahawks and Bears) and have eased up and allowed both of those games to appear closer than they were. That’s not a good sign. Hopefully, closing out games becomes a priority.
There are other things they also might want to avoid, like going to San Francisco for a playoff game. Road games against physical defenses usually doesn’t turn out too well for the Saints. Neither does playing in the cold. But Green Bay has lost some heartbreakers in playoffs at home, even with Aaron Rodgers on the field. Okay, but enough sticking the thumb in the punch bowl. The Saints are in good shape. They’re close to full health, and the schedule, on paper, appears easier on the back half. They just have to go out and win games. Expect them to do so. Expect them to keep this city rocking and on edge through January and maybe beyond. Come playoff time, if the Saints are able secure homefield advantage. we might even suffer through another bye. Then gladly I might add.