A Date With Destinee
13 Posted on September 16th, 2013 by Himself
Everyone can point to games that are best forgotten. Nothing to learn from it; just deny that was ever you, hope everyone buys it, and move on. Thing is, those games are usually defeats.
Meet Destinee. “She” likes to haunt the Quarter, trolling for the unwary. A few beers too many and you could get a weird kind of lucky, playing the home version of The Crying Game.
They say a tie is like kissing your sister. If that’s true, then going 2-0 with a road win against a division rival is like getting laid on the first date. And winning the way the Saints did yesterday was like a date with Destinee. The good news is, you got laid. The bad news is, everything about it.
Please don’t misunderstand: I hate being disappointed in the Saints, and I don’t like to rag on them just because they fell a bit below my stringent standards. (After all, if I were in charge things would be even worse.) But every once in awhile (Cleveland, 2010; St. Louis, 2011; 2012) something happens that blisters the retinas and you just have to scream: “It’s a dude! It’s a dude! DON’T TOUCH IT!” And this is one of those times. We love you all, but…please Saints, don’t do this again. Just friggin lose if you have to, but do it with grace.
But hey…a win is a win, right? Especially a division win! On the road! That’s how some feel about it, including Jeff Duncan. Jeff took his daily dunc all over Nola.com this morning: “The Saints won ugly, as the saying goes. But few victories in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era have been more satisfying.” Well Jeff…no, not even I am going to go there. You and Destinee have fun, okay? Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
But see, Jeff is most definitely not a fan, and so he doesn’t get it that this was not the kind of win you want to introduce to your friends. And no: a win isn’t all that matters. Fans (Jeff just wouldn’t understand this) want to feel good about their team, and that means more than just the integer in the win column. An ugly win is ugly, and it’s possible for a win to be just wrong. Just wrong. Yesterday left me feeling dirty and questioning myself.
So even though it’s painful, an incident like this requires some level of self-analysis. Yet where to begin? Everything was Bizarro World about this one, beginning with the first drive and score, which I didn’t get to see because the fucking Panthers game went long, but at least I got to see them lose on a last-minute drive by the Bills so it was good anyway. Then the hour-long rain delay as the Almost Perfect Storm Except For The Last Minute moved in. And then the appearance of Bizarro Sean and Bizarro Drew and
Bizarro typical Mark. The “commitment” to the running game that netted 75 yards. The lack of a screen presence in the face of a fierce pass rush. The gritty, grinding long drives that ended in…nothing. But we did win time of possession by more than five minutes, so there’s that. Thank God one of those minutes was still available at the end, or we would have been toast.
Anyway, let’s go through this bit by bit.
Seriously: was that Sean Payton on the sidelines? Or was he kidnapped during the rain delay and replaced with a lookalike? Some of the playcalling was seriously dubious, and we came within a hair of losing because of a boneheaded decision that would have done Andy Reid proud: taking points off the board at the end of the half in order to try one last time something that hadn’t worked—hadn’t come close to working—the past two downs. And, of course, it didn’t work again. I’m talking about trying to cram the ball across the goal line against a stout, physical, and pumped-up defense, and doing so with slow-developing plays that bounce to the outside.
As soon as Drew threw the ball away on first down, I began to get a bad feeling. “We’re not going to score, and he’s going to go for it, and it won’t work.” When Mark Ingram lost yards on the next play, I felt sure of it. Being able to push the ball a yard across the goal line has been a problem for us ever since we lost Deuce, and it’s still not fixed. But one thing you can do about it is acknowledge the problem and try something else. Like, kick the field goal and take the effing points.
Seriously: was that Drew on the field? I could have sworn it was a smaller, whiter Josh Freeman. Drew had a passer rating for the day of 67.5; without Jimmy Graham, who was the lone beast in black and gold, it would have been 23.2. Maybe Sean and Drew got hit by lightning and switched bodies, and that was Drew making the decisions and Payton throwing the passes. And sure enough, Payton’s passer rating at Chicago was 27.3—close enough. Okay, we’ve got that straightened out. Now: how to get them hit by lightning again before the Arizona game? This could be a wacky comedy by some first-rank director like Dennis Dugan, and I’m giving this idea away absolutely free to anyone who can also think of a way to straighten out Payton and Drew by next Sunday.
The Dead Zone
I think this game officially ended the Mark Ingram era. This is what “commitment to the run” gets you when Ingram is in the game: 8 rushes for 20 yards. That’s a 2.5 ypc, which improves Mark’s 2013 average all the way up to 1.8. Seriously: 17 attempts for 31 yards in two games. This is the “breakout season” everyone was hoping for.
Meanwhile, all the league’s most undervalued running back, Pierre Thomas, was doing was 5 carries for 29 yards—a 5.8 average, and not a bullshit average either, since without his longest run it drops down only to 4.5. Pierre, whose career average is 4.8, now boasts a 5.1 over the course of two games. That’s on only 14 attempts, which means he’s getting the ball less than Ingram. I think the time has come for somebody to slap Payton upside the head and say, “Drew! Ingram’s not working! Move on!
This is not the 2012 defense. Yes, we gave up a shitload of yards on the ground, but that came against a pretty good running back and a stout offensive line. The secondary, for the most part, held up well.
And so far this year, the defense has only given up 24 points. That’s good enough to put us THIRD in the NFL. Adding Drew’s pick-6 to the total—which wasn’t on the defense—shoves us down all the way to…sixth.
And going by total yards, the Saints are now a top 10 defense…just as I predicted we’d soon be (at least in the early going). So even on a day when the offense looked like something out of Cleveland, the defense did their part. In the lead-up to this season, NOBODY predicted that the defense would be bailing us out of games. If the offense ever does get its act together (and you probably understand how much it stings to phrase it that way), this will be one very dangerous team.
We just need to do something about the girlfriend problem.
And now, if you will indulge me, I will tell you the true story of the Saints’ victory.
First, I have to confess to doing something almost unforgivable: I paid to watch a Saints game. I did so knowing full well that, since they moved to the Superdome, they have never won a game that I paid to see. Never. As in, not once. Well, yeah, I pay for cable, but that’s not what I mean: TV’s free. Not really, but really. I’m talking about anything from buying a stadium ticket, to draining your wallet in order to claim a table at a sports bar for three hours. That’s what we did yesterday.
The one, lone, solitary exception to this trend was Miami 2009, when we left before halftime, the pain being too great. Of course, you know what happened, and of course I claimed my share of the credit. Last night, though, I wasn’t willing to concede that it was my fault, even when Herself started asking if we should leave at the start of the fourth quarter. No, I wanted to watch. I wanted to see the Saints end yet another promising long drive without a score. Though this one did end with a score…only it was the one that put Tampa ahead seemingly for good.
Finally, with Tampa driving for the clinching field goal, Herself had had enough. She turned away from the monitor, and watched the reflection of the television in the window. She was watching the game in reverse! Brilliant! Within minutes, Ryan Lindell had missed his kick and the Saints had the ball back with 1:06 to play and no timeouts. They needed a miracle—or, they needed to look like something that we hadn’t seen yet that day: the New Orleans Saints.
Boom. (Shotgun) D.Brees pass short middle to J.Graham to TB 48 for 15 yards (D.Goldson)
Boom. (Shotgun) D.Brees pass short left to D.Sproles to TB 40 for 8 yards (J.Banks).
Boom. (Shotgun) D.Brees pass deep middle to M.Colston to TB 9 for 31 yards (L.Johnson).
First down on the 9. Five seconds left. Garrett Harley kicks the game winner, and Herself whirls around with her finger stabbing at my chest.
“You tell them why this happened! You tell them!
So I’m telling you. Maybe you thought it was your St. Expedite medal, but now you know differently.