The New Orleans Saints aren’t where we hoped they’d be, that is preparing along Airline Drive for next week’s divisional game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome instead of heading up to the icy City of Brotherly Shove.
And it’s natural for the Who Dat Nation to feel disappointed by how things played out after having started the season 5-0 with the potential to lock up the NFC South before Thanksgiving. The team’s December collapse was inexcusable, and for that we should blame the coaching staff and the players, from the kicker who got cut to Number Nine.
Some of the team’s perpetual apologists have argued that had this been Jim Mora’s team back in the eighties we would have been thrilled to have made the playoffs under any circumstances, including as a low Wild Card team.
And they would be right. In fact one of my favorite moments as a Saints fan was being present at the New Year’s Eve night game in the Superdome where Morten Andersen booted the field goal that sent the Black and Gold off to its second ever playoff appearance.
But they’re not that team, which was perpetually frustrated by the franchise with the future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback.
Now we’re the team with the living legend taking the snaps. And our expectations are deservedly higher.
Under Payton, the Saints have done it all. Well almost. The franchise record for most wins. First appearance in an NFC Championship game and on the second try, winning the conference title. And of course, there is the shiny Lombardi Trophy in the Lucite case on display in the reception area of the team’s headquarters.
The one thing left outstanding by not just this head coach buy by all of Payton’s predecessors is the elusive road win in the post-season.
It doesn’t matter if the Saints get a second drubbing in Seattle the next week. With the sorry state of our offensive line and a key injury in the team’s secondary suffered at Carolina in Week 16, I don’t think the team would go very far in the playoffs anyway.
And considering the team’s poor performance in cold weather, the prospect of seeing the Saints shivering along the sideline in MetLife Stadium in early February does not inspire much hope for the securing the TwoDat this season.
That said, the team should look at the matchup with the Eagles the same way Jim Haslett’s 2000 squad viewed their playoff game against the defending World Champion St. Louis Rams.
That game wasn’t about marching to the Super Bowl but winning the team’s first ever playoff game after four previous failures.
And when Rams punt returner Az Hakim dropped the ball and Saints special teams player Brian Milne recovered the fumble, the Superdome erupted as if New Orleans had won the Super Bowl.
The playoff poltergeist had finally been cast out; the franchise made clean.
A Saints victory in Philadelphia would be an important milestone for the organization and make the 2013 season count for something, so the next time the Black and Gold take the field in someone else’s stadium in the playoffs, they will play like they have been there and won before.
The last lingering demon that has plagued the Saints will have been cast out into the same corner of Who Dat Hell as the two decades’ of losing seasons, the streak of winless playoff appearances and the Aints paperbag.
Just win one game.