BAYHAM: Saints Find Themselves At Home

On game day, I had the misfortune of turning on the radio and hearing the latest Jim Rome impersonator that passes for a sports journalist, Anita Marks, prattle on about how terrible the New Orleans Saints are.

And while their record going into their Sunday night match up was less than impressive, anyone who has actually been following their games would have known that the Saints are a good team who have struggled to rise up to the level of competition. The sum margin of defeat in three of the losses is a mere six points.

Cut to the “wise guys” in the gambling circuit who saw something different than Ms. Marks and posted the Saints as a favorite against the visiting Green Bay Packers by a point and a half.

On Sunday night, a franchise that some had predicted to be Super Bowl bound at the beginning of the season only to be declared moribund not even halfway through the schedule finally played up to their talent, thrashing the Packers on national television.

Hell even cornerback Corey White had a good night.

Quarterback Drew Brees returned to his old self, finally launching the longball, including hooking up with rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks for a 50 yard touchdown. The Saints’ first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft had his best game as a professional, hauling in a team leading six receptions for a total of 94 yards and scoring a touchdown on the ground with a four yard run to the end zone.

Cooks wasn’t the only Saints’ first round pick to have a good night.

Running back Mark Ingram exhibited for the world why the coaching staff has had so much confidence in the late developing 2011 First Round draftee.
The “running back committee of one” rushed for 172 yards on 24 carries, including a 21-yard touchdown run in the Fourth Quarter that put an exclamation point on the Saints’ victory.

Ingram’s fellow first round selection from 2011 also had a good night as defensive end Cameron Jordan sacked the Packers quarterback twice. Yet the defensive player of the night was the German-born outside linebacker Kasim Edebali , who had two sacks and a forced fumble.

For a Saints front office that has been roundly criticized by the fan base for the Darren Sproles trade and the porous secondary, the productive play of three of the team’s four most recent first round draft picks and the big contributions by their latest gem plucked out from the sea of undrafted free agents had to bring a smile to their faces, especially General Manager Mickey Loomis.

While embarrassing, the loss to Dallas was excusable. As much as it might pain Who Dats to admit this, the Cowboys are a good team – last night’s loss to Washington notwithstanding – and Jerry Jones’s uncharacteristic patience in methodically constructing a stable and winning squad should be recognized.

Less forgivable were the dropped games to Cleveland and Atlanta, both below average teams, and the last minute implosion at Detroit. In those contests, the Saints were sloppy, devoid of passion and lacked a desire to finish.

Maybe it was Green Bay’s taunting via play call through an early onside kick or the arrogant decision of going for it on fourth down on their own side of the 50 yard line that lit a fire under the Saints’ pads. Or the motivation of playing at home before a national audience knocked the cobwebs out of the Saints’ helmets.

Hopefully beating the Packers reminded the Saints that they are indeed better than their record implies.

Having staunched the bleeding against a quality opponent, the Saints have an opportunity to emerge to the top of the dumpster fire that is the NFC South when they face the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.

The NFL scheduling furies have done the Black and Gold no favors in 2014. Not only does the team face a short turnaround from a Sunday night game, but they will have to figure out a way to finally achieve success outside of the Superdome.

The Saints haven’t won on the road since 2013 when they beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome on November 21st.

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