Monday, January 25, 2010

Observations from inside the NFC Championship

After being on a plane all day and landing at 4:30 in the afternoon, I was lucky enough to have a ticket and make it to the Dome on time. Here's a few things I observed:

1. Defense, defense, defense.
If you would have told me before the game that our
defense would be the only reason we won the game, I would've slapped you. It sounds too preposterous to be true. Our defense saved our offense? Blasphemy!

But our defense did save our offense. They played the game of their lives. Yes, we gave up 475 yards...but please realize, our defense was on the field the entire second half. Their tanks were empty, they were out of fumes, they had given everything, and yet, they were still flying towards the ball on every possession. Those guys deserve all the credit in the world.

We won, and we won with our defense. We have certainly come a long way. Game ball: DEFENSE.

2. Drew Brees was not Drew Brees. Overthrow after overthrow. A fumble that we were lucky enough to recover. (Almost) an interception thrown into triple coverage. This was not Drew Brees' best day. Even his pass to Devery Henderson in the corner of the endzone was thrown terribly high. He had an off day. But thankfully we can say so what.

Drew has had off days before. Everyone has them. But we are so used to him throwing the football on a dime that we start to panic when he has a not-so-great day. The good news: Drew doesn't have two "bad" games in a row.

3. What was with the playcalling? Did anyone else notice our second half playcalling? Run, run, throw on 3rd. Run, run, throw on 3rd. Hell, we started out overtime with two runs and were saved by a holding call on third down.

How many three-and-outs did we have? The playcalling got tremendously conservative. I love the fact that we stuck with the run, but c'mon, open up the play book a little. It reminded me of the good ole days when Bo Jackson's Hit & Run was the hottest game around. I think you had four plays to choose from. Deep pass, slant, run, kick...great stuff, but far from the Payton offense we're used to seeing.

And seriously, we're gonna try and get cute with a triple reverse? Or was it double? Whatever it was it was just stupid and led to a punt. Let's never call that play again unless we're playing Detroit...and winning by 21.

4. The officials have a love affair with Favre. I thought Dirk Nowitski could act, but good lord! All Favre had to do was the look at the officials and he would get a flag. I loved how he would crawl off the field like a sniper just blew off a limb and yet 30 seconds later he was back running around and throwing bullets.

Don't get me wrong. As Bobby Hebert would say, we beat a snot bubble out of Favre's head. But Brett, don't act for the officials, it's just obvious.

[For the record: the comparison between Favre and Nowitski is for entertainment purposes only. Nowitski is a woman.]

5. Just fall on the ball. How many turnovers did we miss because we tried to run with the ball instead of fall on it? As good as our D was at popping the ball out, they never really learned to just take what you can get.

Shanle's botched attempt sticks out the most. We would have had the ball right after we just scored. Our defense could have gotten some much needed rest. It would have been a huge momentum swing. But instead they get the ball back and score a few minutes later. That single play could have led to a blowout. But oh well, let's learn from it.

6. We may have gotten a little help from the football gods.
A Vikings' fumble right before the half after Reggie muffs a punt? Twelve men on the field with :19 seconds left? Both gifts, and I'll take them with open arms.

Pass interference on Dave Thomas? Of course I agree with the call, but I'm bias. (It was absolutely catchable). Did Robert Meachem catch that pass on the last drive? Of course he did, but if I'm wearing purple I'm not so sure.

The point is the Saints have historically been on the other side of those calls. No one would have been surprised if each of those calls go the other way. We'd have been pissed, but not surprised.

We may have gotten a little luck, but so what. I call it karma. We deserved this. No other team deserves this more. No other city deserves this more. No other quarterback deserves this more.

7. The "Who Dat Nation". I've bore witness to some great games in the Superdome. I was present at both of LSU's National Championships in the building. They came close.

The intensity of the fans never let down the entire game. My ears are still bleeding. I still can't speak. And when that ball left the foot of Hartley and split the uprights, well, it was the loudest noise I've ever heard. I'll compare it to putting your ear up against the engine of an F-18 running at full throttle. It was insane. I had goosebumps. I'm convinced the Superdome shifted off its foundation.

The post-game celebration was the best atmosphere I have ever witnessed. Grown men wept. I bear hugged about 50-60 complete strangers. Seriously- full embrace. As Lloyd Christmas would put it, "The tears flowed like wine." At that moment nothing else mattered. Everyone loved each other. Security guards danced with fans. Policemen outside lit up cigars. The entire city of New Orleans stopped and celebrated.

And as of a few minutes ago, the NOPD reported no violence before, after, or during the game. If that doesn't show you the Saints influence on the whole city than I don't know what will.

As for now, we have two weeks to bask in the Superbowl hype and all its glory.

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