On October 26 2008 I attended the Saints Chargers International game at Wembley and cheered the Saints on to a 37-32 victory on my birthday. It was an incredible experience and with the win that day the Saints moved back .500 with a 4-4 record. Buoyed by the excitement of the game and what I had witnessed I walked straight to the nearest bookies and put £10 on the Saints to win the Superbowl that season. I was out by a year as the Saints went on to finish 8-8 but did go on to win it in 2009.
Well on Sunday history repeated itself, after attending the Saints 20-0 win over the Dolphins I walked straight into the same bookies and bet £10 on the Saints to win the Superbowl this year but I also put £10 on them to win it next season, seemed like the sensible thing to do after several beers.
2 weeks ago, after the humiliating defeat to the Patriots I questioned whether Payton had the fight to carry this team back to contention. 2 weeks on I am delighted to say Yes, he does and I am sorry for doubting him in the 1st place.
The Saints are a different beast from the one I have become accustomed to watching. The Saints normally lose games like the one they played on Sunday. I said to my friend who attended the game with me during the 2nd quarter that we had to start scoring because the defense would eventually breakdown if the offense didn’t start to take the pressure off by building a lead. We started the 2nd half with a 3 point lead and built it to 10 points on the ensuing drive but the dolphins had 2 drives in which they went 3 and out before the Saints added another field goal. Previous Saints teams would have crumbled in that situation.
People will argue that this defense hasn’t had a true test the last 2 weeks because it has faced a banged up Cam Newton and Jay Cutler at Quarterback, they will also argue that Sam Bradford and Tom Brady carved us up, they will point to the fact the test we face will get much stiffer after the bye week going against offenses lead by Matt Stafford and Aaron Rodgers which is true and are all valid points. However, like any team sport, you can only beat what is in front of you and the last 2 weeks the Saints have done that convincingly and have relied heavily on the defense to do so.
Dennis Allen who I was starting to think should be sacked after the Patriots game deserves a lot of credit. We are starting to see the unit take shape the way he intended it to look back in the offseason. Ken Crawley has been a revelation since starting the last 2 games. Lattimore is playing exceptionally well for a rookie cornerback. The linebacker corps has stepped up to the plate big time, let’s hope Anzalone won’t be out for too long, AJ Klein has been a key addition to the unit. The defense is even generating a pass rush with 8 sacks and 10 quarterback hits against the Panthers and Dolphins.
The offense will likely get a boost after the bye week with Willie Snead set to return and hopefully Terron Armstead which would be good timing now that Zach Strief could be set to miss some time with a knee injury. Ryan Ramczyk the rookie tackle has played well at both spots however the Saints view for the future could become the here and now with Armstead at LT and Ramczyk at RT.
Defeats to the Lions and the Packers after the bye week would kill the momentum built up over the last 2 weeks but at least this young Saints squad has experienced some success and got the taste of winning, they have gained the experience of dealing with adversity and they gained experience of playing complimentary football, winning a blowout contest and winning ugly in a tough contest. After seeing what I have in the 1st quarter of this season I personally feel better about this team. Even if they go on to finish the season 8-8 it would still be a sign of progress. I hope they have a much better record than that though.
When the schedule was released the media pundits and fans alike said that if they were 2-2 after the 1st 4 games then they would be doing well. It’s been an arduous road so far but they have endured and fought back to 2-2 against the odds. If the Saints can navigate the next 4 games going 3-1 or even 2-2 then they would be in a great position going into the 2nd half of the season with a few games they should be able to win coming up in the 2nd half of the schedule.
The Saints might not be the finished article yet, a team which is ready to win it all, but at least over the last 2 games there are signs of life and signs of the franchise being steered in the right direction. It may not play out consistently yet and there will probably be more ups and downs as this season plays out, but like in 2008 this Saints side seems as if it has the foundation and the building blocks to go on to be something special. Let’s all hope it is sooner rather than later.