But really I'm not ready to think about that because we're just now coming around to the idea that football season is beginning. So instead you should read this.
A week ago the consensus was that the Saints were the best team in a terrible NFC South, but last night the Saints could have beaten any team in the league. Mark Ingram looked like a goddamn monster, and you can blame the Packers’ bad run defense if you want to be a nihilistic pussy, but Carolina is nearly as bad. The offensive line gave Drew time to throw properly, not underhanded or while looking at the sky, and the defense executed (harrowingly) a new thing where they cover wide receivers instead of throwing the entire roster at an unflinching offensive line. It was a whole hell of a lot of Stuff Just being Done, it was interesting and successful for 114 out of the last 120 minutes, and we can only hope those other six minutes were the aberration, and not the other way around. Supposing that’s the case, this team could make the previous goal of 7-9 and a home playoff game look like a sad, fatalist joke.And also this.
Who are the 2014 Saints, though? Even though they won a lot of games last year, it never seemed like the team really had a firm identity, a real idea of who they were. Payton was much more likely to rely on his defense last year than ever, and rightfully so, but we were not really a “defensive” or “offensive” team. There wasn’t a specific thing they could hang their hat on. They started the season passing a lot, then migrated over to running the ball more. There was success here and there. No one really said too much about it, because they were winning.That's kind of what I was saying here. The point is this. It's all in front of us right now. We can't really call Sunday night a "breakthrough" until we see that performance replicated. Put together a convincing win on the road to claim first place, though, then history will might look back at that Packers game differently.
That lack of identity carried over into this year, but when you’re losing more games than you’re winning, everything is going to be amplified and questions that weren’t being asked become fair game:
What is this team about? What is their mark, as a team? Are they still the high-flying offense of the past? Was last year’s defensive play an aberration?
Have they forgotten who they are? Did they ever really know?
Maybe, just maybe, they’re starting to figure it out.
Here's something that crossed my mind last night. Remember this?
God Jim Mora was such a goddamn pompous jerk. To this day, I have no idea why anyone ever put up with playing for a guy like that.
But that's not important right now. What is important is that history records this embarrassing outburst as the turning point in the Saints' 1987 breakthrough season. After this 49ers loss, the team went on to win 9 straight games finishing 12-3 (it was a strike shortened year) and earning, not only their first playoff birth, but also the first winning season in the then 21 year history of the franchise. It was kind of a big deal. If you're of a certain age, in fact, 1987 might still be your most fond football memory despite some interesting recent developments.
Anyway, the thing about the "Coulda Shoulda Woulda" speech is that, when it happened, the Saints' record was 3-3. There were some strange circumstances at play thanks to the strike and the replacement games having jumbled everything up. But, really, that team was in a situation very similar to the one people are saying the 2014 team is in.
The sentiment coming through the blogs today is that the 2014 Saints have spent the first 7 weeks finding themselves. That's not exactly the same as having to deal with the chaos of an interrupted schedule and a strike-fractured roster. But the challenge is similar. With nine games left to play, it's not impossible to imagine the 2014 Saints "figuring it out" the way the 1987 team did.
It's possible the 2014 Saints have as much to look forward to as the 1987 Saints had a the same point in their season. The difference may only be in coaching style. Jim Mora yelled like an idiot Schiano Man. Sean Payton just sent everyone a stupid email forward.
On second thought, that actually might be a distinction without a difference.