Is there anything better than beating the Falcons? Even if it is only by 4 points without a mega-display on offense – hence the reason Thursday Night Football sucks? I can’t think of anything, at least not this morning.
All the talk of how this could be a “trap game” (please stop saying things like this, talking heads, considering there are only 16 games in a season) the Saints/Falcons game played out exactly like nearly each matchup does: in a one-score game. A win is a win is a win. 9-2, people. 9-2. There can’t be a single Saints fan out there complaining about that.
In this fan’s not so humble opinion, beating the Falcons without Darren Sproles and Jahri Evans is a big deal and a slap in the whining face to Mike Smith. Yes, the Falcons now sit with a laughable 2-9 record, but the fact that Payton was confident enough to go into this game without Mr. Mismatch and his constant All-Pro right guard in order to get them as healthy as possible for the Seahawks game speaks volumes about this team, its players, what they’re made of and what they are expecting from this season. Sproles and Evans would not have been in street clothes last night if the team’s focus wasn’t on getting the #1 seed, and that starts in Seattle on Monday Night Football. It’s not that they were taking the Falcons lightly, as they obviously proved to be a worthy opponent, despite their record, it’s just that Seattle and Carolina are the games that really matter at this point and they know it.
We’ve reached that point in the season where every team is beat up and players are playing hurt. There isn’t a single “healthy” team in the league after week 10 (of course, there are some with more significant losses than others) and winning with back-ups playing starting roles is what makes great teams better than good teams.
The Saints ability to beat the 49ers at home after gifting them 17 points and losing Greer for the season was one example of this. Sitting Sproles and Evans against their most hated division rival on the road and coming away with a win is another. This team has plans for January and beyond and a plan of action that they’re using to get there. With eleven days to prepare for the Seahawks game – in one of the more hostile NFL environments – I am excited to see what Rob Ryan comes up with to shut down Seahawks somewhat pedestrian offense. His game plan against the Niners worked well, and beating Seattle is probably going to require some of the same methodology. Stopping Marshawn Lynch and forcing Wilson to pass from the pocket will be key. Wilson is light years ahead of Kaepernick when it comes to reading through his progressions and is a much smarter quarterback, so the Saints defense won’t be able to count on idiocy to make it easier for them. If Payton and Brees can click while leaving the trickeration on 4th and inches type plays in New Orleans when heading up to Seattle, this could very well turn out to be the opposite of the 2010 playoff loss in that same stadium.
As exhausting as it is to hear the same clichés week after week and year after year, they are clichés for a reason. Going into Seattle, the Saints must play “Complementary Football.” As Saints fans, we know what that means for this team. Get a two score lead to allow Big Rob to do his thing and rattle Wilson. And by saying Big Rob is doing his thing, I mean letting Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan continue to show that they are two of the very best defensive linemen in this league. Anyone who has been watching the way this defense has adjusted to whatever the opposing offense does to negate the linemen and outside linebackers knows that if they stick a double team on one of these guys, someone else is coming – and unlike under GW3 – they are actually getting there. Junior Galette is completely unheralded when anyone outside of New Orleans talks about the Saints defense (wait…do the national media even talk about the actual players on the Saints defense?) but he is getting the attention of offensive coordinators and linemen every week. Every player on this defense is doing their job (I hate even saying those words after last year), giving 100% effort, minimizing mental errors, and leaving a path of confused and deflated teams in their wake.
It is understandable that some may be concerned about Corey White taking Greer’s role as the #2 corner, but I have faith that after having tested the water and having him picked on against the Falcons that Payton and Ryan will do what is necessary to limit the opposition’s ability to win the game by beating White. Honestly, if leaving Corey White in one-on-one coverage is what it is going to take to shut down the rest of an offense, then so be it. It’s not like he got beat for huge touchdowns or straight up blew coverage last night. Yeah, he fumbled a pick six for a touchback that would have iced the 49ers game, but that is water under the bridge and the kid plays his heart out. He wants to be there and it shows. Let me put it this way – if Corey White’s play is the biggest concern for the Saints heading into Seattle, then I’d say we’re in pretty good shape.
The wild card for the Hawks going into this game is going to be Percy Harvin, considering the limited availability of film on how and when they use him. If the stars align, he will get a migraine headache and be ruled out for the game, and if they don’t, maybe we’ll just let Vaccaro deal with him. Who knows? Certainly not me.
Unlike the 49ers win, we, as fans, now have the requisite amount of time to celebrate a win (screw it, we can celebrate the past two in tandem) and talk up the next game on the schedule. The rub? Two consecutive Sundays without Saints football. Another reason that Thursday Night Football Sucks and You Know It.
9-2, baby! Who Dat!