November 11, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates as he leaves the field following a win over the Atlanta Falcons in a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Falcons 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Disastrous, catastrophic, shocking.
These three words sum up the New Orleans Saints and their start to the 2012 season after the team went 0-4 during the month of September.
New Orleans dropped games to the Redskins, Panthers, Packers, and even worse the Chiefs, before getting their first win at home against the imploding Chargers.
Things looked grim – -how could the Saints climb out of the basement of the NFC and make a legitimate playoff push?
As the late Al Davis would have said : “Just win baby!”
That’s exactly what the Saints have done, they have won, notching victories in four of their last five games since beating the Chargers October 7th.
Their only blemish coming at the hands of Peyton Manning and the Broncos who dominated the Saints in the thin air of Denver’s Sports Authority Field.
But the Saints we are now seeing over the last few weeks are nothing like the team that suited up and played that string of horrendous September games.
These Saints have found their identity, improved defensively, and more importantly revitalized a struggling ground game to find some much need offensive balance.
Not to mention the self-inflicted penalties and turnovers have been diminished — no longer are they finding ways to lose.
Once left for dead the Saints are now at least back in the playoff conversation at 5-5 and 2-1 in divisional play.
It is however the next two game stretch that will likely seal their fate.
Sunday the Saints get a rematch with the San Francisco 49ers, the team that knocked them out of the Superbowl tournament last year.
Fans of the Saints remember the game well.
New Orleans battled back in the fourth quarter scoring 18 points after overcoming a 17 point deficit.
After a 66-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham with 1:37 left, it looked as if New Orleans would escape the swirling winds of Candlestick Park with a win.
The 49ers thought otherwise and marched down the field on Gregg Williams defense, turning in a seven play 85-yard drive capped off by a Vernon Davis touchdown.
Davis finished with 180 receiving yards and two total touchdowns. The Saints were left to pick up the pieces.
This Sunday’s game is more than just a rematch for the Saints, it’s a chance to prove they are still one of the NFC’s elite teams.
Most analysts declare the 49ers to be, arguably, the best and most complete team in the NFC, and securing a win would be massively meaningful to the Saints organization.
Four days later the Saints will get to host the Atlanta Falcons in a prime time Thursday Night Football match-up featuring the NFC South’ s most heated rivalry.
New Orleans handed the Falcons their first loss of the season in Week 10 at the Dome. Atlanta says they gave the Saints the win, the Saints say they took it.
By virtue of record the 9-1 Falcons are also considered to be the NFC’s best-of-the-best, and once again a win bodes well for the Saints not only for their playoff aspirations, but in determining the next NFC South champion.
A 7-5 record is a world of difference from a 5-7 record — especially when it’s wins over these two teams.
The Saints have all the weapons to make it happen, on top of getting the 49ers in their home venue of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — where they are usually dominate.
After the month of November is over we will likely know whether the Saints have completed an epic comeback, or have fallen out of the playoff race.