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Will the New Orleans Saints Handle Success, Show Maturity?

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Nov 2, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme (84) catches a pass in front of New England Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler (21) during the fourth quarter of New England

It was 1998 and my dad was in seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary School in Wimore, Kentucky. He served a church in the small town of Junction City, Kentucky where we lived for the three years we spent there. I was in the 8th grade at the time at Boyle County Middle School. I was fortunate enough at that time to learn the game of football from some very good coaches and also play with some kids that would go on to have pretty successful careers in the game.

Jacob Tamme first comes to mind, as he is still at it pretty hard it catching balls from future hall of famer, Peyton Manning in Denver. Travis Leffew, a very good friend mine in those days, also had a hell of a football career playing four years at Louisville then going on to have stints with several NFL teams. There’s no doubt that these men flourished because of the way were coached and taught to handle success in those young, influential years.

We would all pile up our bags of gear and get on the bluebird bus and head to Perryville, Kentucky where we’d have our football camp on the civil war battlefield there. It was three days of two-a-days, playbook study, film study and fun. It was hot, man it was hot. It was one of those things that you hear about before experiencing it and are somewhat afraid of what lies ahead. It was a bit intimidating hearing stories about camp from the older kids that had been there before you. It was meant to be that way. It was designed to help young men mature and prepare them for the adversity that would arise on gameday.

We went on the win our division championship that year and it wasn’t even close. We had a great team! My dad finished school and my freshman year was my last in Kentucky but that same team went on something like six state championships in row. It all came down to training, preparation, and a will to succeed. Having loads of talent didn’t hurt either.

Dec 7, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) runs from New Orleans Saints defensive back Pierre Warren (42) during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back to Week 8 of this 2014 regular season, I thought the Saints had turned the corner and we were about to begin to see the New Orleans Saints of old. I was at my favorite spot in Morgan City, Louisiana following a wedding I had attended watching the Saints drop the hammer on the Green Bay Packers. I looked at my wife and told her that they had found their identity. I truly believed it. Turns out I was wrong.

The Saints went on to win the following week at Carolina 28-10, and did so by harassing Cam Newton all day long. That has been our longest and only winning streak all year. 2 games. In order to win the NFC South Division Championship to advance to the playoffs, and hosting a home game to the top wildcard team, the black and gold will need to at least match that win streak.

Dec 15, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) runs off the field following the second half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. New Orleans won 31-15. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

With a win Sunday in the Superdome against our most hated rival, the Atlanta Falcons, and a little help from Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns taking down the Carolina Panthers, the Saints can once again be division champs.

The big question is can the New Orleans Saints handle the most recent success of taking out Jay Cutler and his Bears in such a dramatic fashion in Chicago this past Monday Night, or will they once again fall to pieces much like they did following the big win Pittsburgh when they had one of the biggest meltdowns I can ever remember against the Panthers.

Let’s bare in mind that the Bears team that was completely dismantled on Monday Night Football is not a very good team. They have an overpaid quarterback who is obviously not happy with Offensive Coordinator, Aaron Kromer, and they were not competiting for a spot in the playoffs as we were. However, the Falcons are playing for something: The same thing that we are playing for (the division) – and a coach, Mike Smith, who is trying to keep his job.

Matt Ryan has the talent and weapons at his disposal to put up some huge numbers at any time, and put an opposing offense in a tough spot of being one dimensional very early in the game. Their defense, ranked near the bottom of the league, has been very good at creating turnovers, and the Saints have coughed the ball up quite a bit this year. In order for the Saints to be successful this week, we will have to limit Julio Jones and Roddy White from beating us deep. You can never completely shut them down, but keeping everything in front will be the key.

With all the new faces in a secondary that has been seriously depleted due to the injury bug, the boys on the backside will need to have a huge game similar to the one they had against the Bears. Guys will need to feed off of each other. They will have to play complimentary and fundamentally sound football, and be in the right position at the right time.

Safety Pierre Warren said his second interception against Jay Cutler came because of something cornerback Keenan Lewis saw and relayed to the young safety. That is how this secondary will need to work with each other to come out victorious this Sunday.

The defensive line will also have to play with the same fire and intensity, and be able to create some havoc in the trenches. By doing this, it will free up lanes for the linebackers to have success in stopping the run and getting after Matt Ryan. If we can put some pressure on him early and often, we should definitely see the quarterback make some of the same mistakes Jay Cutler made on Monday night.

In the end, it will all come down to how hungry this team is. Can they shake off the hangover of such a huge win in primetime? Can the veterans be the leaders and role models they need to be for the younger guys? Let’s just hope that recent history doesn’t repeat itself and Drew and the boys can keep their eyes on the prize.

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