Why the New Orleans Saints will make the playoffs: No. 10, Revenge

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Along with the other thirty-one teams in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints are looking to put together a winning season in 2015. The Saints were one of twenty teams left with an empty feeling at the conclusion of the regular season, missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the nine-year Sean Payton era.

Last year saw the New Orleans Saints finish with a very disappointing 7-9 record. The black and gold shrugged off a 1-3 start, and were able to bounce back to 4-4 to begin the month of November. That’s where it all went wrong.

Like 2012, the loss against the San Francisco 49ers sent the Saints into a major tailspin. In that season we’d like to forget, the then 5-5 Saints had seized a lot of the momentum in that game, and looked to score right before the half to extend their 14-7 lead. Unfortunately, Ahmad Brooks picked off Drew Brees and returned it 50 yards to tie the game up with 22 seconds left in the half. The 49ers would then score twice in under a minute to seize all momentum early in the third quarter, putting themselves up 28-14. The Saints would eventually lose, and then drop the next two contests on the road.

Last season, both clubs battled to the very end. However, the Saints got off to a very sluggish start, and found themselves in a 21-10 hole by halftime. They’d battle back and take a 24-21 lead thanks to two Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham connections. The 49ers would tie the game with under a minute in regulation, and then the Saints looked to put themselves in a position to win with less than a minute to go. We all know what happened, as the questionable pass interference call against Jimmy Graham negated the Saints go ahead touchdown. Brees would fumble in overtime, and the 49ers would have an easy field goal to win. It was one of the most heartbreaking losses of 2014.

The Saints uncharacteristically ended up dropping five straight home games, were outscored 226-174 over the eight back half games of the year, and surrendered 20 of 29 Drew Brees’ sacks in that stretch. That included a four sack outing against the Baltimore Ravens, and a five sack outing to the Atlanta Falcons.

Speaking of the ‘Dirty Birds’, the Saints fell victim to something that had not happened since the 2005 season. They were swept by the Atlanta Falcons.

Arguably, the highlight of that back stretch of the year was an impressive road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Of their three victories in those last eight games, there was no better performance. I remember people saying, ‘That’s the team we’ve been expecting all season’.

Unfortunately, it didn’t matter. We’d see the Saints lose miserably week after week, and it was just laughable. It was somewhat encouraging to know the team had a chance, as the entire NFC South was playing poorly. However, even with the opportunity of a postseason berth at hand with a sub par record, the Saints just blew it.

It wasn’t the team we knew. They bought into all of the hype of being crowned as the team to beat. There were locker room issues galore. The leadership impact was vacant, as player antics showed a distinct lack of maturity and work ethic. Players fought amongst each other, and it became a ‘all about me’ type attitude.

"“It wasn’t one specific thing,” Payton said. “It was series of and a sum total of things. It happens with players and coaches and personnel. At some point, they’re retired and haven’t announced it yet. It’s human nature. I just recall in the latter part of that season, we were ‘that team,'” Payton said. “We were still in it, but in every facet I saw where we needed to get better. And it starts with me. I know better.”"

The players returning to the New Orleans Saints this season realize how bad last year was, and it was probably one of the strongest doses of a reality check. Revenge is defined as the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands. Obviously, a football revenge is not a literal interpretation of this meaning. However, when you look ahead to this season, you have a golden opportunity to right the ship.

You don’t want the Carolina Panthers coming back into your building and embarrassing you to the point where your fans call your performance blatantly pathetic. You have a sour taste in your mouth from the league’s worst ranked defense, the Atlanta Falcons, coming into your house and tossing your quarterback around like a rag doll. You remember how bad the Dallas Cowboys beat you in their house in front of a nationally televised audience. You remember how you were left scratching your head as you blew a sure victory against the Detroit Lions in the final minutes of the game. You simply don’t forget.

Revenge motivates you. It drives you to go that extra step to make sure you come out on top. Revenge is one of the ten things that will help the New Orleans Saints find themselves in the postseason in 2015.

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