Over the past five weeks, the Saints have had a couple of opportunities to choke. But they’ve come out on top. Will this be an issue going forward?
Can we talk about the huge mistakes on the parts of Drew Brees and Mark Ingram? And what this means to battle-weary, win-deprived New Orleans Saints fans who struggle on sofas and bar stools? Praying and pulling and pushing heels in ground to help the team avoid the choke?
The bad news: After going interception free in the first four games of the 2017 season, Drew Brees threw two picks in a row.
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More bad news: After trading Adrian Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals, and banking on the running back duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram in Week 8 of the season and game five of the potential win streak fumbles for a loss in two consecutive plays.
Call this choke.
The good news: (Malcolm Gladwell said this way back in 2000)–choking is caused (in part) by expertise, by excellence. Unlike someone who panics because there is not enough information, choking is often caused by having too much information.
So let’s consider what Saints fans take for granted in their quarterback:
- Brees must and often does cover the mistakes of all on the team by throwing precise long balls that stretch the field.
- If Brees isn’t on, the Saints don’t win.
- The Saints are better than the media’s assessments.
Week 7 in Green Bay
Several things to remember about what Brees must have been thinking during the lead up to the Saints, Packers game:
- Media and fans alike say, Saints got a gift with no Aaron Rodgers.
- No film on Brett Hundley, or not enough really for the D to get him.
- Rotten weather: rain, wind, Wisconsin level cold, wet turf.
- Pedicures offered after a win. This one is important. Twice, the camera caught Brees’ losing his purchase on the ground.
- There were too many games in the past three seasons where the Saints did not come back from mistakes.
And there it was, the noise about Brees being interception free through the first four games of the season. Opening half, on a pass to Michael Thomas, the first one was picked off. Bad. That the second came on the next drive–badder. And then the magic happened–in the second half, Drew Brees finds his groove and his footing, and the Saints go on to a win. Key here, instead of that choke, as a team, the Saints won.
Week 8 against the Bears at home
The Chicago Bears, Saints game was worse. After the Saints’ four game win streak, pressure was on to bring win number five in a row. And, again, to a rookie opposing QB. So now it’s time to talk about Mark Ingram. First quarter finds Ingram trying to fly over a defender, hitting hard turf as a thank you. He did this in the game against the Packers, too.
Now why would Ingram, with his 229 lb. frame think is a good idea?
Enter Alvin Kamara, the rookie who is lighting up the lives of us Saints fans, particularly those of us who miss Darren Sproles. Kamara can jump, can shift direction, can evade, can catch. Ingram can move when that lane is clear, or when he busts through coverage, but he’s not the same back as Kamara. He doesn’t have the same agility. He doesn’t really have to be.
But he wants to be. When Brees called Mark Ingram the heart and soul of the team, I thought, well, that’s you, Drew, heart, soul, leader.
We got this
But there is something about Ingram that is similar. It’s not only the desire to win. Most ballers come equipped with that. It’s the contributions each makes for the win, and it’s the way these players believe the loss is on them.
As a fan, I sit on my bar stool or sofa, pounding the glass down and swearing when Drew lobs a pass into an opponent’s hand. I get even angrier when I see Ingram drop at the touch of a lineman.
But when the game ends, particularly these last two games, I recognize how tough it is for a fan to see a team mature. To let go of what once defined a winning season so that this new one can amaze. I see my responsibility to say to guys like Brees and Ingram, we got this.