No blame game: The 2017 New Orleans Saints went down swinging

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 14: Marcus Williams
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 14: Marcus Williams /

It will take a minute to realize that the season is over for the 2017 New Orleans Saints. But it bears remembering that they weren’t expected to do any of this.

Shock. Disbelief. Sadness. Over the next week or so, these feelings will subside and better feelings will emerge about the 2017 New Orleans Saints.

But right now, the emotion is raw. The pain of having a game won with 10 seconds on the clock, but then losing the game, is a dagger through the heart.

Today there is a lot of finger pointing. Most fingers will be pointed at rookie Marcus Williams and the blown tackle. Rather than simply wrapping Minnesota Vikings’ receiver Stephone Diggs up and tackling him conventionally, Williams went low and basically missed Diggs altogether. In the process, Williams also took out Ken Crawley, the only other player with any reasonable shot at stopping Diggs from scoring. Diggs ran down the sideline for a touchdown when all they needed was a field goal.

It is absolutely a rookie mistake on the part of Williams. He has to know that the tackle is good enough. He has to understand the time on the clock. And he has to realize that while he was trying to avoid the penalty for pass interference, that penalty was better than the result we were dealt.

The blame game

Some of that is coaching situations better. But overall, it’s simply the excitement of being in such a huge situation. Even veteran players make errors in judgement. Think of Drew Brees’ pass last week in the fourth quarter against Carolina that nearly cost the Saints the game. All you can hope is that the moment isn’t critical. With the Brees error occurred, there was still time left for him to atone for it. Here, there was not.

And who here can speak to the speed at which this game is played? I’ve never played professional sports. I have had the pleasure of playing baseball with several MLB players, so I know the difference in ability there. But the split seconds that occur in games where you have to make sharp decisions I’d imagine can be mind boggling.

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It was not Williams’ best effort. At 21 years old, we all made some errors. I’m certain several things were going on in his head. But I’d venture a strong guess that keeping the play from getting behind him was the number one thing on his mind.

Often times in games where the teams are fairly even and the match is close, it comes down to who makes the critical error. It’s tough here, because Williams seems the goat for this loss. But anyone who’s played sports before knows that there are many other moments that create losses.

The Saints gave up the ball twice to Minnesota on turnovers. Brees underthrew a pass intended for Ginn and that interception led to a Minnesota TD. There were several penalties, maybe a bit severe, that cost the Saints almost a football field of yardage in the first half. Going down by 17 and being scoreless at the half also contributed to the loss.

Changing the focus

Instead of focusing on the tackle whiff, we can focus on the positive. A determined Saints team came together, offense and defense, and took a second half stand against the Vikings. They held them scoreless until the fourth quarter, while scoring on five of their six second half possessions. They scored on the possession following their own takeaway, by the same Marcus Williams many want to call out now.

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The fact of the matter is the Saints came back and took the lead, twice, in the fourth quarter and made the game exciting. They gave it all they had and left it on the field. Nothing else can be asked of them.

Yes, we are heartbroken. It’s easy to feel this way and try to point fingers at one person or incident that cost the Saints the game. And, yes, when games are close, one play may be the difference. But here, it would be unfair and short-sighted to play the blame game. Win as a team, lose as a team. The 2017 New Orleans Saints went down swinging.