New Orleans Saints: Postscript on a solid season
By Tony Twillie
No one can be happy that the season is over but 2017 was solid for the New Orleans Saints. Looking back on the season that was.
All of Who Dat Nation would rather be looking forward to a matchup next week with the Philadelphia Eagles than reminiscing over what was and, maybe, what could have been. The Saints’ season ended abruptly Sunday night at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.
It was their second loss to the Vikings this season, but the two games were so very different. So went the season for the New Orleans Saints. While there was so much success and so much to look forward to, there is also a sense of what could have been.
The Saints opened their season 4 months and 3 days ago, and closed it in the same place (and will have to go there AGAIN next season). The season began with so much controversy over how the offense would work out a 3-man rotation with Adrian Peterson in the mix at running back.
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Fans hardly knew what an Alvin Kamara was, or how to pronounce it. They were disappointed in Willie Snead’s suspension because he was supposed to be a huge part of this offense. Who Dats were hoping for the emergence of Coby Fleener and simply looking for consistency on offense. They also needed more out of the running game to relieve pressure from Drew Brees.
Defensively, fans just wanted what we always want, not to suck. We wanted middle of the pack, because with the Saints offense, you don’t have to be great, you just have to be good enough. Make stops when you need to.
We had a new corps of linebackers and some untested defensive backs. Expectations were relatively low, but preseason gave us hope. We didn’t get a first-round defensive end as many expected we would with so many good ones on the board. Marshon Lattimore was good, but he had injury issues. And how good could he be?
Before the season even started the Saints were hit with a lot of setbacks. Delvin Breaux’s injury was misdiagnosed, he was going to miss more time and ended up missing the entire season. Jon Dorenbos, the deep snapper the team got from Philadelphia was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. His physical with the Saints likely saved his life, but he was out for the year.
Recently resigned (for large money) Nick Fairley ended up on season injured reserve due to a heart condition. And Willie Snead pled guilty to DUI and was suspended 3 games. The Saints were not coming out of the barrel straight at all.
Just use this as a preamble to the season. Let’s add to that the Saints started off 0-2, giving up 1025 yards defensively. By the fourth game of the season, they’d lost two more starters. Throughout the season they lost no less than 14 starters for at least a game due to injuries.
The current injury report (before this week’s season ending report) has 25 players on it. They’ll be adding Terron Armstead to that list, again, as he played hurt. As well as Thomas Morstead who gutted out a performance with broken ribs suffered on the first punt of the game.
For those that don’t know, the NFL active roster is 53 players, and only 46 of those get to dress on game day. At the end of the season, the Saints played with 2-3 guys in the front defensive rotation who only joined the team in the last month or so of the year. And even some of those guys were getting hurt.
How it unfolded
After opening 0-2, the Saints reeled off eight straight victories and were once again in the conversation for best team in the NFC. They went 11-3 after those opening losses. Starting five rookies at any one time. With all those injuries, they go 11-5 over the season.
Today, it’s hard to see those numbers and feel great because as good as the Saints were, their season is over. But as the days pass, hopefully fans will revel in a season of success following so many seasons of mediocrity.
So with all the injuries, and all the excuses fans had ready made for being poor, the Saints overcame and became a team to be reckoned with. With so many young players coming back, and the very high probability that Drew Brees will re-sign with the Saints, this team should be similar to the early Payton-Brees era Saints, built to last.
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