The New Orleans Saints had their hearts crushed thanks to Vernon Davis, Alex Smith and company. Here's how things could have been different for the Saints.
In the 2011 season, the New Orleans Saints were quite possibly the best team in the NFL, and that includes the 15-1 Green Bay Packers, who were defending champions at the time. Unfortunately, during their divisional round matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, Alex Smith and Vernon Davis ripped the hearts out of the Saints and their fans.
For this week's "What If" Wednesday, we dive into how things could have been different if the Saints get out of San Francisco with a win.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who after this game would be pretty much disgraced, chose to blitz Alex Smith on the game winning touchdown (which was essentially "The Catch III") in a decision that bother Saints fans to do this day. Given that BountyGate would come out that offseason, the decision was predictable in hindsight.
More on the Saints BountyGate later though.
Had things gone differently and the Saints hold on for the win, it's not outside the realm of possibility that they go on to win their second Super Bowl in three seasons. That is just what would happen in this alternate reality,
With the New York Giants, fresh off their upset win over the aforementioned Packers, and Eli Manning coming to the Superdome, the Saints would make slight-work of the cinderella Giants, and spoil Manning's homecoming to the Bayou. Remember, this was arguably the Saints best team ever, and that includes the Super Bowl run of 2009.
We would then get the dream matchup in Super Bowl XLVI of Drew Brees and the Saints vs. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. As mentioned, the Saints get the win, and are on the verge of a dynasty.
Don't get us wrong, they still get punished for BountyGate, that still very much happens. What follows is very different for the Saints in this reality though.
In 2013, the two-time champion Saints are now the "bad boys" of the NFL and with no real chance to defend their crown in 2012 thanks to Sean Payton's suspension, go on a revenge tour, leaving nothing but carnage in their wake.
As a result, they get past the Seahawks and the Legion of Boom, and get back to the Super Bowl, where now Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos, and another dream Super Bowl matchup are there to greet them.
While Manning's Broncos boast and all-time offense, the Saints have dynasty on their mind, and are able to win their third Super Bowl in four years in a classic, not the laugher that occurred in reality, and cement themselves as a dynasty.
What follows after is essentially chalk, but once you get a glimpse of this alternate reality, it makes the loss to the 49ers a tougher pill to swallow.
So in review, had the 2011 New Orleans Saints defeat the San Francisco 49ers, they become a dynasty, Eli Manning has only one ring, and he Seahawks have none. In the NFL, butterfly effects are very much real, and this one certainly fits that bill.
Feel free to give feedback for which "What If" scenario in team history we should explore next, to help pass the time until the 2023 NFL season kicks off.