New Ways To (Enjoy A) Win

20 Nov

Mandatory Harbaugh Fuck Gif

Wouldn’t have it any other way.

This was a tough one to watch, even as close games go. But given a win, it couldn’t have gone more swimmingly. Blowouts are fun. Blowing out the 49ers would have been massively entertaining. But there’s something special about the way this one went down. I have only one regret: that I cannot go back and tell 10-year-old me that one day, when he’s all grown up, a 49er will complain after a loss that a referee was biased toward New Orleans.

That would have meant so much to the kid.

The post-win schadenfreude is powerful this week; I choose to believe that the Brooks hit was 100% clean, that the 49ers were somehow robbed of a win by that flag (even if the Saints still had to make a field goal and drive the field again and make another field goal to finish it even if they stopped the 49ers again when they had a chance to seal it). It’s just better that way. And 49ers fans, when the refs hand us about a dozen more illegitimate wins we might be close to even.

The post-loss referee shaming in San Francisco isn’t even my favorite thing about this win. The way we won was so different, so strange and unexpected when viewed through the lens of the past 7 seasons, that it serves as (so far) a signature game for the 2013 Saints. It’s become fashionable to compare this team to teams of the past – 2009 or 2011 – but those comparisons miss the mark by a wide margin. I get the point: it feels like one of those seasons, like a Super Bowl could be reality. The teams, though. This is not the same.

We won by overcoming a 3-point deficit in the 4th quarter, giving up a field goal and kicking three of our own. The New Orleans Saints. They won by kicking three field goals and allowing 3 points in the 4th. Twice Sean Payton made the decision to take 3, to cut the lead or tie, and turn the game over to the defense.

And that, of course, is what makes this season special by its own right, and renders comparisons to past teams unfair: trust in the defense. The fourth-ranked defense. Goddamn. We wanted redemption from 2011, a cure to what cost us (in all likelihood) a championship that year, and we got it. It was the same game with a different result. A 40-0 win doesn’t erase 2011, even if it makes us feel a hell of a lot better about it. A 23-20 win, enabled by tough 4th quarter defense – that vanquishes the memory, at least for now.

I realized Sunday that Sean Payton has changed the way I watch close games. It took a few years, and maybe the arrival of a competent defense was the final piece of the puzzle, but it finally happened. See, I’ve never been good at close games. Wang documents his 49ers game misery like no one else can, and that piece, while it illustrates an aberration for Mr. We Got This, is a weekly reality for me.

Please do not misunderstand; I do not mean to imply that an unshakeable confidence suppresses all stress at the idea of a 4th-quarter deficit. I watch these games every bit the nervous wreck I’ve always been. When Drew Brees throws a terribly ill-advised pass with his own endzone at his back, I sit and bury my face in my hands. I refused Sunday to watch any Garrett Hartley field goal, which means I can never watch Garrett Hartley kick a field goal again (I’m okay with that). When the Dome erupts after a Colston catch to put us in field goal range, I’ll be the guy standing in the aisle, leaning on the railing for support, quietly chewing his fingernails and looking miserable. Outwardly, the fatalism remains strong: when we kick a field goal to cut the lead to 3, I fully expect to get the ball back down by 10.

The thing that’s changed is that secretly, deep down inside, I love this shit. I enjoy every fucking second of it.

The difference is, of course, the frequent outcome of these games. We win far more of them than we lose (29-21 since 2006 in games decided by a touchdown or less, 14-7 in home games during that period that were decided in regulation). Most importantly, the experience of those wins coming in important games has taught me to love the final moment, when it’s all over. Again, blowouts are fun and I do not take them for granted; yet, the gradual realization of a 20+ point win simply does not compare to the elation of a field goal as time expires or a fourth-down stop to seal the game against a hated division rival.

So if you see me in the Dome during a close game, looking like I want to jump off the terrace, don’t worry. I’m nervous and I’m miserable and I’m losing my shit and I’m having a great fucking time of it.

I don’t think I’m alone either, by the sound of the Dome this year. Probably the two loudest moments of the year were the goal line stand against Atlanta on September 8 and the third down against the 49ers after the phantom safety. That third down, immediately after being robbed of a potentially game-winning fucking safety was maybe the loudest moment I’ve experienced in that building. Granted, I missed the 2009 playoffs due to prior commitments (THANKS OBAMA) but I was there for Hakim Dropped The Ball, and it’s not hyperbolic to put Sunday’s last defensive stand on that level.

Apparently, Saints fans somewhat older than I really, really dislike the 49ers.

So, yes, I’ve found a bit of peace in the way we’ve won games this year. I’m less worried about Seattle (or potentially, road playoff games) every week, because this defense is real. There’s no debate any more about the schedule or “complimentary football” or opportunism. This one is dominant, it is on the same level as this year’s offense, and the double take you do every time someone says something to that effect perfectly illustrates just how different from past years this team is.

I realize now that just as in 2009 or 2011, we will drop a game or two that we shouldn’t. My distress after New England and my Twitter meltdown after New York (in which I stated that the Saints probably just “aren’t as good as we thought” :dunce:) notwithstanding, I ok with it now. But the other comparisons, of which I’ve been guilty as well, the worries about winning a road playoff game, the fear of Seattle: these are becoming less legitimate with every passing week.

Jim Harbaugh 49ers teams were 18-1 coming into Sunday with a turnover ratio of +2 or better. The Saints turned the ball over 3 times, Drew Brees threw only one touchdown pass, and yet Pierre Thomas outrushed Frank Gore on fewer carries and the Saints completed a comeback win on the back of Garrett Hartley while trusting the defense three times – a defense that held the opposing quarterback to 127 yards on the game and the entire team to 8 yards in the fourth quarter.

“Finding New Ways To Win” is cliche as fuck, but these Saints do it. With gusto. And moxie!

Now, at 8-2, with a one-game lead in the division and a two-game lead for a first-round bye, but trailing the Seahawks by 1, every game is important if we want two playoff games in the Dome this year (I’d like that a lot). Luckily, we draw the lowly Falcons Thursday. A short #FalconsHateWeek again this year, but I’m okay with that. #FalconsHateWeek is a little awkward these days. I said before this season that all the nonsense about “both teams being good makes the rivalry better” was pure douchebaggery and that I’d be equally happy with a 2-14 Falcons team, but I have to admit that I was a little wrong about that. Don’t get me wrong; I’m enjoying their burnout as much as anyone. But as long as I’ve been active on social media, the Falcons have been “good” and this new experience, in which Falcon fans on Twitter are so broken and pathetic that they have a sense of humor about all this – well, it’s just not as fun.

I’m sure it’ll come back to me Thursday night. (Note: if you’re not a fan of themed retweets, unfollow for the evening. Fair warning.)

Wait, Thursday? That’s tomorrow? Fuck. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the players. I haven’t even recuperated yet.

Still, call me overconfident, but I’m not one to worry about this one. Trap games and short weeks and divisional rivals aside, the Falcons are just too fucking bad to be a problem. It’s the after that I’m not looking forward to. 10 days of thinking about the Seattle game. I’ll be a wreck. I just hope it isn’t a close game. I’m terrible at those.

Saints 63, Falcons 2

4 Responses to “New Ways To (Enjoy A) Win”

  1. Josh Cain November 21, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    All hail the angry Harbaugh GIF.

    I find myself thinking more and more that this is Sean Payton’s revenge tour. And you know what? Seattle is a big fat circle on that calendar.

    Back in 2010, as I watched Marshawn Lynch steamroll what seemed like endless Saints defenders, no doubt thinking about how many damn skittles he was about to get on the sideline, I almost had an aneurism.

    And after breaking the hearts of fortywhiners everywhere, it’s on to the next big assignment (I’m skipping Atlanta, because 2-8), the loud mouth media darling Seahawks. We’ve been stewing on this one for awhile, and at first it seemed like the comish was getting the last laugh, with a terrible second half stretch that would make most teams cry.

    I was frightened, I said “mark that as a loss”, and I was haunted with visions of the aforementioned Lynch run.

    But this isn’t your grandpas Saints (Or 2010′s). And Coach is out to send a message.

    Did Sean mean to make the 9′ers game close? Probably not. But it was. And I’m glad about it. It’s much more satisfying that way. And I hope the game against the Seahawks is too, and I hope we knock the Skittles out of Marshawn’s mouth, holding him to less than fifty yards Oh and lets hope Richard Sherman gets burned for a touchdown, twice, because his big loud mouth.

    Coach is back, and he wants Mr. GODell to hand him that shiny Lombardi trophy ,and exorcise a few demons along the way.

    It’s not a matter of if we win against Seattle anymore, it’s just a matter of how the world will shake when we do.

    • The Angry Who Dat November 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      “Did Sean mean to make the 9′ers game close? Probably not. But it was. And I’m glad about it. It’s much more satisfying that way. And I hope the game against the Seahawks is too”

      Oh, no. I’ll go against everything in the post on this one. I want the fourth quarter to be boring. Painfully so. If a football game can possibly be over in the first half, I want that. I’ll take the win any way it comes, but no way do I wish for this one to be any more stressful than it must be.

      • Himself November 21, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

        Here’s how I want it to end:

        Seahawks 21, Saints 20, seventeen seconds left, Saints with the ball on their own 39. Kenny Stills fakes an out route, Richard Sherman slips, and Drew throws to a wide open Stills who hauls it in at the 20 and saunters into the end zone as Qwest Field goes absofuckinglutely silent. Still 9 seconds left, though. Saints kick off deep, and the Seahawks try one of those goofy plays with twenty-seven laterals, and this time it works because the last guy with the ball breaks through and speeds into the end zone with the clock reading double-zero, and Qwest Field explodes, until everyone notices the yellow flag on the turf and the ref pointing at the Seahawks and for the second time in the last nine seconds the stadium goes absofuckinglutely silent.

        That silence is the sound of an entire city getting its guts kicked out twice. I will cherish it forever, and maintain that it happened exactly that way, because if it doesn’t then someone is asleep at the goddamn switch.

        • Josh Cain November 22, 2013 at 12:11 am #

          Exactly! I want it to be so heartbreaking for those overrated Seattle bandwagoners that they spend the rest of the season crying like the 49′er faithful no doubt will.

          Maybe if we’re lucky they will drown in their Starbucks and just pretend to write screenplays through the playoffs.

          And then it’s time to get some sweet revenge on those Carolina Pussycats and put the kabash on this stupid “Riverboat Ron” shit.

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