Trap games are stupid. The entire concept is bullshit. I refuse to believe it, and accordingly, as fans are allowed to do, I’m overlooking the hell out of this afternoon’s game.
This may change come kickoff. It will change; I’ll be nervous as ever. But for now, this morning, I’ve got more important things to think about. Like the Panthers.
Two games in three weeks against our new divisional challenger will do that to you. A game like last week, a downright boring affair the likes of which I’ve been begging for for weeks, nonsense about enjoying close wins aside, has a way of getting in your head, creating fantasies of dominating a new whipping boy for years to come.
Yes, although I spent much of the second half checked out, rooting for Marques Colston to get a few more catches so I could seal a third-straight fantasy win after starting 1-10 (he came through, by the way), it was easily the most enjoyable home victory of the season. I know not all will disagree. The 49ers game was soul-healing; the Cowboys game was simply a blast; the Falcons opener provided a joy that lasted weeks. But an absolute ass-kicking of the prematurely-crowned NFC South Champs Of The Future was an amazing thing to behold.
It’s incredible that the game somehow seemed boring. That’s something we should not take for granted. Drew Brees turned in another run-of-the-mill, to-be-expected dominant performance, and although it wasn’t the over the top beating of a defense that was the Cowboys game, it was somehow even more impressive as one of those things we just know to be prepared for. Reid writes brilliantly of the quietness of the Brees spectacle this week; the Drew Shows Out game is calmer, somehow less attention-grabbing than those of the other quarterbacks in the top tier of this century, and clearly that has an influence on the way others talk about him.
But that’s okay. Because we get to enjoy it, and cherish it, and fuck the pundit who doesn’t understand.
On top of a quiet Brees shellacking, this defense offered another quiet but dominant performance that nobody seemed to notice. Yes, those first couple drives were a little hair-raising, but bend-but-don’t-break gradually turned to don’t-bend-at-all, following the general pattern of 2013, the second quarter was a ridiculous exercise in crushing an opponent to end a half, and the second was obviously the Saints’.
Sean Payton offered a nice bonus with his classy offering of hand towels for the entire crowd. I thought this was pretty neat; I sweat sometimes and spill drinks a little and it was pretty cool to have a napkin handy. I really don’t understand why some people felt the need to make fun of this simple touch. I hope they make it a weekly tradition.
As joyous as was the occasion of December 8, December 22 could top it. Not because we could seal the division with a win this week and next; but because it could set a nice trend. Cam Newton is 2-3 against the Saints since he went pro, and both wins came during 2012, and the asterisk should be obvious. You know who else was 2-3 in his first 5 games against the Saints?
He then won only one of his next seven, the win coming in 2012, with a big fat asterisk of its own.
The similarities are tantalizing. The Falcons are on their way down, the fans clutching to the hope of Jadavedeon Clowney to pull them out of a hole, somehow, and the return of Julio Jones is expected to restart an offense that was running on fumes before the year began. None of this is going to happen. If there is a threat in the NFC South in the closing years of the Brees/Payton regime, it is clearly the Panthers.
A team on the rise, one that the media has crowned as the South’s team of the future (and, before last week, champs this year). They are adulated and idolized by the media, with a good defense that stops mediocre offenses dead in their tracks; with a young quarterback who supposedly has the ability to reboot a franchise; with a gambling head coach that sometimes does stupid things that fail and sometimes does stupid things that work, rendering him a genius. They even have an aging, loudmouth wide receiver who has become an aging, loudmouth role player.
This formula didn’t work out so well last time it was attempted. A good defense isn’t enough to stop Drew Brees, and Cam Newton is simply not a franchise quarterback without weapons (Steve Smith is no longer a weapon). Cam is good – don’t misunderstand. But he is not the quarterback that can assemble undrafted free agent wide receivers and running backs and use them with such efficiency that people downgrade him in an MVP race for having “too many weapons.” Cam is not Drew, and he never will be.
I was there in Atlanta when Riverboat Mike went for it in overtime on his own 29 yardline. That shit didn’t end well. Mike Smith, Ron Rivera, you are not Sean Payton.
You’re going to need more than this, Carolina.
So enjoy the game this afternoon. Eat well, relax, don’t worry about that trap game. If it happens, it happens. We get our shot next week at a win on the road against Carolina. And the most enjoyable thing about that road trip, and the win that the Saints bring home, will not be some proof that the Saints can win a big game against a good team on the road. It won’t be that at all. We’ll worry about that in January, perhaps. For now, a win in Carolina offers one hope: that the Panthers could be our new Falcons.
Holy shit, wouldn’t that be glorious?
Saints 102, Rams 3