Tuesday, September 23, 2008

They Say Bad Things Come in Threes

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2008 at 1:16 PM

Photo by Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune

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First, came the loss. Before that could sink in, news hits that Jeremy Shockey is going to need surgery. Then reports came out that Sean Payton found that the refs had missed a Denver offsides penalty when Pierre Thomas was stopped short on third-down with two minutes to play.

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The news, as expected, was not taken well in the Who Dat-sphere. There's grimacing about the Saints' prospects; some can't believe the Broncos' good fortune; and yet others wonder what to make of Deuce McAllister on the sidelines "all dressed up and nowhere to run." Of course all of this does take some of the focus off the first goat, Martin Gramatica (although there was also some holder controversy revealed).

That's a lot for Saints fans to digest in a 36-hour period. You can't blame people for, be it publicly or privately, fearing that this season is coming apart before it began. How could you not? The team's top receiver and marquee off-season acquistion are injured on offense and a defense that's let up over 27 points per game and developed a knack for getting beat on deep passes.

You could focus on all of that and drive yourself mad with despair. Or you could take a few deep breaths and look at the three main reasons the Saints will be OK (drinking whiskey in between doing all that also helps):

  1. Drew Brees can still be a top-3 quarterback in the league. He leads the league in passing yards and put up 421 against Denver despite not having Marques Colston and being down 18-points halfway through the second quarter. He did it by spreading the ball to nine different receivers. Just like he threw to ten receivers against Washington and seven against Tampa Bay. Shockey being out for at least three weeks just gives more catches to the other nine guys that have been contributing.
  2. Reggie Bush is on track to being a first-team All-Pro. It was silly to expect that Reggie Bush would routinely score three or four touchdowns a game; but it's also not every day you can get a player who's averaging over a touchdown a game by running, catching and punt-returning his way through opponents. This is no longer just flashes of brilliance like in his first two seasons. He's had game changing plays in all three games (albeit that includes his fumble on Sunday) and has shown the speed and elusiveness that made him the No. 2 overall pick.
  3. The Saints' schedule. Does anyone else think that the Saints can still beat San Francisco and then Oakland even in the condition they're in? With the defense starting to get healthy again and causing turnovers, they could also get one or two wins in their games against Minnesota, Carolina and San Diego. All of a sudden, the team is 5—4 heading into the bye and, if they're lucky, the Saints will have Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey back healthy for the second half of the season. There they'd get to beat up on Kansas City and Detroit (the latter in the second-to-last week of the season) and face just two playoff teams from last year (Green and Tampa Bay, no relation).

Yes, the worst case scenario is a scary one: Brees and Bush put up gaudy numbers while everyone else on the offense struggles and the defense breaks repeatedly gives up big plays and lots of touchdowns. They'd be like the Bengals the last couple of years — minus all the arrests.

But if this team can keep calm in the face of all this adversity — and nearly coming back from an 18-point deficit on the road should be some sort of indication that they're capable — then there are more than just a couple of reasons to still be optimistic about this season.

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