Friday, December 12, 2008

The day the season died (seriously this time)

Posted By on Fri, Dec 12, 2008 at 10:35 PM

click to enlarge sean pout

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Photo by Jonathan Bachman

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After calling the season dead more than a month ago, and then promptly ressurecting it, then thinking the team was going on a run, then burying them again, then holding out hope for another two-straight wins, Saints fans can finally say, with absolute certainty, that the 2008 season is over.

-"What more can you say?" indeed.

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Let's start with the fact that the season has, in fact, been over for quite some time. That original "The day the season died" post, coming off an embarrassing loss to the Atlanta Falcons, was a watershed moment for the Saints season. If they could lose that badly to a division opponent on the road, in a game they had to win to keep pace in their division, what made anyone think they had a shot at the playoffs?

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Let's face it, when an entire fan base is looking towards a freak snow storm as a sign that the Saints have a chance of knocking off the Bears in December at Soldier Field, well then you could say your team has a problem or too. The snow didn't last and, despite a valiant fourth-quarter comeback, neither did the Saints. Now New Orleans players and fans are just left to wonder if they'll ever get a shot at the Bears anywhere south of Chicago because Soldier Field just isn't cutting it.

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There will be a lot of introspection in the last two weeks of the season before the Saints officially pack up their things for the winter. Saints fans have to wonder if their team has improved at all from last season and just how badly injuries wrecked it all for the No. 1 offense in the league and Drew Brees' MVP chances. As always with the Saints, the answers come in a mixed bag.

-In this writer's humble opinion, this team was NOT overrated. Much like their young star, Reggie Bush, the Saints have been plagued by the injury bug all season long. No team can overcome losing more than a dozen players to season-ending injuries and more than a dozen more for smaller stretches. Start naming key Saints that have missed time because they were hurt off the top of your head. You'll be surprised how many you name before you get stumped.

-But despite all that, the Saints lost four games this season by five points or less. In all but the Redskins game, special teams played a deciding factor (the missed field goal against the Broncos, the blocked field goal returned for a touchdown against the Vikings and the opening kickoff return against the Bears along with bad field position throughout). Against the Redskins, it was a deep ball that exposed the Saints' secondary. It was fitting, then, that it was a pass interference play on a deep ball that finally killed the Saints' season.

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There were so many factors that were out of the hands of the Black and Gold this season that led to their downfall. And yet, so much of it was in their control. Whether it was the sweeps and end-arounds that were stopped for a loss on fourth-and-one (coache's decision), all the crucial turnovers that gave opponents insurmountable leads (player execution) or dropping all their road division games (overall malaise), nothing seemed to go the Saints way this season.

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The Saints, they say, have a way of making losing an art form. Every season they come in with inflated expectations always seems to fall apart in the most spectacular of ways. You got to give the Saints credit, though. For all the seasons fans would like to forget, they always make them unforgettable.

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