Sunday, December 28, 2008

Story of their season: Saints make it interesting, but fall short in the end

Posted By on Sun, Dec 28, 2008 at 9:45 PM

 

click to enlarge Steve Smith is a beast

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Photo by Jonathan Bachman

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Say what you will about the New Orleans Saints' season, it turned out to be just short of memorable, but not quite forgetable. Drew Brees becamse only the second quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards, but fell 16 yards short of breaking Dan Marino's record. The Saints held a one-point lead with just over two minutes left and had a chance to play spoiler to the Panther's home-field advantage hopes, but failed to stop Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith and Co. from driving down the field and taking the lead.

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"I guess it wasn't mean to be," Brees said.

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This season has been all about how close the Saints came to being a great team, or at least a very good one that made the playoffs. Today's loss against the Panthers is no different.

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While no player or coach will admit it, it was injuries that derailed the 2008 season. The list of Saints that missed games with injuries is awe-inspiring. Just take a look at their injured reserve list and imagine how many of those players could've contributed to one or two more seasons. Sean Payton, though, refused to even field a full question about the injuries.

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"We'll work hard through the offseason as we head into OTA's," he said. "We gotta make sure that we've got everyone in house participating and getting ourselves ready."

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What else could you expect a coach in his position to say? The Saints today showed all the signs of why they could have been a great team (417 total yards with eight different receivers catching passes and four passing touchdowns) but why they came up just short (just 50 yards rushing and two major turnovers that led to Carolina scores).

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For now, both Saints players and fans will get some much needed (though probably undeserved) time off. The sting of opportunities lost will not lessen, though, as teams like Carolina and Atlanta march on into the playoffs. So what kind of consolation can the Saints fans look too? Though the Saints are last in their division, you could argue that they finished there at 8–8 is a testament to the how good the NFC South. Most importantly, since the NFC South was created, every time a team has finished in last place, they've rallied to make the playoffs the next year.

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The only question that remains is how long Saints fans must wait until they no longer have to say "wait 'till next year."

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