by Clay A. Smith
Well it was practically the same plot, minus the storybook ending. For fifteen consecutive weeks the Saints had teased us with the prospect of perfection, narrowly escaping disaster at every turn. And perhaps without even realizing it, we had become accustomed to the improbable-big game blow outs and heart stopping finishes that left us all tickled in childlike wonderment.
But with two conceivably winnable games remaining (Tampa and Carolina) after their highly anticipated Saturday night showdown with an unpredictable Cowboys team desperately fighting for their play off lives, the "Black and Gold" fell one miracle short of 14-0 and a chance at football immortality. As had been the case for a number of weeks, the Saints' offense was stagnate early, going three and out on their first three possessions.
Meanwhile, Dallas moved the ball with relative ease. On their first possession of the game, Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo hit WR Miles Austin for a thirty-nine yrd touchdown to give Dallas an early lead. Up 14-0 after a three yrd score by RB Marion Barber with 9:43 left to play in the first quarter, the Cowboys appeared to be running away with what many had thought was the Saints' game to lose. Entering the fourth quarter New Orleans had been dominated in every phase of the game and found themselves down 24-3.
However, the Saints had no intentions of going away quietly. Brees and company scored on back to back drives to come within a breathe of pulling off yet another unbelievable comeback. But LB DeMarcus Ware, who helped harass Brees the entire day, finished the game accordingly-sacking the Saints QB and forcing a fumble that was recovered by Dallas with seconds left.
The Saints, for the moment anyway, will have to settle for 13-1(the best start in franchise history), a first round bye, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs-an otherwise welcomed consolation for a franchise that has lamented in mediocrity for over four decades. But the city of New Orleans, whose hopes were understandably impractical, is a little less festive, a little less merry-being for the very first time faced with the sobering realization that at any moment, it could strike midnight on their team's magical season.