When the Saints opened tonight's game with a near-perfect six-play touchdown drive, it seemed like the game was over before it started. Then it seemed like the game wouldn't end. It was as if the Saints players spent their afternoon tailgaiting with the rest of the city and hit a wall after that first touchdown.
Photographs by Jonathan Bachman
In all seriousness, this wasn't the most convincing way to star a Super Bowl title defense and both teams were all over the place. There were, of course, flashes of brilliance, but the fact is that the Saints spoiled us last year. They can't always be perfect and considering this team has basically been on a victory tour since February, one more win is just more whipped cream on top of the cherries stacked on the icing. Let's get on to the fictional food awards.
- Courtney Roby - It's not every day that a special teams player can steal the show but...well, did you see Roby? He had the hit of the game - on Percy Harvin to start the second half - and averaged just over 23 yards-per-return on kickoffs. An X-factor on both sides of the ball; what more can you ask from a guy?
- Drew Brees - After a game like this one, you'd expect to look at Brees' numbers and maybe see some below-stellar stats. Then you really look at it and see he was just as brilliant as always: 27-of-36 for 237 yards and a touchdown. He just continues to amaze.
- Scott Shanle - Jonathan Vilma's interception will make all the highlight reels but it was Shanle that was a rock for the Saints' D all game long. Now if the all the Saints' players could work together to stop the run in the coming weeks, we'd be all set.
- Sedrick Ellis - It doesn't seem possible for an so-called "under-sized" lineman can wreck as much havoc as Ellis does but...well he just does. Even though Farve was able to find time every once in a while and Adrian Peterson broke out some runs, Ellis and the Saints line look like they're well on their way to their devastating 2009 form.
- Marques Colston - Is it possible that the Saints' wide receivers are the most underappreciated unit in the league? There's no question that Brees and Payton account for the vast majority of the team's offensive genius, but the Saints have essentially had the same guys catching passes for the past 3-4 years. Colston usually leads the way, and did tonight, but Henderson and Meachem were each just a drop away from stellar games. Seriously, people need to talk about these guys more.
- Who Dat Nation - How did everyone enjoy their half day? From what we could see at the Superdome and Champions Square, Who Dats are already in mid-season form. It's so good to have footbal back.
- Garrett Hartley - Considering how long John Carney was able to stay around in a Saints uniform, it'd be silly if fans gave Hartley too much grief over his performance tonight. But his two misses were the difference between a comfortable win and uncomfortable, lackluster win.
- Saints Rushing Offense - Less than halfway through this game people in the press box were cracking jokes that the Saints' offense was in 2008 form. Well, it's pretty early for that but surely Sean Payton won't be happy with nine yards on three carries at the half. The Saints finished with 25 rushing attempts for 79 yards - including four attempts by Brees for -6. Eek.
- Visanthe Shiancoe - Man, was this guy annoying or what? He only had four catches but they all came at just the worst times. And he scored a touchdown. Every touchdown against the Saints will be met with truckloads of spoiled crawfish.
- Ryan Longwell - What kind of kicker has an extra-point blocked? One who plays for the Vikings. Ridiculous.
- Brett Farve - What did people think was going to happen when Farve held out almost all of training camp before finally deciding to grace the Vikings with his presence? He would just come in at 40+ years old and take out a Super Bowl-winning defense (The same defense that nearly pummeled him into retirement seven months ago) ?
- Pre-Game Ceremonies - By all accounts the concert at Jackson Square and parade through the French Quarter went without a hitch whatever happened inside the Superdome was just strange and ill-conceived. It's really not too hard: show everyone the Lombardi Trophy, countdown and drop the banner, watch the game. Whatever. This still happened: