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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What if the 2015 Saints don't suck?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 11:47 AM

click to enlarge DERICK HINGLE
  • DERICK HINGLE

You know the cliche. It was produced by Sean Payton mentor Bill Parcells: "You are what your record says you are."

The Saints are 2-4 and sit beneath every other team in the NFC South. Even with last Thursday's satisfying win over the Atlanta Falcons, these Saints are bad.

But the line between bad and good is thin. In the case of the Saints, the difference between being bad at 2-4 and being good at 4-2 is thin too.

The Mess Against Tampa

The Saints' first opportunity to win came in week two, when fans first began to expect things were worse than even our previously-low expectations. Against another bad football team, the Saints fell behind 23-7 and quarterback Drew Brees injured his throwing shoulder. Somehow, they mounted a fourth quarter comeback, and even the Saints' terrible defense gave them a few shots to finish that comeback with a win.



Like so many of the other glimpses of promise from these Saints, Hau'oli Kikaha's big forced fumble was part of a play made entirely by young Saints defenders: Kikaha himself with the strip, rookie defensive lineman Bobby Richardson with the initial tackle, and second-year pass rusher Kasim Edebali with the recovery.

Unfortunately, now-departed kicker Zach Hocker missed the Saints' ensuing field goal, so the youngsters' efforts were in vain. Afterwards, the Saints closed the deficit to 26-19, and had the ball with a chance to win with minutes remaining, but couldn't score. They'd squandered their opportunity.

The Saints certainly didn't play well against Tampa. They looked like a terrible football team. And yet ...


The McCown Show

The story between weeks two and three was all Drew Brees: Was his career over? How bad was his shoulder injury? Are rotator cuff bruises real things? (Yes.) Would he play against Carolina, and would he be able to throw the ball if he did?

Luke McCown started, as it turned out. And McCown did pretty well for himself. The Saints played a slow-paced back and forth game with a Carolina Panthers team that remains undefeated and in command of the NFC South, and in the final minutes had a chance to win for the second straight week.

With 3:50 left in the game, the Saints took the ball at their own 29-yard line. McCown led them right down the field. With just over a minute left, McCown found himself lined up at the Panthers' 23. He lofted a pass into the endzone, looking for receiver Brandin Cooks. The pass was just barely underthrown, and Panthers cornerback Josh Norman made a spectacular play on the ball to intercept it.



Had Norman's play been only a little less incredible, or if McCown had thrown the ball just a bit farther, the Saints would have taken the lead, and probably would have won.

Two games; two moments; the difference between winning and losing. The Saints' huge win over Atlanta was a sign of their max potential, just as the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was a sign of how bad they can be.

If we get more of the former than the latter from here on out, the close losses to Tampa and Carolina could be the difference between approaching or exceeding .500 and finishing, once again, with a losing record.

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