Sisung: A tale of the Saints’ misfortune
Luke Sisung | Friday, September 20, 2019
On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall and issued in a bleak cloud over the once vibrant city of New Orleans. One of the first gleams of light to hit the city following Katrina happened roughly a year later when Steve Gleason blocked a punt on Monday Night Football by the rival Atlanta Falcons in the Saints’ first game back in the Superdome. This heroic special teams moment commenced a period of successful Saints football in which they had consistent winning seasons and playoff berths as well as their first Super Bowl victory in 2009 against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
However, between 2014-2016, the Saints had three consecutive seasons underperforming and going 7-9 back-to-back-to-back. Many diehard Who Dats (Saints fans) called for a complete restructuring of leadership, starting with head coach Sean Payton, in order to reap the final years of Drew Brees’ prime with hopes of getting back into the Super Bowl. Despite the public pressure to relieve Sean Payton of his responsibility, ownership persisted through the storm and stuck with Coach Payton and the formula that had been successful in the past, a high-powered offense that never ceases scoring and a “bend but don’t break” defense.
This decision payed off sweetly with playoff appearances in the past two seasons and Super Bowl hopes entering this season. However, despite the Saints’ recent regular season success, they have been plagued by misfortune in the postseason, mainly at the hands of the referees. In the 2017 divisional matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, Brees and the Saints worked their way back from a 17-0 deficit to take the lead 24-23 late in the 4th quarter. On 3rd and 10 with ten seconds remaining in the game, Vikings’ quarterback Case Keenum heaved a pass down field to Stefon Diggs and Saints’ rookie safety Marcus Williams missed an easy tackle and the Minnesota Miracle was born.
The Saints’ expectations were even higher the following year with many media personalities predicting the Saints to at least make the Super Bowl and likely win. Lady Fortune, however, did not have the same fate in mind for the Saints. In the NFC championship game with the score tied at 20 all late in the 4th quarter, the Saints were driving downfield, and on a third down play in the red zone, Drew Brees threw a pass to Tommy Lee Lewis who was subsequently fouled by Rams’ defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman. Despite the blatant pass interference, the referees did not throw a flag on the play, and thus the Saints had to settle for a field goal. The Rams’ then drove down the field and kicked a field goal with 15 seconds remaining in the game to tie the game and force it into overtime. After a Brees interception on the first drive in OT, the Rams were able to easily kick a field goal and secure a spot in the Super Bowl which they lost in an embarrassing manner by scoring only three points. The likelihood of a Rams’ NFC championship victory without the missed pass interference call is infinitesimal based on the stellar play calling of Sean Payton and the Saints’ red zone efficiency in the Dome.
Despite the unfortunate endings of the past two seasons, the Saints again entered this season with Super Bowl expectations with Brees at the helm for another year and more depth on both sides of the ball. After a Week One victory against the Houston Texans on a last second field goal, the Saints traveled to Los Angeles to have a rematch with the defending NFC champion Rams. During the Saints’ second drive of the game, Brees suffered an awkward hit to his throwing hand and tore a ligament, sidelining him for the rest of the game and for the next six weeks. Saints’ backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater entered the game, and the offense hit a brick wall. Teddy could not move the Saints down the field against the stout Rams’ defense, and this sluggishness led to a 27-9 Rams’ victory.
For the next six weeks, Payton will rotate between backup Teddy Bridgewater and multi-faceted athlete Taysom Hill in hopes of keeping the Saints in the playoff race during Brees’ hiatus. The Saints have all the talent in the world on both sides of the ball and the potential to win another Super Bowl in the Brees era. However, if the Saints can’t catch a break, the Drew Brees window will slowly close and the Saints could become the “Aints” again, sooner than we might suspect.