The game in the NFL is one of inches. This cliche has been ridden into the ground so far it has come out the other side of the earth. But cliches are cliches for only one reason: they are true. The Saints face this brutal fact right now: they have to start winning close games and must make the important plays. Want to know the difference between being a 4-5 disappointment (and yet somehow in first place in a truly crappy division) and being an 8-1 juggernaut? Four plays.
On opening night, the Saints led in the last minute of the game and let the Falcons convert a third down they should have stopped; they then lost in overtime.
In week 2 it was literally deja vu: they led the Browns in the last minute and gave up a late third down conversion they should have stopped and lost in regulation on a last second field goal.
Week 7 against the Lions, they led by 13 points with 4 minutes to go and somehow coughed up the lead, including an impossibly stupid cross-up on a third down that led to a 75-yard touchdown play. I consider this play the most unforgivable of all. When you have a lead late, you are playing the clock as much as the other team, let them have all the 6 yard pass plays down the middle they want, you cannot CANNOT go for the ball and let a man score. Rob Ryan should have been fired after this game.
And finally, last week. Leading by a field goal in the last minute, the secondary somehow loses track of the best receiver on the 49ers on fourth down and allow a 50 yard completion that gets the Niners into field goal range. The Saints lose in overtime. I am not even going to bring up the ridiculous call of offensive pass interference on a completed hail mary at the end of regulation that would/should have won the game. This and the Lions play still make me so mad I now have to get up and pace.
Okay, I'm back. So there it is, four plays. The Saints are four plays from being 8-1 and are instead 4-5. Sure, you can point to dumb turnovers and lost opportunities during the game but greatness can be measured best when the game is on the line. Are the Saints an 8-1 team? Obviously not. Are they a 4-5 team? Well, you are what your record says you are.
I have a big batch of pulled pork and a sixer of Yuengling and I am ready to watch the Saints (hopefully) beat up on the Bengals - another team full of disappointment. As you may have noticed from these posts, watching and enjoying football for me has not been easy this year. If the Saints lose this one, you can look forward to a lot of hockey posts and longing for pitchers and catchers. But I have faith that if this game comes down to one play, the Saints have learned their lessons and will make it.