All good things must come to an end and did December 19 inside the Superdome. 13 N.O. was as far as this historic season got for the Saints. Granted, their season isn’t over and any further win would be a franchise record, nevertheless, blame is flying for the first blemish on the Saints perfect season. Breesus was in less than saviorlike form losing two fumbles and throwing a crucial interception on an under throw to former LSU Tiger Devery Henderson. Henderson, for his part, unfathomably dropped a TD pass that would have completely turned the momentum around in time for another Saints comeback (Dallas tried to help out with that anyway). Superstition also reared its head: Did you or any Saints fan you know get a haircut this week? How about a shave? What about the unknown Who Dat?
He was found and attended his first (and last?) Saints game at the Superdome.
The Saints high flying offense was largely grounded by the pass rushing of Demarcus Ware (who left last week’s game on a stretcher with a neck injury) and Anthony Spencer. Tony Romo only threw one TD pass but also went over 300 yards through the air and did not turn the ball over. As a team Dallas gashed New Orleans for 145 yards on the ground and converted 8/15 3rd downs.
From the above it seems that the Saints’ first loss came easy. Until early in the fourth quarter, the Saints looked as if they had finally given up on a game. The Cowboys offense then turned lethargic and a punt sailed into the end zone for a touchback. Brees turned into Breesus once again hitting 6 of 7 passes for 72 yards. Two handoffs later Mike Bell found the end zone and cut the Cowboys lead to 24-10. Dallas followed up with underwhelming 6 yards on 3 plays. Breesus redux, the Saints scored 7 plays later and were down a mere 7 points with a full 8 minutes to go.
Romo and the power running game had enough life to seemingly send the game out of reach on a Nick Folk FG, or not. Andrew Sharp knows your pain Cowboys fans. The Unknown (now well known) Who Dat had struck again! He put the gris gris on Washington’s Shaun Suisham who missed a 23 FG to put the game away on December 6 and now this? I guess we are going to OT, what snack food should I pull out I thought? Brees had to go 80 yards with no timeouts with only 2:16 on the clock. Only 2:16? The Saints have scored 5 less offensive TDs (10) after the 2 minute warning of a half than the St. Louis Rams have scored (15) in the entirety of 14 games (Sad, but true. The Saints also have 3 defensive TDs within the 2 minute warning this year). The game didn’t end with the typical Breesus/Saints heroics. Instead, Demarcus Ware sacked Brees and caused a fumble some 48 yards away from the end zone which set up Romo for the victory formation.
Despite what Head Coach Sean Payton wanted, the Saints aren’t getting an undefeated season. Despite what Saints fans might believe, this loss was good for the team. Since entering the league in 1967, the New Orleans franchise has never seen prosperity like this year. This years’ team had not had to face a real setback or deal with disappointment. Now that they have, the Saints can continue toward Dome field advantage and the first Black and Gold Super Bowl. As I write this, the Vikings blew their chance (do they ever show up for road games?) to make the Saints pay for the loss.
As for the Cowboys, they are the current 6th place team in the NFC for the playoffs. Should they “control their destiny” effectively, I still have no confidence in the ability of Romo and the Cowboys to beat the Saints in the Superdome for a second time, especially not in the playoffs. The Cowboys have five (5) Super Bowl Trophies. The Saints have two (2) playoff wins. However, both of those Saints wins and none of the Cowboys’ Super Bowls have occurred in the 2000s. The man responsible for the first Saints playoff win was Aaron Brooks. Drew Brees, who picked up the second win, eclipsed Brooks’ Saints career passing TDs record (who knew Brooks threw 120 TD passes?!?) in the loss to the Cowboys. No matter what else happens, this season is historic.