We are being seduced. And we’re falling for it again.
Just when we were about to walk away, the Saints have come crawling back to us, begging us to stay. This was going to finally be the year — again. Dreams of a second Super Bowl title should be dancing in our heads instead of flickering playoff hopes.
An 0-2 start became 1-3, 2-4, 4-7 and 5-7. That’s enough turbulence to make frequent fliers nauseous. At 4-7, fans were jumping ship. The Who Dat Nation was in peril. Drew Brees was declining. Sean Payton and Rob Ryan hated each other.
But then the Saints dominated the Steelers. The defense, despite giving up two garbage touchdowns late, played like everyone thought it would when the season started. Brees threw five touchdown passes and played mistake-free. It was a performance seen in only one other game this season — the 44-23 dismantling of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in week 8.
I wrote last week before the Steelers game that the Saints aren’t a good football team — 5-7 says they still aren’t. But they’re better, and this is when a team wants to be playing its best football. Champions are made in December. The team that gets hot at the right time is capable of doing anything.
So was last week the turning point or just another tease? The Panthers, Bears, Falcons and Buccaneers down the stretch sets up perfectly for the Saints to run the table. A 9-7 finish with a division championship and home playoff game would reset things nicely headed into the postseason. That can happen if they’ve turned the corner — IF we’re not being teased again.
Linebacker Junior Galette fired some people up this week when he was questioned about a lack of veteran leadership on the Saints defense after the offseason departures of key players like Jabari Greer, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper. He said the guys in the Saints’ locker room right now are better than all the guys who left.
Vilma and Smith fired back at Galette on Twitter. Scott Shanle and Scott Fujita, other former players, fired back as well. They said Galette should win a championship then talk.
Still, Galette was sticking up for his guys on defense who have been criticized all season. He’s not going to admit a lack of leadership. He knows he’s in it for the long haul with young guys like himself, Cam Jordan, Kenny Vaccaro and others.
If this mid-week spat helps give the defense a late-season burst, so be it. If some feathers are ruffled in the process, oh well.
The players in the locker room now are the ones who have to find a way to win. Find a way to the playoffs. Vilma and Smith were key cogs in the 2009 championship machine, but those days are long gone.
The future is now. Four more games to write a 2014 success story, for Galette to build his own legacy.
Just hope this isn’t another seduction that will leave us feeling cheated again in the end.
Saints 34, Panthers 17