Indeed, she and the rest of Who Dat Nation was duly overwrought, distraught and taken aback by the performance of their favorite team, which disintegrated before their eyes in the second half against the hated Atlanta Falcons. What made it worse for her was that she watched the game at her new favorite drinking hole, Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon restaurant in Metairie, which was for most of the afternoon a festive venue. In fact, one of her friends set the tone early when he became the first patron ever to devour the seven-layer hamburger and fries with shrimp sauce, thereby having his meal comped by management.
The Saints were doing some devouring of their own in the first half as Drew Brees’ offense looked in mid-season form and ran out to a 20-7 lead with seconds left in the half. But that was when the first cracks of the defensive disintegration began to show. Two long passes from QB Matt Ryan set up a 53-yard field goal by Matt Bryant at the gun, and I said to my son that the three-point gift might come back to haunt the Saints.
If there is anyplace I would not want to be on Monday, it would be in the defensive meeting room when Coordinator Rob Ryan convenes his first ass-chewing of the season. During his unit’s disintegration, Ryan on the sidelines looked like a candy store owner lashed to the cash register while a regiment of Cub Scouts ravaged the cupcake aisle. The defense probably couldn’t have stopped eleven Cub Scouts, or even Brownies, in the second half as QB Ryan picked them apart like he was stealing. The Saints could not tackle, they could not cover Julio Jones or any other receiver and they approached Falcon running backs like they were carrying a hornet’s nest instead of a plump pigskin.
Could the Saints’ defense really be as bad as it looked? After ranking No. 4 overall in the NFL last year under Rob Ryan, then adding a playmaker like Jairus Byrd to go along with a vibrant young defensive line and coming stars like Kenny Vaccaro, I thought the Saints defense would be a great fantasy league pickup. Today, they looked as bad as the woeful 2012 unit that ranked dead last in all-time NFL defensive futility.
But Saints fans need to give the devils their due. We were all lulled into thinking the Falcons were done after their miserable 4-12 performance last year. Today, it looks like they truly were a beat-up, injury-plagued unit that could return to their 2012 13-3 status if they stayed healthy. On Sunday, they clearly re-inserted themselves as true contenders for division honors. If their health was in question, then they received their cure by rallying to defeat a team that many people, including your benevolent scribe, believed might have a Super Bowl in their future.
The Falcons might be that good, but I hope the Saints defense isn’t as bad as it looked Sunday. If it is, any talk of a high-rise condo for my mother-in-law or equally infected members of Who Dat Nation should continue to be tied up in committee.