Monday, 24 September 2012 02:40

New Orleans Saints Blog: Team faces Packers as it faces NFL death chant

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YUCK1Jim W. Miller's New Orleans Saints blog column:    

In the halcyon days of seven-day newspapers, I covered an NFL team that was usually out of contention for post-season honors by Thanksgiving.  Sometimes by Halloween. As a practical matter, they were probably out of it by Labor Day, but their legions of loyal fans would not admit it as they went through the motions of masochism. After each loss, the ink-stained wretches of the press would dutifully ask the players about how they could continue to toil through another losing season even as they gave up their sugar plum dreams of post-season play and championship glory. The standard answer, which becomes a cliche to losing teams, is "we are playing for pride."



      It was a difficult admission for those Baltimore Colts players of the late 1970s and early 1980s since the team had enjoyed success, winning consecutive division championships before falling precipitously into the welfare line of losing teams. Those Colts players were out of the playoff hunt early, and they played the game for the pride of being a professional athlete, which sounds a heckuva lot better than saying they only play for the money.

      Flash forward more than three decades later, and you have a local team that enjoyed the ultimate success only three years ago, and came into this season with high expectations. They had just signed the highest-paid player in league history, had a veteran team intact and entertained visions of becoming the first NFL team ever to host a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Of course, the off-season distractions were just speed bumps on their road to success that would test their resilience but ultimately be forgotten when the trophy was held high.

      All of which makes it so puzzling that the Saints today are 0-3 against three teams that haven't beaten anybody else so far, and they have looked miserably inefficient while doing it. Their defense was the worst in the league through the first two games, and in the third game looked like hot butter before the knifing thrusts of a mediocre Kansas City running game. Their All-World quarterback who will hold every passing record in the league when he is finished did not complete a pass in the final 17:30 of the game. Receivers could not get open. Running backs could not penetrate a defense that will never be confused with the 1976 Steelers. Their offensive line gave the Chiefs pass rushers free shots at the bulls-eye painted on the back of their quarterback. 

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     And today, Who Dat Nation, shocked and confused, is wondering how much longer can this go on? It likely will extend at least one more week as the Saints limp into Lambeau to play the Green Bay Packers. That would give New Orleans an 0-4 start, one which only the 1992 Chargers ever overcame and made the playoffs. Interestingly, San Diego is where the Saints will travel next, to meet a Chargers team that also is playing far below expectations. 

     If they do not show some post-Katrina resilience and pull out of this dive soon, the more likely you will hear Saints players reciting the death chant of a losing team. They will be playing for pride, because that is all they will have left. 

Jim Miller's new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores and at his website: 

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