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DomeFoam 11-03-2003 11:11 AM

Len Pasquarelli: Saints Marching
 
http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/column...len&id=1652485

By Len Pasquarelli

The schedule is now actually slightly beyond the halfway point, with 129 of 256 regular-season games in the books, and there are 15 franchises with losing records. So if you're picking one of the those sub-.500 teams to rebound from the wrong side of the ledger book, to still make a legitimate run for a playoff spot over the final two months of the season, which club would you select? Us, we're looking at the New Orleans Saints, who are 4-5 but perhaps poised to get on a bit of a run.

As has become their newest wont, the Saints busted Tampa Bay again on Sunday afternoon, something they accomplished twice in 2002 versus the Super Bowl champions. New Orleans absolutely owns the Bucs and, if the Saints played every week with the same passion they demonstrate every time they see an opponent dressed in pewter (or, P-U-ter, given the lack of consistency Tampa Bay has exhibited in a year when it has yet to win consecutive outings), they would be a tough team to beat.

Actually, of late, the Saints generally haven't been the same patsies they were earlier in the season. Since their 55-21 loss to Indianapolis on Sept. 28, when the Superdome required fumigating even more than some Bourbon Street suds joints, the Saints have won three of five games. Yeah, we know, not all that impressive. But both of the defeats were against Carolina, each of the two contests was winnable, and the Saints would have beaten the Panthers in overtime two weeks ago had tight end Ernie Conwell simply sealed defensive end Julius Peppers on a fourth-and-inches gamble by coach Jim Haslett.

The NFL has actually apologized to the Saints for three botched officiating calls in that emotion-wrenching overtime loss but, as much as we like the New Orleans folks, we're not going to commiserate. Fact is, the pitiful officiating or not, the Saints should have beaten the Panthers in their second divisional matchup of the year.

But all of that is water, or Mississippi River bilge, under the bridge. What lies ahead for Haslett and his team, a bunch left for dead only a few weeks ago, is opportunity. Would the Saints be far better off had they bested the Panthers two weeks ago? You betcha. Adjust the records of the two clubs to reflect a New Orleans victory in a loss Haslett called the toughest of his career, and the Saints would be 5-4 and the Panthers 5-3, just a half-game differential. Reverse the outcome of that game and Carolina would be in the midst of a three-game losing streak, reeling, and facing an ominous schedule.

But the Saints can't concern themselves with what might have been and now must focus on what still can transpire in 2003. After next Sunday's bye, the Saints resume play renewing the annual bloodletting with the Falcons in The Big Easy, and play four of the final seven games at home. The road games are at Philadelphia, Washington and Jacksonville, not exactly fearsome.

The coming off-week will provide some of New Orleans' wounded a little more time to heal. One of the NFL's most potentially explosive offenses is starting to shows signs of life and tailback Deuce McAllister is re-establishing himself as a true all-around star. Enigmatic quarterback Aaron Brooks has settled down. The defense will soon get some starters, like right end Darren Howard, back onto the field.

New Orleans has folded in December each of the last two seasons. Maybe this is the year, huh, that the Saints get as hot as industrial-strength Tabasco sauce at the end of the year?.....



saint5221 11-03-2003 11:25 AM

Len Pasquarelli: Saints Marching
 
Wow, thats a lot of love from Len, hope we make him look like a genius.

tweeky 11-03-2003 11:47 AM

Len Pasquarelli: Saints Marching
 
Yea he throws Saints compliments around like anvils.
But he did a great love piece on us last year. I think right before we went on our 3-5 slide. :(

Anybody else feel like our toughest remaining game will be the Falcons?
How many times have they upset us when we were supposed to kill \'em?

This game has upset written all over it.

saint5221 11-03-2003 12:04 PM

Len Pasquarelli: Saints Marching
 
Man as bad as the Falcons look now its hard to imagine them winning anything, but if they were to get it together for anybody it sure as hell would be us.


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