Monday, November 1, 2010

Saints Come Alive In Time to Salvage Promising Pursuit

The moment the defending champs escaped futility, on a night inside the loud and energetic Superdome, the Saints embraced an imperative win to keep aspirations alive. On this night, the Saints’ faithful wore costumes celebrating Halloween, and saw the New Orleans Saints escape purgatory.

Just in the last year we witnessed the Saints win a title, the first in franchise history, and we all commended the well-respected franchise as if they had emerged as America’s team.

It clearly took an opponent like the invigorated Pittsburgh Steelers, the most critical game on the Saints schedule, to make it evident that they are still relevant and resilient. It will be games like this, not over-match meetings against inferior opponents that offer telling leads as to whether the Saints are tangible or a mirage, suffering from a pestering hangover.

In general, the sluggish beginning of another palatable drive to the biggest stage in football faded out of the spotlight, but suddenly the Saints resolved the lousy and bleak obstacles.

Simply, as we discovered a tenacious franchise with perseverance and persistence, the Saints increasingly mended woes and established its identity against a defensive-minded team. On paper, specifically, the Saints were worthy of exceeding standards and had the pieces to repeat glory.

But in reality, Drew Brees, who completed 34-of-44 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers, rediscovered his usual form in time to revive into convincing contenders.

Given all that we’ve noticed on Sunday night of the viable toughness from a high-powered offense and stalwart defense, it doesn’t seem like the Saints have stopped marching after a humiliating, ghastly home loss to Cleveland.

The good news is that the Saints are finally marching again, following a crucial 20-10 defeat in a Halloween party against the Steelers. It was a kind gesture, rightfully so. And basically, the Saints redeemed all misery at a time when the season becomes fierce and competitive, at a time when winning becomes meaningful and convenient.

“It was good for us to get a win,” coach Sean Payton said. “We’ll keep working. We’ll recognize that it is what it is and we’ve got a lot of things to work on.”

There is plenty to work on. Although the Saints haven’t looked flawless or frightening, regardless of falling short in close games this season, clearly the win happened against a good team with vital weapons. The national scene has been seized by the Steelers, a team that somehow survived without Ben Roethlisberger to begin the season, while the franchise quarterback served a four-game suspension.

Meanwhile, the standards are always high for a team seeking to win back-to-back championships, and it symbolizes a team of resiliency and diligence. Early on, no one anticipated the Saints to decrease from championship-caliber and suddenly turn lousy, awakening in a timely situation to bypass fiascoes and afflictions, clouded in a disastrous storm.

At last, Brees had shed the paltry, useless performance of this season and past a rigid test against arguably the stingiest defense in the league. The Saints, on the other hand, healed all sorrow and refused to flunk the stiffest assignment this season. Wipe away the losses to the Falcons, Cardinals and Browns.

Stunned heavily by the Browns at home, the Saints were forgotten at that point and had been ridicule for under-performing. With that, it was clearly a game that the Saints rejuvenated in, ending the dreadful memories of an early crisis.

This could have easily doomed a poised and cohesive team with a knack to steer a high-powered offense as well as manipulate opponents’ tactics on offense, basically because of the defensive guru Gregg Williams, who strongly emphasizes the methods of playing brilliantly on defense.

“We’ve got high expectations,” Brees said. “We’re disappointed with the 4-3 start, especially because of the way we lost some of those games. It was really about sticking together. Everybody outside the building was like, ‘What’s wrong with the Saints?’ But we knew in our locker room that we had to stick together. We played as complete a football game—offense, defense and special teams—as we have all year.”

He’s telling the truth.

“We knew that this was going to be a pound it game where the defenses were going to take over early and the offenses had better patient or they could lose it early,” Saints cornerback Malcom Jenkins said. “That’s how it went. The offenses were trying to find themselves for most of the night. The defenses were trying to keep them in that mode.”

Instead of it being a high-scoring game, it was a low-scoring game and by halftime the scoreboard had 3-3. As the Saints defense has been stout for much of the year, the convoluted schemes were troubling for the Steelers and Roethlisberger was harassed and shoved as if he was chew toy.

By the fourth quarter, the Saints were toying with the Steelers and took a 6-3 lead. Eventually, they won it. Most of all, this is a win that may have saved the Saints season.

By the time the fourth quarter arrived, the Saints removed their costumes and suddenly played like a championship-driven team. An even more telling and lasting scene is that the Saints elevated its intensity and effortlessly advanced to the end zone twice.

However, the difference might have been when linebacker Marvin Mitchell stripped the ball loose from Steelers tight end Heath Miller and the ball drifted right into Sharper’s hands.

For the rest of the way, Brees completed all five of his passes and connected with Marques Colston for a 16-yard touchdown pass and then wide receiver Lance Moore on an eight-yard pass with 2:37 left.

“It was huge,” Saints safety Darren Sharper said.

Certainly, it was a huge win.

And suddenly, all eyes are on the Saints.