2012 NFL Playoffs: It Was Lights Out in San Francisco for the Saints

Will OsgoodAnalyst IJanuary 14, 2012

When the San Francisco mayor earlier this week declared "lights out" for the Saints, I'm not sure how many people took him seriously. Certainly not anyone who considered themselves part of Who Dat Nation. 

Unfortunately for Saints fans, Saturday night the Mayor was correct. The lights to the 2011 Saints' season were blown out, 36-32. 

It started uncharacteristically, with four first-half turnovers. But even those couldn't prevent the Saints from twice taking the lead in the fourth quarter. 

It came with a defense reversing its trend of starting slow and finishing fast. Saturday they started relatively fast and finished miserably. 

The offense was good enough to win most games. But there's no doubt the mayor's wish was bound to come true. There was something in the air Saturday in San Francisco, and it wasn't the lights. 

Instead it was a defense who took the ball away just enough, and an offense that hit big plays seemingly at will late in the game. 

It was a classic, to say the least—one in which Drew Brees shined brightly, but for one night Alex Smith even brighter. You see, those lights that were supposed to be out were actually aimed on Smith, and boy did he respond. 

His response: 299 yards, thee touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown. Smith looked as if he was born for this very situation. He did not throw a pick; Brees did twice. 

Sure Smith fumbled twice, but he only lost one. Ultimately he picked apart a defense that always plays better under the lights, the lights of the dome. 

That New Orleans defense did not have the dome to manufacture energy and confidence. And Saturday night it cost the Saints their season. 

See, everyone made a big deal about the New Orleans offense and the struggles they were likely to have on grass. They struggled at times, but when the lights went out it was the defense who turned them off for these Saints.