Well, hopefully the skeptics missed this one.
The now-9-3 New Orleans Saints were embarrassed on Monday Night Football by the Seattle Seahawks (11-1) by a score of 34-7. In what was a battle for the No. 1 seed of the NFC, the Saints only managed to muster 188 yards...total!
The Seahawks, at times, seemed liked they were actually playing with 12 players. Most pundits questioned if the Saints had the type of team that could travel and play well in games without ideal conditions.
Well, if this game was of any indication, those pundits may be onto something. The Saints must now regroup and get ready to face the hottest team in the NFL in the Carolina Panthers on Sunday Night Football.
A repeat performance like this one could send a magical season down the tubes. Expect the Saints to regroup and get right back in the thick of things.
Needless to say, they want to move on from this one ASAP. Here are my takeaways from the game.
Authentic Super Bowl teams have the ability to morph into whoever they need to be. They can win shootouts as well as close tilts. But most importantly, they are at their very best when the stakes are highest.
The Saints have all the makings of a team that could easily hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February. They have some of the most brilliant coaches on both sides of the ball. As far as personnel, they have so much depth that it's hard to pinpoint who will star on any given Sunday.
But it's hard to not take notice of how they compete outdoors on the road.
In those situations, early mental mistakes usually rear their ugly head. The intensity and swagger that we all know seems lost in translation. You have to wonder if the team is listening to the pundits' criticisms of its perceived road woes.
At home, if the Saints get off to a slow start, they rarely seem to waiver in confidence. On the road, there seems to be more of a "woe is me"-like approach in response.
So as much as we'd like to skirt around it, this Jekyll and Hyde-like act is a lot more bona fide than we give it credit for.
Here's hoping a beatdown of this magnitude will be the straw that breaks the camel's back...in a positive manner.
Seriously, was this game one of those bonus tracks found on last season's CD? Because that Saints team closely resembled the one responsible for last year's 7-9 debacle. The inability to get off the field on third downs, coupled with the propensity for giving up yards in chunks, brought about a serious case of deja vu.
For as effective as the multi-safety look has been in the past, the last couple of games have been very damning as far as its ability to stop the pass.
The Atlanta Falcons rung up 292 yards through the air, with the Seahawks going for 310! When you have the type of pass rush the Saints have, you'd figure it would be hard for offenses to find that much success with the pass.
But when you're charging safeties like Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper and Kenny Vaccaro with the task of defending receivers, you can most certainly see how those results are derived.
It's bad enough that corners Corey White and Chris Carr have troubles of their own in coverage, but when you add in the aforementioned trio—the alert level raises to DEFCON 1.
For those of you who scoffed at the notion of the Saints giving free-agent corner Nnamdi Asomugha a call...are you happy now?
The Saints don't seem to have any confidence in rookie Rod Sweeting and would rather trot out safeties to get worked up and down the field.
The Saints' flight should have made a detour and picked up Asomugha from his home in California (along with his wife). Put it this way, would he be remotely as bad as the play coming from everyone not named Keenan Lewis?
In the NFC, dual-threat quarterbacks are plentiful. From Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) and Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers), to Robert Griffin (Washington Redskins) and Russell Wilson (Seattle), teams are operating offenses with a kamikaze-like weapon at the quarterback position.
For defenses to be effective in the long run, they must tweak their game plans to accommodate QBs with a multi-pronged approach to the position. The Saints treated Wilson, at times, as if he were one of those old dinosaur-like QBs.
Corners often face-guarded receivers, while linemen crashed inside, allowing Wilson (eight carries for 47 yards) lanes to scramble outside the pocket. Defensive end/linebacker Junior Galette was played like a fiddle on the read-option play.
Instead of staying home and forcing the action to the interior, Galette attempted to chase down the back, which allowed Wilson to break contain. The Baltimore Ravens, in this past Super Bowl, gave the blueprint on how to slow down this type of attack.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs constantly hit Kaepernick on each play, not only forcing the action, but also ensuring the offensive coordinator eradicated that particular play from the plan.
With possibly three of the aforementioned QBs in the way of the Saints' penultimate goal—Newton for sure—they'd be wise to take that page out of Baltimore's playbook.
After a while, the referees' propensity for throwing flags actually made it look like they were administering yellow tape for a crime scene. Actually, with how bad the Saints played, Seattle looked like it committed some type of crime!
In what has become a common theme, the Saints committed eight penalties for 66 yards. I don't know about you, but with how great Seattle was playing, the last thing it needed was help from the opposition.
Those 66 hidden yards were more than the 44 yards rushing the Saints generated, and were almost half the passing yards (144). Getting penalties off of effort-based plays is one thing, but garnering flags of the pre-snap variety screams coaching.
How many times did it seem the Saints broke the huddle with seven seconds remaining on the play clock?
The Saints sported noise-deadening devices in their ears to combat the loudness of the Seattle crowd. But nobody told us those devices would have such an effect on their brains.
The Saints have to come with a much better plan in the rematch at the NFC Championship Game.
One of those plans should be a hurry-up, no-huddle approach on offense. Many have often wondered why the Saints rarely employ a no-huddle attack to begin with. The offense is filled with intelligent players who would excel at this approach.
QB Drew Brees is a master at the mental side of the sport. Having him operate with the benefit of vanilla defenses, due to a lack of substitutions, could only take one of the league's best offenses to the next level.
The Falcons have used this technique on the road to combat noise levels, and for the most part have been successful—well, not this season.
Fans and pundits alike have to be looking for the Saints to take it to the next level schematically, as the NFL is an ever-evolving sport. There's only so long you're going to get away with not varying your approach.
Make no mistake about it—the Saints are one of very best. But even the upper-echelon teams need extra pitches in their repertoire.
Just this slight tweak may have made a world of difference in the outcome of this contest. There's no doubt the Saints will regroup and have a much better showing if and when they see Seattle again.
But for now, they must focus on the Panthers, who may be equally as good as Seattle in all phases. This loss stings, but a win over Carolina will lessen the pain.
And it will ultimately answer that age-old question of "Who Dat?"