"Whew, Dat Was Close: New Orleans Saints Squeak Out Victory To Stay "Perfect"

Bryan HollisterAnalyst IDecember 14, 2009

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 13:  Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates as he walks off the field after their 26-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 13, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If the Saints are going to struggle and have to rely on late-game heroics from their defense to win games against teams like Atlanta, then maybe all this talk about a perfect Super Bowl is a bit overreaching.

With starters Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Chris Houston, and Harvey Dahl all riding the pine due to injuries, the Atlanta Falcons were still able to press the Saints well into the fourth quarter, only to be stymied on 4th-and-2 on an admittedly heads-up play by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

The Saints are undeniably in the playoffs, but make no mistake, it's going to take more than late-game stops and last-minute game-winning touchdowns to make it past the competition in the postseason.

All the hooting and hollering will be for naught if the Saints go one-and-done in their bid for a Super Bowl.

Yes, this is a season for the ages as far as New Orleaneans are concerned. Yes, they have set a franchise record for wins in a season. Yes, Saints fans, you deserve to be giddy right now as your team is on track to do something only one team has managed to do in the history of the NFL...stay perfect and win it all.

But just ask any New England Patriots fan how hollow and empty it all feels just to get to the end of the road and find out that there is a roadblock there you can't overcome.

I do not wish this feeling on you, Saints fans; but I warn you to be prepared. Allowing teams like Atlanta to stay close late will eventually bite you in the backside.

If you don't believe me, I beseech you to look no further than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have made a habit over the last two or three years of letting games stay close until the very end. Until this season, they managed to pull things out in their favor.

That plan is not exactly working for them right now.

Steelers Nation is obviously and justifiably frustrated. We still love our team, but we are ready to chew barbed wire and spit nails at their apparent incapability to close out opponents—like the Browns, for instance—that have no business even stepping on the same field as our beloved Steelers.

But Saints fans, that feeling is coming your way.

If the Saints are going to let a team like Atlanta, with its decimated first team, stay close enough to threaten to win late, then any dreams they have of taking home the hardware will have to wait; the teams going into the playoffs will not be so easy to toy with.

So to the Saints, I say this: step it up. You have a chance at glory, but you are on track to gain nothing more than infamy.

And to Saints fans I say this: I don't hate you. In truth, I am concerned for your sanity. And not just because you are nuts enough to root for the Saints, but because I fear that the fall from grace your Saints are on track to experience may be more than you can handle. Continued association with someone who lets you down has a way of turning the mind to mush.

Don't believe me? Well, when was the last time you saw a truly rational Lions fan?

Enough said.