Shortly after the two minute warning, with the Saints in scoring position, the Dallas Cowboys took a timeout. Their plan: Even if the Saints scored here, they would leave their offense enough time to respond.
When the Cowboys took that timeout, though, I
cheered. Why? Because I realized the Cowboys were about to put the Saints into a very 2011 kind of situation. By stopping the clock, they were giving the Saints an opportunity to score not once before the half, but twice.
They were giving the Crescent City Express a chance to return.
What Is the Crescent City Express?
Back in 2011, when the Black & Gold Review
was just two guys with a Tumblr, we realized the Saints’ offense needed a nickname. It was, after all, on the most torrid pace in NFL history, and ended the 2011 season by setting ALL THE RECORDS.
We decided on Crescent City Express, because — and we may be wrong about this — we thought it sounded cool, and because it describes the fast-paced way the Saints’ offense is almost uniquely able to score and produce yards.
In 2011, I wrote this:
“The identify of the New Orleans Saints is this: Directing the Crescent City Express on Monday night, not only did Drew Brees lead it down the field before the half for the team’s third touchdown, he did it with such frightening effect that, following the Giants’ next possession, the Saints got the ball back with 35 seconds remaining and tried to score again.”
We haven’t really seen much of the Crescent City Express this season. Yes, the Saints’ offense has been among the league’s best, but something has been missing.
As a fan base we’ve been waiting for the special moment that everything would click, and the juggernaut of an offense we adore would return.When the Cowboys called that timeout before halftime, the juggernaut returned.
The Double Touchdown
You know what happened next. Darren Sproles did this:
A few moments later, Rob Ryan’s defense stopped the Cowboys, and I cheered again, because the inevitable result was going to be a second pre-halftime score.
This, of course, was not the first time the Saints have scored touchdowns twice in time-sensitive situations before the end of the first half. In fact, they did it just recently, against Buffalo; they did it in 2012 in both games against Tampa; and they did it to the Giants in 2011 and 2009, too. In fact, in 2009 the Saints, assisted by a turnover, scored three
touchdowns immediately before the half.
In every case the rapid accumulation of points before halftime has sparked the Saints to victory, and only in one of the 2012 games against Tampa has that win not been by in blowout fashion.
When the Crescent City Express got the football back, only 53 seconds were left before halftime, and the endzone was a distant 75 yards away. That didn’t matter. Darren Sproles did this:
Though the specifics had yet to be determined, at this point the game was effectively decided. More importantly, the 2013 season has developed a different aura. It’s a familiar one. It’s the one that gives fans confidence and makes the Saints feel like more than a mere playoff contender. This is what it feels like to ride the Crescent City Express.
With season-deciding games against San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, and Carolina each of the next four weeks, the Express has arrived just in time.
— For more original takes on the Saints, New Orleans and everything in the margins, check out the Black & Gold Review.