Twice in the past four years New Orleans has had to watch as their dreams of a Super Bowl have been blown away in "The Windy City"-once in the NFC Championship in '06 and again last year after a 35-yard Robbie Gould field goal in overtime, ended what little chance the Saints had of making the postseason. Last night however, Saints' fans breathed a collective sigh of relief after the Bear's 36-30 overtime win over the Vikings. Chicago's win means that the Saints will enjoy home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But just two weeks ago, that appeared to be forgone conclusion.
The Saints were living the high life, nearing the back end of what was to be a dream season, and sporting an unfamiliar heir of invincibility. Now however, in the wake of two inexplicable losses to opponents of seemingly dissimilar pedigree, the victory parade is on ice, leaving Saints' fans who had prematurely booked their flights to Miami aghast in wide eyed disbelief.
After all, Its entirely conceivable that the Cowboys loss might have been dismissed as a late season misstep, but Sunday's 20-17 loss at home to the now 3-12 Buccaneers is symptomatic of a more troubling prognosis. The Saints' high powered offense (which averages 33 points a game) has slowed to a crawl, only managing 17 points in each of their last two games. And their banged up defense allowed a 176 rushing yrds against Tampa, the league's 23rd ranked rushing attack.
After sprinting out to a commanding 17-3 lead in the first half Sunday, the Saints appeared to have righted themselves following that disappointing 24-17 loss to Dallas-a game that they were never realy in. But New Orleans came up lame in the second half and Tampa had just enough in the tank to close down the stretch. Brees, by his standards, was held in check-throwing just one touchdown and totaling 258 yrds. While Cadillac Williams (129 yrds rushing) litteraly ran away with any chance New Orleans might have had at mounting a comeback in over time.
A week earlier against the Cowboys it was their inability to score in the first half that
"The fact is we need to play better," Brees said. "I don't feel like we've played our best football in a while and there's definitely some things that need to be corrected...."
For whatever reason, be it injuries or meerley inconsistancy, New Orleans has picked the worst possible time to revert back to form. Perhaps they're still hungover from last months win over the Patriots. Whatever the case, the Saints vaguely resemble the team that spent the first three quarters of the season on the fast track to the Super Bowl. Where they had once found success, the Saints are now finding themselves on the wrong end of these "head scratching" finales. As the "Black and Gold" stumbles into the final week of the regular season many question weather they can regain the momentum that saw them win thirteen straight,or if these last couple of weeks are sign of things to come.