GUT CHECK: Time for Saints to “Man Up” vs. the Falcons


For the third consecutive season, the Saints have gotten off to a disappointing 0-2 start. The question is: where do they go from here?

All off-season, head coach Sean Payton preached the importance of developing a habit of winning.

He stressed that it was especially important because of the youth on the team, that it would help them buy into the things that the team was preaching.

Coach Payton even went on record as saying the team wanted to start fast by winning in the pre-season.

Well, heading into the third week of the NFL season, things have not gone according to plan, and the 2016 New Orleans Saints still have not tasted victory this year.

They have been so agonizingly close, that it has been heartbreaking for Saints fans.

Sep 18, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) and New Orleans Saints cornerback Ken Crawley (46) go for a fourth quarter pass at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Personally, the last two Sundays have wreaked havoc on my emotions: the swelling surges of hope, followed by the crushing blows of defeat which have left me with a bitter taste in my mouth that lasts into the following week — like jet lag, or a bad hangover.

Honestly, after the past two Sundays, employers should cut Saints fans a break if they showed up a little worse for wear on Monday morning.

Despite all the off-season signings and the indicators during the pre-season that the Saints defense had improved, the Saints are exactly where they don’t want to be.

In Week #1, the Saints squandered a masterful performance by the offense as their defense failed to protect a 4th quarter lead.

Week #2 was just the opposite, as the defense rose masterfully to the challenge, only for the offense to fail to put up any points on three turnovers.

Sep 18, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants outside linebacker Jonathan Casillas (52) celebrates with New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins (20) after Jenkins recovered a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Will Lutz’s blocked field goal attempt was the dagger in the heart, the proverbial “knockout punch” this time around in New York.

If I close my eyes, I can still hear the oppressive thud, as the Giants behemoth of a defensive tackle, Johnathan Hankins, raised a meaty paw to stifle the field goal attempt, and at the same time it seems, snuff out the beating heart of the Saints.

I can still feel that hollow, sinking feeling, as “Jackrabbit” Janoris Jenkins scooped up the loose ball and returned it for the score — with the roar of the Giants crowd swelling, even as I shrunk in my seat.

More from New Orleans Saints

It would be easy for the Saints organization and their fans to get discouraged.

It would be easy for them to recognize that teams that start 0-2 have about a 12% of making the playoffs, and that neither of the past Saints teams the last two years to start 0-2 have amounted to anything.

It would be easy for Saints fans to give up on the season, and turn elsewhere in the thriving city of New Orleans to find comfort.

Other teams and fan bases before them have done the same.

But New Orleans isn’t like other places, and the Saints aren’t like other teams.

With the 10 year anniversary of the “Rebirth in the Dome” set for next Monday, the Saints are forced to looked into the mirror, and into the past — and are reminded of who they are, and what they mean to a city, and to its fans.

October 7, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; A statue titled Rebirth featuring the likeness of former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason blocking a punt by former Atlanta Falcons punter Michael Koenen on September 25, 2006 as seen outside before a game against the San Diego Chargers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints organization has made a concerted effort to draft and recruit what they call “character players” exactly for these moments.

As fans know all too well, in life, and in football, things rarely go according to plan.

It’s ironic in a sense that the fleur-de-lis is the Saints symbol and the symbol of French royalty.

New Orleans and its fans are anything but.

When Drew Brees injured his shoulder all those years ago, it seemed like his NFL career was over.

The Saints were the only team that would take a chance on him.

Willie Snead IV, currently the number two receiver in the NFL in terms of yardage, went undrafted, and was cut by the Panthers and the Cleveland Browns.

Yes, Willie Snead IV bounced back from the insult of being cut by the woeful Browns organization, of all injustices.

Dec 13, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead (83) lines up during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The New Orleans Saints won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints defense is also full of misfits and undesirables, players who had to battle to even earn an opportunity in the league.

Star cornerback Delvin Breaux, who wanted so badly to play for LSU, only to never be medically cleared. He fought his way through the Canadian Football League — a frozen version of “hell and back” — to finally make it big with his hometown team.

(Photo courtesy of Delvin C. Breaux)

Rookie cornerback Ken Crawley, who had come up on the wrong end of two heartbreaking plays and is used to adversity, also went undrafted.

These are but a few of the stories, and the entire roster is filled with tales such as these.

Yes, New Orleans is 0-2, and things look grim.

But the Saints have the people in place to turn it around, both through the personnel inside the organization, and the fans inside (and out) of New Orleans.

It’s a tall order to be sure, and the historical odds are stacked against them.

But the Saints are a team of long shots, in a city based on beating the odds.

Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; A general view as fans walk to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome prior to the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Oakland Raiders. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

I still believe, and I know the Saints and their fans do to.

If they ever begin to doubt, they need look no further than Monday night, and listen to roar of Who Dat nation to be reminded.

It’s GUT CHECK time.

The New Orleans Saints need to “man up” and take back control of their own destiny against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night —- just as they did famously one time before…………