|Did the Saints play their Super Bowl when they turned in a near-perfect performance in that walloping
the Patriots on the Monday night of Week 12?
The Saints shocked the Who Dat Nation and the NFL with an overtime 20-17 overtime loss to Tampa
Bay ( 3-12) on Sunday in the Superdome.
Since that victory over the Patriots the Saints (13-2) have struggled for wins at Washington, and Atlanta
and a pair of losses to Dallas and Tampa Bay. Gulp. Blowing a 17-0 lead and a loss to one of the
worst teams in the league, should set off an alarm bell.
The Saints could have squeaked by once again if Garrett Hartley had made a 37-yard field goal in
regulation, but not being after to put away the Bucs should took air out of the Saints' balloon.
But there's still time fort the Saints to jump back on their magical carpet ride and either a win next
week at Carolina or one more loss by the Vikings will deliver the homefield advantage for the NFC
The Saints appear as if they peaked against New England and left their best football in the
Superdome that night. The Saints need a win at Carolina to gain any confidence for the playoffs.
Cadillac Williams rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown against a defense that hasn't played well
since the Patriots game, and Conner Barth's 47-yard field goal in overtime gave the Bucs their second
win of the season.
The loss was the first time a 13-win team lost to a team with only two victories.
"It's hard to explain," said Saints quarterback Drew Bree's. "We got off to fast start, then after that there
was a big lull. We need to play better. I don't feel we've played our best football in a while and there's
definitely some things that need to be corrected.
"You always find out more about a team when you face adversity. This is just another one of those
situations that I feel we have the right character , the right type of leadership to bounce back from and
help us become stronger going into the playoffs."
Hartley's miss was only the second of his two-year career and first inside 50 yards. "Knowing I let my
team down is the worst thing," said the kicker. "It's definitely humbling. You have to learn from these
experiences in order to prevail for the next one."
The Saints scored on their first three possessions after a 28-yard field goal by Hartley capped an
83-yard field goal to open the second quarter. It appeared the Saints were headed for a blowout victory.
But eh Bus scored 20 unanswered points in the second half, thanks to their special teams. The Bucs
tied the game late at 17 late in the fourth quarter after kick returner Michael Spurlock (Ole Miss)
returned a punt 76 yards, On the possession before, Williams broke off a 26-yard TD run.
The Saints won their first 11 games by double digits. After a 38-17 victory over the Patriots, the Saints
appeared better situated than ever to make their first run to the Super Bowl.
"They hung around in the second half and credit them for having the resolve to fight back," said Saint
coach Sean Payton in his postgame discussion.
With their 17th point of the game, the Saints became the 12th team to score more than 500points in
NFL history, The previous was the 2007 Patriots,who scored an NFL-record 589 points while winning
16 regular-season games.
Pierre Thomas, who suffered a bruised ribs injury in the first half, scored the first Saints TD on an
Brees was held to 258 yards passing and one touchdown. The Saints rushed for 124 yards, but
gained only 28 yards on the ground in the second half.
Robert "Money" Meachem's 30-yard touchdown catch was set up by Darren Sharper's ninth
interception of the season. He set an NFL record for interception return yards in a season with 376.
Saints owner Tom Benson raised his arms in triumph as Hartley drove his foot through the ball for the
field goal that would have won, but the ball hooked to the left, and the owner and the Who Dats left the
Superdome in silence..
|SAINTS POSTGAME QUOTES:
Sean Payton; "A difficult loss for us.We gave up that big punt return. It's frustrating,it's disappointing.
We'll have to bounce back.It'll be a tough one for us. but we have to bounce back. It'll be a tough one for
us, but we'll get a chance to see how we'll handle it.
"We did a pretty good job of hanging in there defensively. We made a big defensive stop in the fourth
quarter. We just couldn't make enough plays. It would be a mistake just to point to the kicking game,
just to the offense or the defense. In the end, we struggled on third downs. We didn't have any
penalties in the first half. We had the strip-fumble, We've got to clean up some things.
(on Garrett Hartley) "He played well for us.He's been battle-tested. It's a mistake if we just point to the
missed kick. I've said this before, in our league, it's crisis or carnival, 'cause the stuff in the middle
doesn't sell. Now you hit some adversity, We've got to get ready to play at team that's playing well,
Drew Brees: "We started off fast with 17 straight points. After that it was a big lull. It's hard because
you want to do is give yourself a chance to win at end. In overtime, unfortunately, they get the ball first
and it was over.
(on difference after first three drives) "We got really three possessions int he first half,with the
exception of the two-minute drill at the end. Even on that, we get stopped and maybe it's six inches. It
didn't feel like we had a lot of possessions in the second half until the two-minute drive.
"These are the types of things that bring your team together and make you stronger.
"(pressure?) "I don't know if I'd call it the pressure mounting. The fact is, we need to play better. I don't
think we've played our best football in a while. This is just the type of game we need, going on the road
against a divisional opponent that's playing very well.
"You always find out more about a team when you start facing adversity. In the Sean Payton era here,
we've faced adversity very well. We'll always turn them into positives. This is one of those situations
where we have the right the right type of character, the right type of leadership, to handle it very well.
(on four games since the Patriots game) "What I liked most about those last four games was our
ability to finish the first two (Washington and Atlanta). Last week, we got down so much ans scored
two touchdowns and almost scored a third. Today, we had the ball at the end with a chance top win the
Garrett Hartley: "I felt great going out there. Just an opportunity to win another game and give us
homefield advantage.in the playoffs. I kind of rushed myself a little bit. It was all me, the snap and hold
were great. I just rushed myself.
"Know I let my team down is the worst thing. It's definitely humbling. You have to learn from those
experiences in order to prevail the next one."
Tracy Porter: "We're not worried about anyone else and what their record is. We're worried about what
our record is.Whatever the Vikings do, they do. The two losses we've had, we have to put them behind
us and look forward to Carolina."