Deke: Saints win NFC South; NOT the way they wanted

Deke Bellavia
January 01, 2018 - 12:50 pm




It’s an entire season.  No team has ever, will ever win anything of substance in one game.  And most people rarely win anything in life without the help or influence of somebody or something else.  The final Saints game of the season, a 31-24 loss to the Bucs, sums up those truths. It was a sad goodbye to 2017 and a celebratory hello to 2018.

Drew Brees summed up the feelings of the team & Saints fans everywhere.  “It kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth,” said the Saints QB.  Drew was obviously talking about the Saints disappointing loss to the Bucs, while at the same time clinching the NFC South by way of Atlanta beating Carolina...and the Saints season sweep over the Panthers.  

Sure, the Saints are happy. The Who Dat Nation is ecstatic.  And, everyone in the Big Easy is looking forward to the Black & Gold hosting a playoff game for the first time since the Saints hosted the Detroit Lions back in January of 2012.

“Listen we all wanted the Saints to win the game, but it is a season.  And because the Saints swept the Carolina Panthers this season they are able to host a playoff game,”  reasoned Bobby Hebert, the Founding Father of The Who Dat Nation on WWL’s “Point After” radio show.  

Tampa finished the season with a dismal 5-11 record.  But credit the Bucs.  They played hard in their last several games, nearly pulling off upsets over the Falcons and Panthers.   I guess the third time was the charm, when Tampa Bay scored a late TD pass from young signal caller, Jamies Winston, to upset the playoff bound Saints.

Now the Black & Gold play Cam Newton and Carolina for a third time.  The Saints are the #4 seed and will host the 5th seeded Panthers Sunday, January 7th at 3:40PM in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

New Orleans beat Carolina 24-13 and again 31-21 in their two previous meetings.  This third meeting marks the first time in the series history that the two NFC South divisional rivals compete in the NFC playoffs.

The Saints will have to do a few things better to advance in the playoffs.  “We (Saints) have to play better on third down offense AND on third down defense,” said our resident pro Bobby Hebert.  

New Orleans was much better on third down offense against the Bucs, converting 50% of the time...going 6-of-12 for 50% on 3rd down.

The Saints defense is going to have to up their game on third downs in their first playoff game.  Tampa Bay had their way against the Black & Gold defense. The Bucs were near perfect on 3rd down offense against the Saints.

They converted 91% on 3rd down in the first half against the Saints.  And the Bucs finished the game going 13-of-18 for 72%.  

“Look, the Saints have not been as good on 3rd down offense.  And if our defense is giving up 3rd downs to the opposing teams at 50% or higher—that is not a good thing.  We need both the Saints offense and defense to up their play in the post season,” Hebert said.

The Saints now have less than a week to prepare for a team they know all too well,  divisional foe Carolina.  The Panthers ended the regular season losing to Atlanta 22-10, and now Carolina enters the post season as the 5th seed.

“It’s a new season.  The Saints have to clean some things up before next week,” said Saints color analyst Deuce McAllister.  “The Saints want to prepare as best as they can and clean up areas of play that were not as good as they have been against the Bucs,” said the Saints all-time leading rusher. 

Currently the Saints open up as a 5 ½ point favorite over Carolina.  Game time is set for a 3:40pm kickoff  at home in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.  For those of you looking ahead, if the Saints win, New Orleans moves on to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs and would take on either Minnesota or Philadelphia.

If the Rams beat Atlanta in the other Wild-Card game, the Rams would play at Minnesota and the Saints would play at the Eagles if they beat Carolina.  If Atlanta upsets the Rams and the Saints win, the Saints would play at the Vikings and the Falcons would play at the Eagles.

No matter what, it is truly a “one game at a time” season now.  Every game could be your last, or every game could get you closer to nirvana - 2-Dat - another Super Bowl. 

With all that said, doesn’t it feel good that for the first time since January 2014 the Saints are in the playoffs?  And next year is still this year!  


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