NEW ORLEANS -- Let the record show that the New Orleans Saints did miss a scoring chance in the first half Saturday: Wide receiver
The Saints scored every way but barefoot. They scored on prolonged drives and sudden strikes. They scored on a flea-flicker and a fade. They scored off a turnover and a punt return. They scored with an undrafted free-agent running back named
At a team meeting Friday night, Saints head coach
The Saints swung hard and fast. They rolled up 35 points in the first half, more than they had ever scored in any postseason game. At the break, Brees had already tossed three touchdowns. Bush had already amassed more rushing yards than he had in all but one game this season. The Cardinals defense looked even worse than last week, if that's possible. "I think we brought the wood," Bush said.
With the Superdome rollicking like it was 2006 -- the first season after Hurricane Katrina -- the Saints pounded the Cardinals 45-14 and silenced the notion that home-field advantage does not matter in the playoffs. They looked exactly like the team that won 13 games in a row to start this season, nothing like the team that lost three in a row to end it. Everyone expected this game to be a shootout. The heavy artillery flew in every direction.
For some franchises, winning a divisional playoff game at home is to be expected. But this was only the third playoff victory in Saints history and it sets them up to host the NFC championship game for the first time next Sunday -- against Dallas or Minnesota. Whatever team comes to New Orleans had better bring a lot of Excedrin and a much better scheme than Arizona.
The Cardinals knew they would have to deal with Brees,
The most impressive part of Bush's performance was not the big plays, but the tough ones. He moved the chains with five-yard runs and made clutch catches with defenders hanging off his hip. He finished with 217 all-purpose yards, 84 rushing. Considering that Bush could be auditioning for next season -- his contract will count $13.5 million against the cap -- this game proved his worth. Despite his limitations, he can still command the big stage. "This is what you play for," he said.
The outcome signaled Bush's resurgence and
For college football fans, it was a reminder of the good old days. But in the Superdome, it was the dawn of something new.