The New Orleans Saints clinched their third consecutive NFC South championship by defeating the Atlanta Falcons on Thanksgiving evening, 26-18. The Saints defense sacked Matt Ryan nine times on the way to claiming their third straight playoff appearance.
However, the offensive performance was uneven. Drew Brees had several dropped passes. Two of the drops by wide receiver Ted Ginn and tight end Jared Cook may have cost the Saints 12 points.
The Falcons’ wideouts Calvin Ridley and Christian Blake (No. 1 target Julio Jones missed the game with a shoulder injury) exposed cornerbacks Eli Apple and P.J. Williams’ technical liabilities. Their techniques were on display for playoff contending offensive coordinators and scouts to take notice.. These flaws must get corrected before the playoffs begin in a few weeks.
Yet, did the playoff gods help the Saints last week and on Thanksgiving? The Panthers and Falcons missed extra points and field goals. Could this be the NFL “voodoo” New Orleans has to succeed in the playoffs? First, let us gaze into mysteries of the New Orleans Saints’ playoff past.
The postseason has not been kind to the Saints the last two years. They lost two heart breakers that now have nicknames: “MINNESOTA MIRACLE” and “NOLA NO CALL.”. With all the team’s regular season success followed by postseason failure, it's fair to wonder if Brees and Sean Payton can return to the scene of the franchise's only Super Bowl appearance/victory and take home another trophy?
It has been 10 seasons since Brees beat Peyton Manning and the Colts in Miami. Brees has eclipsed Manning, Favre and many other legendary NFL quarterbacks with some of his amazing numbers, yet, like Favre, has only the one Super Bowl title. The NFL’s all-time yardage leader is 40 years old and this could be his last best chance to bring home another trophy. Payton’s team in 2011, which many consider the best he's had, suffered a last second divisional round playoff loss in San Francisco that rival those in Minneapolis two years ago and New Orleans last season.
Regardless of the past, the Saints can define the Payton-Brees era by getting on a playoff run to another title. But will their past come back to haunt them? January is going to be an interesting month in NOLA as the Saints try to extend their season into February.