Saints fans now know what it was like to have been wearing red and gold in FedEx Field a few Sundays ago.
After going into the half resembling the team that dominated the New England Patriots and New York Giants, the New Orleans Saints behaved like the squad that struggled against the likes of the lowly Washington Redskins and the lowlier Saint Louis Rams when they lost to the lowliest team in the NFC South, a Tampa Bay team that had won only two wins going into the second-to-last regular season game.
WWL sportscaster and former Saints quarterback Boibby Hebert described the defeat by the Buccaneers as the worst in the franchise's history; while I feel the Cajun Cannon's pain, I won't go that far as the team chronicles are chock full of bleak moments.
In addition to the embarassment of being over-run by the Bucs, the Saints blew what was their best opportunity to own homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, though if the team continues to performance like this in post-season, the Saints will only be in one playoff game anyway.
Tampa Bay should be credited for overcoming the stark challenge before them, as they were a two-touchdown + dog to the Saints going into the game and trailing them 17-3 entering the third quarter. The cellar dwellers of the NFC South did not pack it in and played for pride and just possibly saved their coach's job for another season.
The Saints played sloppy on every side of the ball, offense (wide receiver Marques Colston's second fumble of the season), defense (making Tampa Bay running back Cadillac Williams look like Steven Jackson- the Saints defense made Jackson look like Barry Sanders in November) and special teams (bad punt led to bad punt return). And then there was kicker Garrett Hartley's missed attempt at winning the game in regulation.
And yes Mr. Hartley, the loss is your fault.
I know there were failures across the board by many of his teammates on Sunday but when it came down to it, Hartley gets paid to win games like that, like he did against the Redskins when Hartley's opposite number didn't get it done.
The Saints started their winning streak by dominating on offense and making big plays, not to be confused with good play, on defense. The second half of their winning streak has been mostly "miracle wins", with a few exceptions.
Unfortunately for the Saints, the miracle well with the fleur-de-lis bucket has run dry the last two weeks.
And yes, while writing this, I am aware of a miracle being played out on Soldier Field that could lock up homefield and while that should help their chances (or at a minimum save me the expense and agony of flying to Minneapolis in January).
The Black and Gold doesn't need gris-gris or fans to pay ludicrous homages to the "unknown who dat"; the offense needs to learn to not cough the ball up; the defense needs to learn to stop opponents on third down and special teams needs to convert field goals and adequately cover kickoffs and punts.