After watching the New Orleans Saints dismantle the New England Patriots in one of the biggest Monday Night Football matchups in recent memory, I found myself scratching my head and asking myself, “When did the Saints get so good?”
I had the opportunity to cover the Saints for over two seasons, and I never witnessed them play with the intensity and will to win they displayed in Monday's 38-17 win over the Pats. In all honesty, earlier in the week — alongside NESN insiders Ted Johnson and Mike Reiss — I predicted a 21-14 New England victory. But when the clock struck zero, it was the Black and Gold who came out on top.
I'm still at a loss for words, and I can't come to a conclusion about what Monday night's contest actually proved. Did it let the football world know that the Patriots still have some work to do if they want to regain the top form they displayed during the 2007 regular season? Or did this game reinforce the fact that the Saints are quite possibly the best team in the NFL?
The Patriots found the end zone on a pair of Laurence Maroney touchdowns on Monday, so the question remains, why did the Pats stray away from the run? Looking at the numbers, the attack was balanced. However, down the stretch, Tom Brady and company appeared to be looking only for that home-run play that never materialized.
Then there was the Saints defense, which looked to be airtight. Brady had just his fourth game with more than one interception and zero touchdowns — and when the quarterback struggles, the whole team struggles.
The Patriots still have five regular-season games to play, and their playoff chances are still very strong — but the true test of this team's resilience will be proven as the weeks wear on. When faced with adversity, champions rise to the top. And we've seen the Patriots do it so many times before, and this notion leads me to believe that this season will be no different.
There are still a few adjustments to be made, but any time you have personnel with the credentials of Brady, Bill Belichick and Randy Moss, good things are on the horizon. It is a cliche, but it is also a very true statement.
The NFL season is not a sprint — it’s a marathon. And at this point in the race, the Pats have suffered a minor cramp, a minor setback in their plans. Patriots fans, stand by your team and continue supporting the "Team of the Decade,” because crazier things have happened before.
Remember 2001 against the Rams? Enough said.