Essentially, that game ended up becoming the the omen we all knew, deep down, though we refused to admit, that it was, and 2012 was the worst.1
That opening game was a microcosm of the Saints’ failures from 2006-present as it exemplified all the games in which Brees and Co. face an opponent (sometimes superior, sometimes not) and shrivel up into a quivering ball, rocking back and forth until the final buzzer sounds and we’re all left to try and rationalize what just happened.
We called this The Panic Game.
I defined the Panic Game with a couple of variables. There’s no need to recreate the wheel, so here’s an excerpt from the original essay:
- Turnovers. This one is pretty obvious, but during Panic Games the Saints average 3.2 turnovers. This alone is pretty hard to overcome, but it’s only the first ingredient.
- Drew throws the ball – a lot. Usually, hitting 45 attempts the mark of the danger zone, but he’s gone as high as 63 attempts in a Panic Game loss.
- We don’t run much. We usually try a few rushes early and see no success, so as the opponent’s lead increase we just stop trying. It’s not that we’re out of the game, but a large part of our running game is predicated on the success of passing game. We usually end one of these games with less than 20 rushes for under 50 yards. Once the Saints allow the pass to run ratio to creep above 70/30 we’ve reached the panic zone.
Now, back to last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Did you realize that we had two giveaways? That Drew had 45 pass attempts? That our pass/run ratio was 70/30?
The game against Tampa had every single hallmark of a classic Panic Game–a classic Saints loss.
And yet, we won.
I think we should all take a moment to appreciate how tenuous our 2-0 record is. The Atlanta games always seem close, but we own them, so they can suck it. But last week? We should have lost last week.
We fell into every one of our usual potholes and we still pulled out a victory.
We don’t need to rehash the negatives too much, but our run game was awful2, Drew was sloppy with the football, etc. etc. But the obvious difference was a shockingly stout defense.
Cam Jordan, Kenny Vaccaro and all their friends have surpassed our most optimistic expectations so far this year. I’m not worried about our offense; they’ll figure it out. But for once we have a defense we can count on, a defense that can save us when everything we know about the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era says we should be doomed.
I know the year is long. I know we’ve got a long climb to the ultimate summit. But I feel oddly at peace with the world.
I guess that’s what comes with a defense that isn’t the most porous in NFL history.
So, guys. Gals. Don’t panic, ever. We got this.