Yesterday in the Dome, Willie Snead IV lectured on the arc of football history. Using hilarious physical comedy to punctuate his otherwise sincere lesson, Snead IV proved to an unwilling Seattle audience that the arc always bends towards pain. Of course — everyone knows this. But Snead IV went further: Before he was done, he had reminded New Orleans that the arc can bend away from pain, too.
The Saints have only failed since they fell to Seattle in January 2014, in the playoffs, in a sort of post-apocalyptic high-water mark. The end of the world had already happened, though we didn’t know it at the time, and the Saints have spent the years since in the wilderness. The defense fell off a cliff, hit the canyon floor, and broke out a shovel, and the offensive line got old and died. The Saints have invested so much money in players not on their team that they have only about two thirds of their resources invested in players actually on their team.
Etc, etc. You know all that.
They aren’t out of the wilderness just because they finally got the Seahawks in the Dome and tapped a keg of Seattle’s own medicine — that’s not the message Snead IV and his supporting cast delivered — but if you squint, you can see the line that demarcates their future passage bending away from the desert.
Look at the maligned Andrus Peat, showing life on the line’s left side. Wonder at the fountain of youth Jahri Evans found during his off-season travels through the Pacific Northwest. Consider that the Saints’ terrible defense has gotten a little less terrible, even with its most exciting player and its first round draft pick rehabbing their fibulae.
These Saints have played seven games, and six of them have been coin flips: one score, one drive affairs that could have gone either way. Most likely, that’ll be the way of 2016 — late game anxiety, again and again, all year. But what if the Saints’ improving health weights the coin in their favor?
Nick Fairley, Tyeler Davison, and John Jenkins have formed themselves into a pretty okay defensive tackle rotation. Add Sheldon Rankins and make it a foursome. Get Delvin Breaux back and then not only will Breaux be on the field again but lesser players will touch it less.
That won’t make the 2016 defense good. I know and you know: That isn’t going to happen. But Drew Brees’ almost-half-season so far ranks among the best of his career, and Michael Thomas is like a smaller, faster Marques Colston, and Brandin Cooks is what you’d get if you took Devery Henderson and Lance Moore and made them one guy, and Willie Snead IV — well, Lance is the name that usually comes up when people talk about him, too, but that’s wrong.
Snead IV1 just sort of plays football the way a guy with more audacity than athleticism plays football. Throw the ball at him and he catches it. Tell him where he must run and he will go there. Inform Snead IV his job is to block Seattle defensive lineman Frank Clark, who stands four or five inches taller than Snead IV and outweighs him by the equivalent of a dishwasher, and he does it.
Snead IV Screws with Frank Clark, Part I
(Snead IV so frustrated the massively larger, stronger man that he drew a penalty.)
I didn’t notice at first, but when Tim Hightower, who runs desperately and should get the majority of carries for as long as he stays healthy, took a toss sweep downfield, Snead IV blocked Clark again — Clark and, simultaneously for a moment, Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane.
Snead IV Screws with Frank Clark, Part II
(Snead IV is the little guy just right of center in this gif shoving the giant man in the 55 jersey.)
All afternoon, Snead IV educated Seahawks by executing the most satisfying component of any game plan in the Grandpa Sean era: Get in Seattle’s head by using their own shit against them.
Snead IV Frustrates Richard Sherman
Athletically out-everythinged by Seattle’s great cornerback, Snead IV nevertheless drew what was a clear defensive holding — notice Sherman is hanging on to Snead IV’s jersey.
But the holding penalty, which extended a late drive, was all but lagniappe, a product of legendary mind games that Payton and Snead IV drilled into Seattle’s collective skull.
Sean and Willie gave no fucks.
Snead IV Owns the Legion of Boom, Part I
Whether this play is technically legal is not the issue here. It’s more fun if it isn’t. The Legion of Boom exists because its members stretch contact rules to their breaking point. The salty stream of tears filling the creeks and rivers of the northwestern United States right now indicates Seattle never considered someone might play that game right back at them — and win.
Snead IV Owns the Legion of Boom, Part II
Crunch time hit and the Payton/Snead IV campaign of DGAF rolled on, and down went Seattle’s Lane and off went New Orleans’ Cooks.
Snead IV Makes Pete Carroll Look Real Silly
Pete Carroll was unhappy. It didn’t matter. A posse of officials escorted him away and minutes later his team and its fans were crying.
Today it’s Halloween, and I and many other New Orleanians are smiling, because of professional football stuff, in a way we have not, for the last few years, smiled often.
All-Saints Day Post-Script
I realized this post was incomplete because it lacked Richard Sherman crying to the refs. Enjoy the Saints’ fiftieth birthday a little more than you otherwise would have by looping these annoyed Sherman gifs.
Also this one includes implied Snead IV shade.
Happy birthday, Saints!