Redskins running back Alfred Morris rushes past Saints strong safety Roman Harper. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 6:38 PM
Oh, for those carefree, dog days of summer when Saints fans could pass the time griping about Roger Goodell, reminding everybody that “everybody does it” and longing for the real season to finally start with real football so they could forget about the worst offseason any NFL fans ever had to endure.
Upon further review, turns out that maybe that offseason wasn’t so bad after all.
You may end up looking back fondly on it.
So far, it was a lot more fun than the regular season. Getting the Bountygate suspensions overturned last Friday — for now — might be the only thing on this year’s highlight film.
It was just one game — Redskins 40, Saints 32, a scoreboard that doesn’t really do justice to how shockingly, historically awful the Who Dats played.
But apparently it isn’t going to be as simple as having a 20xlife-size portrait of Sean Payton looming over the practice field admonishing them to “Do Your Job.”
OK, it was the season opener. And we all know how misleading those affairs can be, how teams generally make the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2.
But in the Saints’ case, the fear is that the season debut showed you a lot more than you wanted to know.
The Saints had a game that bad last season, too — losing 31-21 to the woeful, winless Rams in similar fashion.
But that was a road trip against an overlooked opponent the week after a 62-7 victory over the Colts, and by then you already knew the Saints were really, really good.
It happens occasionally in the NFL. On any given Sunday, or some such.
It was a head-scratcher, but not necessarily an alarm going off.
But the Saints had no excuse for last Sunday.
This was a veteran, talented team playing a long-awaited season-opener, supposedly with a chip on its shoulder and with something to prove.
They even tried to dig deep — a reach, if you ask me — to play the “give-Isaac-victims-something-to-smile-about” card. But recreating an original feel-good story with a cheap sequel is always dicey, particularly over a storm that didn’t really compare.
Instead, the Saints came out and looked like a 2005 FEMA operation.
Is this disjointed, lost-in-space performance what the NFL’s experiment with an interim-interim head coach is going to look like?
That’s the real fear — that this is what the Saints will look like without Payton around.
Some teams, you could just call it a bad opener.
But the Saints really had no excuse not to come out with their best foot forward. If any team should have come out with guns blazing, it should have been the Saints.
Season-opening jitters shouldn’t apply.
Yet, the Saints, based on that opener, looked like they are totally disinterested in playing a regular season.
The only thing we learned from the preseason is that the concerns about Steve Spagnuolo’s new defense were justified. Apparently they weren’t holding back the good stuff in exhibitions.
Not that the offense looked anything remotely like a Sean Payton-Drew Brees collaboration.
Maybe it wasn’t all Brees.
The most amazing thing was that, in the end, if they would’ve had one more time out they might have still have gotten the game to overtime.
Of course, they’d already used that precious timeout — earlier in the second half, so a Saints’ player could tie his shoelaces.
It turned out to be a costly wardrobe malfunction — maybe they should keep their mothers on the sideline for Kool-Aid breaks — not the way focused teams behave.
Against a rookie quarterback, it was the Saints in their home dome who continually jumped offsides on defense, false-started time and again on offense.
They had 12 penalties, mostly mental, and you can’t blame them all on replacement officials.
So the defense couldn’t get off the field and when, finally, they forced a punt, one of them didn’t get off the field quickly enough — a 5-yard penalty in most precincts — and so they all had to go back out and continue to stand around after the Redskins got new life.
Those anecdotes don’t sound like a team that was focused on the moment all of them said all offseason they couldn’t wait for.
Yeah, it might be tougher than you think without Payton.
But let’s give them at least one mulligan.
And let’s call this week’s game against Carolina — and another fairly mobile quarterback in Cam Newton — an absolute, definite, no-argument, season-on-the-line, must-win game.