Thanks, Saints, for a great year

By By Jim Beam / American Press

The New Orleans Saints didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, but they gave their fans much to cheer about during the 2013 season.

Supporters can be fickle at times, particularly after a playoff loss, but it shouldn’t detract from the many positives the

team recorded during the year.

NFL players and their fans have become so involved with winning the Super Bowl, they often lose sight of the experiences they

enjoy throughout the season.

The Seattle Seahawks knocked the Saints

out of the playoffs last Saturday 23-15, but that’s only a touchdown

and a two-point

conversion from a tie. They were on the move near the end, but

time ran out. The defense played a superior game, turning around

a dismal 2012 when it allowed opposing teams an NFL record 7,042

yards.

Few expected the Saints to be

contenders this year, considering their miserable 7-9 season last year.

However, they finished

at 12-6, which tied for sixth place among the NFL’s 32 teams. The

Indianapolis Colts also had a 12-6 record. Four of the five

teams with better records are in the conference title races. The

fifth, the Carolina Panthers, ended with a 12-5 mark.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees continued

his record-setting ways. He completed 68.6 percent of his passes (446

of 650) for

5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns. On the down side, he had 12

interceptions and was sacked a career high 37 times. Nevertheless,

he became the only quarterback in NFL history with three

consecutive 5,000-yard passing seasons and has half of the 5,000-yard

seasons in NFL history.

Tight end Jimmy Graham was a stellar

performer. He had 86 catches for 1,215 yards and a league-leading 16

touchdowns. He was

named to the 2013 Pro Football Writers of America All-NFL team and

to the All-NFC team. Brees is a member of the All-NFC team,

and the writers selected safety Kenny Vaccaro for the All-Rookie

Team.

Five Saints were named to the Pro Bowl. Brees and Graham headlined the list that also included guards Jahri Evans and Ben

Grubbs and defensive end Cameron Jordan.

Sports Business Daily said the Saints

registered the highest local TV market rating of all NFL cities during

the 2013 regular

season. New Orleans earned a household rating of 52.0, which means

52 percent of all homes in the market were tuned in during

Saints games.

As you can see, there are more than enough accolades for Saints players and fans to consider the season a great success story.

Now, it’s on to those still in the NFL championship hunt.

The New England Patriots (13-4) will be

in Denver to play the Broncos (14-3) for the AFC championship at 2 p.m.

CST Sunday

on CBS. The San Francisco 49ers (14-4) play the Seahawks (14-3) in

Seattle for the NFC title at 5:30 p.m. CST on Fox. The

winners will play in the Super Bowl Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in

East Rutherford, N.J. Kickoff on Fox is scheduled for 5:25

p.m. CST.

Like most season ticket holders, I have a hard time dealing with losses. I keep telling myself to let them go, because nothing

is going to change the outcome. And I have had some success in that regard. Losing doesn’t keep me awake in the wee hours

as much as it used to do.

The Saints ended a jinx this year when they won their first road playoff game in franchise history that dates back to 1967.

They defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 26-24 to advance to the divisional playoff against Seattle.

Teams have to play almost perfect ball

to make it to the Super Bowl. The Saints were close, but they came up

short when it

counted. They lost two key games in the waning seconds. New

England scored at the last minute to defeat the Saints, 30-27

in October. A victory over the Panthers in December would have put

New Orleans in the No. 2 position in the NFC with a first

week playoff bye. However, another defensive miscue gave Carolina a

17-13 win as time was running out.

The Saints should have also defeated the New York Jets and the St. Louis Rams, but lost 26-20 to the Jets and 27-16 to the

Rams. Their worst showing came in their regular season game against Seattle when they were trounced, 34-7.

Brees talked after the Seattle playoff game about the 23-15 loss. He said the Seahawks have a good team, and it’s a tough

place to play. The windy, rainy weather also didn’t help. An early fumble and two missed field goals were costly and could

have made the difference at the end. Eight penalties for 74 yards also hurt.

Saints coach Sean Payton summed up the year well when he said, “I was proud of how our guys fought and competed this year.

They found a way to win 12 games. Obviously, it wasn’t enough for what we aspire to do.”

Those of us who have been in the

Superdome for most of the Saints home games enjoyed something in the

year just ended that

fans in many other NFL cities would love to experience. New

Orleans had a perfect 8-0 home record. The Patriots and Cincinnati

Bengals were the only other teams that could make that claim.

The Saints have the right coaches and with some tweaks in the team’s talent pool they should be contenders once again. Bring

on 2014!

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com.