Hobbs Column: Saints no longer look underwhelming

By By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

For some reason I was slow to jump on the New Orleans Saints’ bandwagon this season.

Kind of fortunate to beat the Falcons,

it seemed, did everything in their power to lose to a Tampa Bay team

that stubbornly

refused to let it happen, pretty much OK against the Cardinals,

Dolphins and Bears, but really had no real business losing

to the Patriots and certainly not the Jets. And I think there was a

win over Buffalo in there somewhere. Whoop, whoop, whoop.

Really, I was underwhelmed for some reason. It didn’t seem like, even with vastly improved defense, they were all that they

could be.

But then came prime time Sunday night

against the Dallas Cowboys and it seemed like the NFL record book was

going down in

flames. This league has been at it a long time and suddenly its

foundation was rumbling, sturdy columns were tumbling all

over the landscape and women and children were fleeing as we got

one update after another that Drew Brees was perfect on this

and pluperfect on that and Darren Sproles kept disappearing

underground and reappearing 10 yards downfield with no explanation

for an unlikely first down or touchdown.

Meanwhile, the Saints were

pass-covering Dez Bryant with something that didn’t look fair and only

slightly legal, and I can’t

imagine there’s anything funnier to watch in grown-man football

than that Amoebae Defense, which leading up to the snap looks

like a slow-motion, gridiron version of one of those flash-mob

performances in the mall.

Granted, you have to pick your spots

for it — third-and-very long, I’m guessing — but quarterback Tony Romo’s

biggest problem

was probably not bursting into uncontrollable laughter, wondering

when a Harlem Shake might break out in the Saints secondary.

The linebackers have to join the Screen Actors Guild to pull off

the bobbing and weaving. I kept waiting on them to stick

their thumbs in the ear holes of their helmets and waggle the

eight remaining fingers at Romo.

Before long it was explained that the

Saints had gained more yards than in any game in their history — even

though Brees has

been around for a good while now, and on this night he didn’t even

bother throwing for 400-plus yards while the Cowboys were

giving up more yards than they had ever surrendered in their long,

mostly overrated history.

But the shocker came late, well after it was a wrap, with the most amazing stat I’ve ever heard in football — the Saints had

40 FIRST DOWNS, the Cowboys had 43 PLAYS RUN.

You mean to tell me that for almost every play the Cowboys ran the Saints countered with a first down?

The 40 first downs not only was an NFL record, my gosh, that’s 10 PER QUARTER.

The way they got the record won’t exactly be a chapter in the next edition of “Profiles in Sportsmanship” but still …

The Saints’ sideline evidently didn’t get word they were a first down shy of the record until wasting three meaningless plays

in garbage time to face fourth-and-5.

No problem. Nothing blatant, just run up the middle … and the Cowboys still couldn’t tackle anybody.

I got curious and looked up LSU’s school record for first downs. It was 35, against Mississippi State in 1969, back before,

I believe, the forward pass was legal, at least at LSU.

We’re getting sidetracked here, but in these parts its always good family fun to watch those TV cut-away shots of Jerry Jones

keeping a stiff upper lip in the owners’ box.

It was double pleasure for Saints fans, who no doubt were thanking Jones for firing Rob Ryan as his defensive coordinator

after last season.

Ryan is — thank goodness ∏— about to replace the Duck Dynasty guys as Louisiana’s favorite cult icon and had the pleasure

of holding Jones’ team to — did I mention this? — three more plays than the Saints had first downs.

So, yes, no longer underwhelmed, Sunday

night it suddenly seemed OK to think about home-dome advantage, to

remember that the

Super Bowl could possibly be played in a New Jersey blizzard and

mainly I was wondering if, for one night at least, the Dallas

Cowboys might have been the single worst NFL team ever assembled

for live competition. Certainly the most tackling-challenged.

There is ample evidence to support

this, the biggest red flag being that Saints’ running back Mark Ingram

gained 145 yards

rushing and it didn’t look like a misprint. He was suddenly

running with authority and drive, with emotion and determination,

and mostly through the holes as wide and gaping as the Mississippi

River.

It was probably just a momentary setback in Ingram’s quest to replace Russell Erxleben as the biggest first-round bust in

Saints history, as it should be noted that the offense carefully avoided his third-and-1 Achilles heel.

He will probably get a contract extension while not changing the fact that traded fan-favorite Chris Ivory ran for 139 yards

for the Jets against the Saints the week before.

Otherwise, I’m at a loss to find anything to be underwhelmed about.

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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com