New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, left, fumbles the ball as he is sacked by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril and defensive end Michael Bennett during the third quarter of the NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Seattle on Saturday. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, January 13, 2014 2:11 PM
What on this earth could we have all been thinking with the Saints?
What got into us, most of us anyway, to think this time would be any different?
Were we all that stupid or just delusional?
For the Saints?
Wasn’t going to happen.
One measly, arctic road playoff victory in Philadelphia last week was supposed to make it all better and signal a new road-tested playoff team, come hell or sideways rain.
Seattle 23, Saints 15.
Who knew there’s a limit to Sean Payton’s inspirational, mind-over-matter hocus-pocus?
Hard to believe, but painting that Seahawks’ logo on the Saints’ practice field this week didn’t quite do the trick.
Nice try, too, with the cliché of pumping loud music into the practice sessions. It probably only annoyed the Saints’ neighbors.
Payton also wanted the fire alarms set off in the Saints’ indoor facility during practice this week, just to set off the sprinkler system and recreate the absolutely, positively 100 percent chance of rain that Seattle apparently delivers on 98.6 percent of any given year’s days.
Cooler heads prevailed on that one, but at least he was thinking outside the box.
But this was a job too big, even, for Popeyes fried chicken, extra spicy with a side of biscuits, on the team charter to the Great Northwest.
This was Seattle.
Or, in Saints’ lore, the tree-hugging version of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees Bermuda Triangle nightmare.
For two teams without a lot of history or much of a reason for a rivalry, the Seahawks sure have become a lingering, never-ending disaster for the Saints.
The Who Dats crossed two time zones to get there, but it’s not like they went by covered wagon.
The weather wasn’t chamber of commerce approved — or maybe it was by Seattle stands — but they weren’t playing in the rain forest either.
Yet when you consider earlier this season, a shocking playoff loss three years ago, it’s maybe the three biggest eggs deposited by the Brees-Payton era.
OK, give the Saints credit for hanging in there, for making it interesting in the end.
But this is the playoffs.
Close (closer than it appeared it would be, at least) doesn’t count for squat. It’s the playoffs, you ought to be fighting to the bitter end, hoping for one last miracle.
But now that the season is over. There’s an odd solution facing this franchise.
Namely, if the Saints can ever just find an offense that can make their defense proud, or even just complement it and maybe hold the gift-wrapping and the door prizes to a minimum, maybe the Saints can think about it taking on Seattle.
That day wasn’t Saturday.
The Saints defense played about as well as you could ever dream, and in truth could only be held accountable for less than half the Seahawks scoreboard.
So the monthly search for a field goal kicker will commence again posthaste.
The Seahawks once again turned Jimmy Graham into Jiminy Cricket.
Evidently he’s doesn’t like playing under water.
If the Seahawks had drafted Brees, nobody would ever have heard of him. Not in that awful weather, where in the first half he threw maybe the three worst passes of his Saints career. Exile him to that weather and he’d be back working in a hardware store somewhere.
Then, just when you thought you could trust Mark Ingram … fumble!
That was all probably overanalyzing the situation.
It was simpler than that.
The Saints defense could hang with the Seahawks offense, even all but dominate it in the second half.
But the Saints’ vaunted offense was no match for the Seattle defense.
That’s really what it came down to.
And that’s got to be the most frustrating thing for Saints fans, even against the NFL’s best defense.
Long accustomed to having to win wild and crazy shootouts to stay one step ahead of their iffy defense, all they had to do in recent weeks was score at a reasonable, NFL clip.
And the offense bombed,
Yeah, the Saints got something going in the second half, a mild uprising by Brees’ standards, but enough to make the Seahawks’ fans squirm a little.
He almost got into a rhythm.
But a stinker of a first half left the hold too deep.
Even in the second half, when the Saints offense wasn’t betraying its own defense, it was leaving squandered points scattered all over the soggy turf.
Or maybe Seattle was just that much better.
Never mind the celebrated 12th Man in the stands.
Late in the game the Seahawks were flagged for having 12 men on the field, and it was about time.
It sure looked like the Seahawks apparently use 13 or 14 defenders, a dozen or so of them in the secondary.
Stopping the Saints offense evidently isn’t brain surgery. You cover their receivers. Nobody does quite like Seattle, but that’s the trick.
And the Saints were once again Clueless in Seattle.
But the Saints weren’t eliminated in Seattle.
You can trace this season’s end back way further than Saturday’s typical Seattle outing, back to the sins of Sundays past.
Maybe they were eliminated in St. Louis, in the comfort of a dome, with a benign crowd on hand.
Or New York — New Jersey, actually — against the lowly Jets, which, it turns out, is as close as this team is going to get to the Super Bowl this season.
Or maybe Carolina, with another egg deposited at the buzzer.
That’s why they were in Seattle and not home and comfortable and protected from the elements in the Superdome.
That’s why, in the end, they had no chance.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com