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Tuesday, September 02, 2014
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Gazzolo Column: Saints, fans could be in for special season

Last Modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 9:24 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

With a chip on their shoulder and a hop in their step, the Saints have come flying out of the gate.

While their play could have been better at times, the results could not. And they have even gotten some help.

A division that three weeks ago looked to be a fight to the finish is suddenly within their control.

It has only been three weeks, but it is already getting late for the teams chasing them.

They could have lost the first week to the Falcons, but didn’t.

They could have lost in Week 2 in Tampa, but didn’t.

There was no chance of losing Sunday to the Cardinals.

The offense clicked for the first time and the defense was once again, un-Saints like.

Just as important, the Saints hold a two-game lead over the Falcons. Make it a little more than that when you consider they already own the tiebreaker.

It might be early in the season, but it is never too early to think about such things. Not when your window of opportunity is closing fast.

The Saints, who will play another 3-0 team next week when the Dolphins come to town for a Monday night affair, can enjoy this start and know what it might mean.

Seventy-five percent of teams that get off to such a start make the playoffs. Even more maybe when you consider the rest of the division has combine to post just two wins.

Better starts are hard to come by.

Then you look at the rest of the Saints’ schedule. It is not looking all that tough.

That means this could be one of those special seasons that don’t come around that often.

While it won’t be anything like that feel-good love affair the Saints had with the nation when they won just a few years after Hurricane Katrina, it might be more special to their die-hard fans.

This could be a take-that-commissioner-Goodell year after all the bounty suspensions and disaster of last season. And using the words “take that” is mild compared to what Saints fans want to tell the commish.

The company line coming out of New Orleans might be that the franchise has moved on, the fact is it’s good to have that chip sitting there to unite the team and fan base.

Nothing is tougher to beat than a good team with a giant cause that believes it has been wronged and is now on a mission.

The Saints appear to be just such a team.

Before folks get ultra crazy, remember the Kansas City Chiefs are also 3-0.

Still, with Sean Peyton back and Rob Ryan leading a defense that looks more and more like something we haven’t seen in New Orleans in a long time, things are going great.

The important thing so far is the Saints have taken care of business within the division and at home.

You can’t win a championship without playing your best football after Thanksgiving.

That is when the race for the Super Bowl really starts to get interesting.

But you need at least 10 wins, and likely 11 this year, to make the NFC playoffs.

And we all know you can’t win a championship if you don’t make the tournament.

Last year, the Saints lost their first four games and the season was over before it started.

This year they at least have the look of a team that plans on being around when the holidays get here.

That’s when that chip on their shoulder will be more welcome than standing under any mistletoe.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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