New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Sunday, September 16, 2012 3:50 PM
Yogi Berra put today’s Saints game into perfect perspective long before they were even in existence when he said, “It gets late early around here.”
This might just be the second week of the new season, but it could be very late if the Saints can’t turn things around.
Today’s battle with the Carolina Panthers isn’t a must win in the standings, but rather a most important victory for the Saints when it comes to inside their helmets.
For most teams an 0-2 start is cause for some concern, but not impossible to overcome. For the Saints, it could spell disaster.
Coming off the strangest and toughest offseason in league history, this team lost more than just its coach and a couple of players. It lost its heart and soul.
The Saints were everybody’s second-favorite team, and in New Orleans they were the only team.
Their story of rebuilding was one movies are made of. It was hard to dislike anything about them.
Many considered the franchise to be special and named appropriately.
Then came “Bountygate” and everything changed.
No longer loved by the football world, the Saints instead became the brunt of jokes. They were scorned by league officials and had other players wonder at what cost they would perform a cheap shot.
The league’s code had been broken when it came to players protecting each other best they can.
Then came the Drew Brees contract debacle.
Brees told the world it was not about the money, then held out until he could get every last penny out of the franchise that had saved his career a few years earlier.
Suddenly, it was all about the money.
Yet all that talk died down in time for the Saints to take the field last week in their home opener.
The players proclaimed they were playing with a chip on their shoulders, that they were going to show the league, especially Commissioner Roger Goodell, that they could win despite his punishments.
More importantly, they convinced a city, make that an entire region, that is was them against the world.
Dreams of grabbing the Lombardi Trophy from the hands of Goodell on Super Bowl Sunday inside their very own Superdome would become a fact.
Unfortunately, that’s when reality set in.
Over the season’s first 60 minutes of football the Saints lost all that bravado. The Washington Redskins and their rookie quarterback knocked it out of them.
Brees looked like a guy who not only needed a full offseason of work, which he missed during his holdout, but also his coach, mentor and friend, Sean Payton.
The coach won’t be back until next season, so the Saints must march into today’s game with what they brought last week.
For their fans that might be a scary thing, but again this is more about the psyche of this club rather than the talent.
Another loss, especially if they play just as poorly, would mean two of last year’s NFC bottom-feeders would have already knocked off the Saints. That is not a good start.
Also, doubt could begin to crepe in inside those helmets.
They might stop listening to their interim, interim head coach. Fingers could start to be pointed and the team that always stuck together could start to become unglued.
And worst yet, after looking pretty lackluster in the opener, another loss could begin the snowballing process of giving in. It is easy, when you believe the world is against you, to say enough already or we will get them all back when we get our coach back on the sideline next year.
That’s why today, despite it being so early, time could begin running out on the Saints.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at email@example.com