That monstrous Teddy chant that erupted in the Superdome, over and over and over again last week, nor the 4-0 record the New Orleans.
Saints have posted with Teddy Bridgewater as starter: it’s all perhaps not what any of us expected a few weeks ago when Drew Brees was knocked out of a clash with the L.A. Rams, and the Saints staring down the barrel of a lost season.
Instead, the Saints unbeaten under their backup quarterback’s leadership, and Bridgewater is playing the part of folk hero.
I have no problem admitting: Week 2 seemed like the end of an era to me. But his team has made defying expectations a habit, I suppose.
There have been a few such “end of an era” teases over the past few seasons. Capped out with a roster lacking much in the way of high draft picks three years ago, it kind of looked like the ship had sailed on the Sean Payton era. Coaches don’t usually last long enough in one place to re-invent themselves and their teams after decline sets in. In Payton’s case, it seemed even less likely he’d be able to right the ship, with Drew Brees both too good to bottom out for high picks, but also taking up much of the team’s cap space and making retooling difficult.
But a few stellar draft classes and a commitment to winning with balance led us to two of the best seasons in team history the past two seasons.
It’s also led us to 4-0 with Bridgewater, with wins at one of the toughest road venues in the NFL in Seattle and another at home over a red hot Dallas team. The first of those was 33-27. Another was 12-10. Wins as different, stylistically, as could be. The 13-6 victory this week was the type of victory we saw regularly in the 1980s under the Dome Patrol.
Bridgewater’s been getting bolder in his decisions as he gets more comfortable. Last week against Tampa, the Saints seemed to ask something different of him: “Run our offense.” And it was as fine a performance as we’ve seen, as I’m sure Drew Brees himself would agree.
Think back to how you felt during the Saints’ Week 2 game against Los Angeles. Brees knocked out early. A major beating at the hands of the very team benefitting from “The No Call.” Another officiating botch for good measure. And the news that Brees’ season, or a significant part of it, could be in jeopardy.
Certainly feels like a championship window slamming shut.
Maybe, ultimately, we’ll look back and see it as exactly that. But we know for sure it’s not how the Saints ever looked at it.
It takes a level of organization culture and mental toughness to keep the ship on course in times like this. We’ve saw it in how this team bounced back from the Minneapolis Miracle and we’re seeing it again right now. Over the past two seasons and change, this is a team that rarely suffers a legitimate let down performance or falls prey to a “trap game.” It takes a lot to leave this team defeated.
But it also goes back to the structure of the team, and that’s something that started back in 2013, once Payton returned from suspension, determined to make the Saints the kind of physical, tough team that too often was its bane over the first half of Payton’s career—San Francisco, Baltimore, Seattle, the then-St. Louis Rams, all physical operations that gave his teams trouble.
As talented as the 2009 Super Bowl winner was or as unstoppable as the 2011 Saints’ offense seemed, I don’t believe either of those teams were equipped to win games without Brees.
This team has talent on the defensive side, a road-grader offensive line and a rushing attack led by a gifted offensive weapon. Limit mistakes, answer the bell on third downs, and get some well-timed takeaways, and you have a formula that always gives you a chance to win in the NFL.
This is a tough team. And if Bridgewater can continue to play anywhere close to the way he did on Sunday, a scary one.
We have a long way to go, of course, to decide Bridgewater is *that guy*. After all, it’s been one month.
But the Saints’ season is not only alive, it’s thriving. He was re-signed in case this exact scenario came up, and he’s proven to be worth every penny.