New Orleans barely holding on to playoffs
In a playoff type atmosphere the New Orleans Saints saw a Pro-Bowl type performance by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb possibly end their hopes for a spot in postseason action.
Despite fighting off constant rumors that he may not be in Philadelphia for the 2008 season, McNabb led the Eagles to a 38-23 win over the Saints in the SuperDome.
Now, the loss did not completely knock the Saints out of the playoff picture, but it took away the controlling mechanism the Saints wanted to have in their hands when they head to Chicago to finish the 2007 regular season.
For the Saints to acquire the last playoff spot in the NFC they must first defeat the Bears in Chicago and then have the Denver Broncos defeat the Minnesota Vikings and have the Dallas Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins.
If this scenario of events would happen, the Saints have the tie-breaker with a better conference record than Washington and Minnesota and they would reach the playoffs again, but that is a big if.
We all know that after watching what happened just a few weeks back to the LSU Tigers in their pursuit to get to the BCS Championship game nothing is completely out of the picture, but now you must get help from two other teams in the NFL to sneak into the playoff roundtable.
The disappointing loss to the Eagles was the entire Saints 2007 season in a nutshell.
The Saints were a self-destructed football team against the Eagles with a number of dropped passes, penalties and the inability to come up with game-changing plays in critical situations.
Nothing was bigger than the Eagles’ goal line stand against the Saints early in the third quarter when the boys in black and gold were held to zero points after New Orleans ran three straight running plays.
The Eagles followed that stand up with a 15-play, 98-yard, seven minute scoring drive to give them a 31-17 lead late in the third quarter.
The momentum of the game changed as the Saints were stuffed out of the endzone at the two yard line and that seems to be the biggest difference between 2006 and 2007.
Last season with a healthy Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush in the backfield the Saints were a gold-plated team in the redzone due to the power of Deuce and the speed of Bush.
With both players on the sidelines and the Saints down to just one healthy halfback in Pierre Thomas after Aaron Stecker sustained an ankle injury and Jammal Branch broke his leg, on special teams the Saints are limited in the running game when they are close to the goal line.
They must now get a star performance out of Drew Brees each and every week, but with Marques Colston sustaining a chest injury Brees was not nearly as effective as we have seen him the past two weeks.
While he did complete 30 of his 45 throws for 289 yards, he was outgunned by a healthy Donovan McNabb.
McNabb, armed with a Pro Bowl runner in Brian Westbrook and the receiving talents of Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown, completed 24 of his 35 passes for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Another one of those game-changing plays that broke Philadelphia’s way Sunday was when Donovan McNabb ran a bootleg on third and short play early in the first quarter and after running 40 yards to the Saints’ 24 New Orleans safety Josh Bullocks punched the ball loose.
Saints standout cornerback Mike McKenzie had a shot to recover the football first, but the ball squirted away from his grasp and it was recovered in the endzone by Eagles wide-out Kevin Curtis for a touchdown.
Even harder to swallow was that McKenzie sprained his knee on the play and never returned to action in the game.
That is what the 2007 season will be remembered for more than anything, missed opportunities and what could have been.
You are what your record says you are and right now the Saints are a slightly above average team in the NFC.
That normally does not get you into the playoff picture.