Call it momentum or sports confidence, but it is important for the mental part of the game for a football team to get off to a fast start in the NFL.
Saints fans across the “Who Dat Nation” loved watching the Atlanta Falcons go down with an agonizing 23-17 defeat to the Black and Gold Sunday. It was vintage Falcons/Saints and it came down to the wire, but more importantly it brought a win home to the Saints.
In the Sean Payton-era in New Orleans, the Saints have been a playoff team when they have gotten off to a fast start.
In 2006 the Saints started the season 3-0 and went to the NFC Championship game. In 2009 the Saints got off to a 3-0 start and won the Super Bowl. In 2010 and 2011 the Saints went 2-1 and made the playoffs.
Meanwhile, in 2007 the Saints went 0-3, in 2008 the Saints went 1-2 and last season the team started out 0-3. All three of those years the Saints missed getting into the postseason.
The 23-17 win over the Falcons brought to mind why I really believe the Saints will again win the NFC South Division.
First of all, we saw this team play with some balance on offense that was missing last season. The Saints didn’t rush for a lot of yardage (78 total), but they had 29 rushing attempts and just 35 passing plays.
If anything it was the Falcons that were askew. With a terrific back in Steven Jackson in the backfield, the Falcons rushed the ball just 14 times and threw the ball 38 times.
The Saints defensive line played at the highest level we have seen in years. For the past few weeks I have written in this space that the Saints defensive line in 2013 is the best I have seen here since the 2000 group. Against Atlanta they played big despite suffering a couple of injuries upfront.
Now they are off to Tampa Bay – a team that is reeling after blowing a late lead to the New York Jets on the road.
Due to a late personal foul penalty on Buccaneers standout linebacker Levonte David, the Jets were put in position to hit a late 48-yard field goal to give New York an 18-17 win over Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers struggled offensively in that contest, registering only 250 total yards.
But don’t overlook the talent on that football team. They have two outstanding and huge wide receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
The Bucs also feature one of pro football’s best young backs in Doug Martin. When healthy, the Buccaneers also have one of the best offensive lines in the NFC.
The Bucs have a stout defensive front and a much improved secondary with perennial All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, free safety Dashon Goldson, rookie cornerback Jonathan Banks and former Alabama standout Mark Barron at strong safety leading the way.
But the Saints have been a very good road team under Sean Payton. From 2006-2011, the Saints under Payton were 30-18 on the road.
Most teams try and shoot for a .500 mark on the road and the Saints under Payton have been much better than that.
It’s early, but it’s obvious that the 2013 version of the New Orleans Saints is a very good football team and much improved defensively.
Is it enough to catch the San Francisco 49ers or the Seattle Seahawks? We shall see, but it is very clear this week that “Who Dat Land” has been nice to be in.
Anytime the Saints beat the Falcons there is a reason to celebrate and this time it gets the team off to a fast start.
It is the shot of athletic confidence they really needed.