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Published:December 21st, 2009 09:50 EST
The Saints Go Marching Out

The Saints Go Marching Out

By Geoff Dean

 The Saints fans could be forgiven for thinking they had the Cowboys just where they wanted them. The Cowboys were leading 24-3 early in the fourth quarter. The Saints had set up the situation that they had excelled in all year, the near death experience. It was time for the miracle that had become pretty commonplace.

 And it almost happened. There was a Saints` touchdown with 12:35 to go in the fourth, making it 24-10. Another with 8 minutes left, making it 24-17. When the Saints needed a defensive stop, they couldn`t get one (that would have been too uninteresting) so they let the Cowboys drive down the field, eat up the clock, and miss a chip shot game clincher field goal, just as the Redskins had done two weeks earlier. Now, it was time for fate to kick in and the Saints to go down the field in two minutes, tie the score, and win in overtime. After all, it wasn`t like they could actually lose or something.

 Except, someone forgot to inform fate this time. The Saints made it to midfield and made a blase game go down to the wire, but they could not score and the December-hating Cowboys got a much needed win while the Saints exited the perfection chase.

 So what, you ask? The Cowboys needed the win more than the Saints, right? Absolutely, true. As quarterback Drew Brees put it, this will surely "sting for a while", but it hardly damages the Saints mortally, right? They will get the first round bye, the home field advantage, right? Just a minor setback on the road to the Super Bowl, isn`t it? I`m not so sure about that.

 As I have stated elsewhere, and way too often, 13-0 is a precarious position to be in. If you win and go 14-0, things are much better. But only one team has ever lost at 13-0 (the Indianapolis Colts of several years back) and they never recovered. If anything, the Saints are in a tighter spot.

 Next week, the Saints get the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, not exactly a great playoff tune-up game. Furthermore, they take on the Bucs without the edge of seeking perfection. It is a pre-season game in many ways. The closing week, the Saints face an already eliminated Carolina Panthers team in Carolina, again playing for nothing. How does one get up for a pre-season type game in late December? How do starters stay fresh while cautiously avoiding injury? How do you go all out when all you can gain is a 15-1 season? And when 15-1 really is no better than 13-3?

 Following two weeks of "non-games" against completely "non-playoff" teams, the Saints get a much-unneeded week of rest. After this, so to speak, month off, they face a playoff game against a team that has probably fought their way into the playoffs and won a first round game. A fired up and red hot team against an over rested and under tested New Orleans Saints. If the 13-0 Colts are any indication, it could be ugly.

 I wish the Saints all the best. As Brees put it, "the whole city deserved it (a perfect season)". I don`t think too many would disagree. But though they might "deserve it", they aren`t going to get it. How they perform next week against the Bucs will say a lot about whether or not they will get anything. What do y`all think about dat?