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2000 Saints are legitimate contenders

By Staff
Nov. 27, 2000
It was all right there in blue and gold for the St. Louis Rams.
The defending Super Bowl champs were coming off a tough home loss to Washington. They also had running back Marshall Faulk back for the second straight game. Those Lambs would surely be angry after dropping their second game in three weeks.
The New Orleans Saints, however, were in a much more precarious position.
Without quarterback Jeff Blake and running back Ricky Williams, the Saints entered the TWA Dome in the Gateway City a 13-point underdog in the eyes of the Vegas gambling gods. And to make things even spicier, the first place spot in the NFC West Division was on the line.
Thank goodness football games are played inside TV sets and not in casinos.
The NFL season is rounding into its final month, and one thing is certain.
The eyes of the national sports world are now clearly on the New Orleans Saints (8-4, 5-0 NFC West) after an impressive 31-24 triumph over the Rams to take over the top spot in the division and remain firmly planted in the playoff hunt.
You might never have heard of players like Aaron Brooks, Brian Milne, Chad Morton and Jerald Moore but they are certainly making the best of their opportunities.
Brooks must surely have ice water in his veins because the second year man out of Virginia was seen acting extremely loose and playful in the locker room prior to kickoff. Not the type of behavior expected of someone about to undertake his first NFL start at quarterback.
Brooks must have known something the rest of us didn't because he went out and threw for 190 yards on 17-of-29 passing and had a hand in three touchdowns.
While the latter statement might be accurate, the former is still be up for debate. Is this squad who Sunday shook up the NFC and in the process garnered the team's 200th victory the best ever? Are they becoming the 2000 version of the 1999 Rams? At the risk of premature judgment, I think so.
Things that have gone against the Saints in the past haven't been doing so as much this year.
Sure, the dreaded injury bug has munched on them like former Ole Miss Rebel Norman Hand must have taken to a Cajun-fried Thanksgiving Turkey last week. The latest victims are cornerback Fred Weary and linebackers Phil Clarke and Corey Terry.
But these Saints can win in big games, they can overcome a plethora of costly penalties and injuries (see Sunday's game) and they have a defense that can hide plenty of offensive inadequacies.
That Fleur-de-Lethal defense as I like to call them, held the Rams' league-leading offense to only 108 yards in the second half and 279 total. The Rams generated a pathetic 28 rushing yards on nine carries, including 43 total markers for Faulk.
I'm sorry, but any unit that can pull that off is pretty formidable.
Yet another example of the bizarro-world season that Saints fans are experiencing came on the crucial pass interference penalty on the play where Joe Horn fell down in the fourth quarter. The long infraction led to the 1-yard go-ahead score.
In seasons gone by, the Saints simply don't get that call.
Now if they can get past the Denver Broncos (8-4) at home next week, they could very well be 11-4 when St. Louis heads into the Crescent City for a Christmas Eve rematch.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. Email him at rdark@meridianstar.com.