The end of an era in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS Saints fans saw it coming, only this time it didn't materialize completely.
Sure there was a comeback, and a fourth quarter collapse. But for the first time in the 34-year history of the franchise, the New Orleans Saints can no longer be labeled as the only team to never win a playoff game.
Brian Milne's dramatic recovery of an Az-Zahir Hakim fumble preserved the victory and gave the franchise something it has been thirsting for for so long.
It will be a question that will be asked like the Kennedy assassination.
Where were you when the Saints finally won a playoff game?
For the 65,000 plus that were rockin' inside the Dome and the millions watching a telecast overseen by Monday Night Football's crew of Al Michaels, Dan Fouts and Dennis Miller, it was certainly one for the ages.
They may not say it, but the Saints may have faced their toughest opponent.
The Rams were playing their third road game in 13 days and the constant pounding the Fleur de' Lethal defense put on them began to take its toll.
But how must it have looked when the Saints primary weapon in wide receiver Joe Horn sprains his ankle on the first play of the game?
At that point, the Who Dat faithful had to have been cursing whatever spirits are left over from the old cemetery the Superdome is built on.
Instead it was more of the same thing the Saints have relied on all season. Backups.
Backups have carried this patchwork team to the second round of the playoffs and could easily carry them further. The reserve du jour was Willie Jackson.
Jackson, who had an All-World performance by tying an NFL playoff record with three touchdown catches in a game to go with his 142 yards, downplayed his own achievements. But then again, don't they all?
Horn, who could only stand by and watch with the ankle sprain, was decked out in full military fatigues. Much like the attire, the attitude was defensive.
Although some good feeling did seep out, Horn trumpeted the end of the line for fair weather fans.
Former Meridian High standout and current Rams defensive back Dexter McCleon had no comment in the locker room afterward. Undoubtedly distraught about falling down on the 49-yard TD bomb to Jackson in the final frame, McCleon offered nothing verbally. What he did offer to his team was five total stops. But another Mississippian had words of consolation for him.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.