• 93°
franklin county times

Saints shrug off bitter loss

By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Dec. 17, 2002
NEW ORLEANS As the end of the NFL regular season nears an end, the Mondays all start to look the same. A new week means a lengthy injury report from New Orleans Saints trainer Scottie Patton. And the beginning of this week, like the last couple, still find the Saints needing another win to qualify for postseason play.
After a heartbreaking last second loss at home to a team with 10 losses under its belt, the Saints have to beat the lowly Cincinnati Bengals (1-13) on the road this week and hope for losses from either Atlanta or the New York Giants to get in.
The first part of that equation isn't as much foregone conclusion as it appears, when one considers the uncanny penchant the Saints have for stooping down to the level of their competition, no matter how low, once the football is teed up.
Monday on Airline Drive, the search for answers as to what went wrong, as is always the case, fell on coach Jim Haslett, who promptly explained it away as problems that are cut and dry.
And if improved execution would have materialized had the Saints burned one of their two remaining timeouts, it will never be known, but for the second time in as many days, Haslett defended his decision not to do that.
And the bottom line, coach?
Then the usual lauding of the opponent is offered.
For a team that gives up at least 20 points every week, that has to be a line fans have heard too many times before.
And as was the case with the other previous losses, Saints players aren't viewing it as if it's the end of the world.
Despite watching their hopes of a division title and a favorable playoff seed disappear with a mammoth quarterback's stumble into the end zone with five ticks left, the attitude in the locker room still seems positive.
By the same token, one Saint who should have been much more emotional following the loss, Deuce McAllister, was not. For the third time this season, the former Ole Miss standout has ripped off a long run for a touchdown that has been called back because of holding. The NFC's leading rusher would be pushing the 1,400-yard mark for the season were it not for the yellow flag wipeouts.
To Deuces credit, hes taken that stance before, too.
Another area player, whose big contributions were somewhat wasted was Fred McAfee. The Philadelphia native could have been miffed that his dazzling 51-yard reverse on the opening kickoff didnt inject more life into the squad, who promptly fell behind 14-3 in the first quarter. But, well you can see the trend forming here.
More deja vu could be found near defensive tackle Norman Hand. Heavy Lunch did his usual sitting sprawled out in front of his locker while teammates scurried to get dressed and bolt. And once again, the topic was a big-time player who made big-time plays at the expense of the New Orleans defense.
Reserve lineman Martin Chase (0 tackles), who was activated Sunday in favor of Meridian's Kenny Smith, agreed with his Heavy Lunch Bunch mate. "It's hard to say. Weve had our ups and downs, but one thing we have to definitely do is get off the field," he said. "We haven't done a good job of that. We are still in the hunt, though."
McAfee, a seasoned veteran who is adept at putting things into perspective, echoed that last one, too.