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News » SO CLOSE


SO CLOSE


SO CLOSE
You are what your record says.


That's what a famous coach, Bill Parcells, once said.

OK.

So that makes the 2008 Saints an 8-8 Football team.

That's right.

So what about Drew Brees?

Well, let's see.

He's a quarterback who threw for 5,069 yards this season, a mere 15 yards shy of the record Dan Marino set 24 years ago.

And what do you know?

On the final play of Sunday's game in the Superdome, there was Mr. Brees finding himself a chip-shot away from drawing a line through Marino's majestic number of 5,084.

It would have been so easy, with the Carolina Panthers protecting a 33-31 lead, willing to give up short yardage, with the Saints, one second remaining, facing one of those Hail Mary situations, in this case a Hail Mary calling for a pass-and-many laterals that would have had to cover 65 yards.

Well, Drew Brees' 49th pass of the afternoon did not find Lance Moore, and Dan Marino's record remains.

"It wasn't meant to be," said Brees, who would have enjoyed breaking what he calls "a huge record," but a realist who went on to suggest such a record might not be a deserving fit for the quarterback of an 8-8 team.

The year Marino flourished he carried the 14-2 Miami Dolphins into a Super Bowl.

This year the triggerman of Sean Payton's Saints carried the team into another season of familiar refrains.

"We got to find a way to finish."

"We got to make plays when it counts."

"We can't keep turning the ball over."

On and on.

In a way, Sunday crystallized the way 2008 has gone for the cellar-dwellers of the NFC South.

It began when DeAngelo Williams of the Panthers may have set some sort of record in breaking tackles as he rushed for 81 yards in seven carries in the first quarter.

By my unofficial count, he broke 13.

It ended with the Saints coming alive in the fourth quarter, after falling behind, 30-10, after taking a 31-30, after failing to come up with a "big play," when Steve Smith, sandwiched by Roman Harper and Jason David, pulled in a 31-yard throw by Jake Delhomme that set up a 42-yard John Kasay field goal the Panthers needed to go from a No. 5 to a No. 2 seed in postseason play.

--- Positives and negatives ---

Earlier, Kasay had missed from 41 yards.

With the game on the line, Steve Smith and John Kasay made the big plays that made the difference.

And the Saints?

Drew Brees went back to the only turnovers of the game, a second-quarter interception followed by a fumbled kickoff that turned a 9-3 game into a 23-3 game in two minutes.

"We gave the best team in our division two touchdowns, just like that," said Brees.

Brees refused to think of the Saints as "an average team."

"I don't look on us as an average team at all," he said. "We are who we are. Sometimes you have to go through the bad in order to grow. You have to keep looking for positives."

The negatives remain obvious.

When you look at the defense, and the immediate future, you see a team that needs help in every area: up front, at linebacker, especially in the secondary.

You look at what the Panther offense accomplished in posting 478 yards in total offense, and what do you find?

You find lots of double-digit plays.

Long gains by DeAngelo Williams, 30 yards, and Jonathan Stewart, 16 yards, running the ball.

Long completions catching the Football: Steve Smith, 54 yards; Muhsin Muhammad, 28 yards; D.J. Hackett, 30 yards.

--- A haunting past ---

It's a sample of an Achilles heel that has haunted Payton's defense the past two seasons.

In a way, you can say the '08 Saints did not have near the depth on their roster to overcome the biggest injury hit Payton's club has taken since he arrived.

You can also say, given such a situation, there are no quick fixes, but come '09, Payton's defense either makes a positive step, or the head coach could suffer the consequences.

I know one thing the 2008 Saints have accomplished.

When you look around the division, at a Carolina team with Super Bowl potential; at Atlanta, one of the surprise teams in the league; at Tampa Bay, a team of needs but not as many as Sean Payton's team, you come to an obvious conclusion.

The 2009 Saints will not be anyone's preseason pick to win the NFC South.

. . . . . . .

Peter Finney can be reached at 504.826.3405.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 29, 2008

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Alex Haynes Name: Alex Haynes
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