Monday. On Tuesday the headlines, columns and blogosphere will be full of Pats/Saints post-nearly-Superbowl news. Since I won’t be watching the game – we don’t get ESPN – and I don’t really think I could bear to sit through four long quarters glued to my computer screen while the little gridiron graphic on nfl.com does its play-by-play bar chart, I decided to write my own version of what will happen tonight in ‘Nawlins.
First Quarter. Having attended a Saints game in the Louisiana Superdome, I can assure you that for many fans (especially those from out of town) a good portion of the first minutes of the game won’t be about counting downs. Instead, they’ll be frantically hunting through the overpriced sweatshirts in the pro shop for something – anything – they can find to keep them warm. The Dome is Foxborough in December without the snow or New England fortitude. That’s how I ended up with a Saints insignia long-sleeved t-shirt that I will wear only when the Saints are playing a team I despise.
Second Quarter. Okay, the essentials have been handled so it’s time to focus on the field. What? The Pats are behind?? The score is 7-0, Saints, due to a long drive in the first quarter that resulted in a Mike Bell run-in from 5 yards out. The teams trade possession but with 5 minutes to go, Brady connects with Moss for a thrilling 43-yard run. Oh no! Drew Brees brings the Saints within 32 yards of the end zone — John Carney’s season-long kick hangs a pious angle off the left upright to make it 10-7 Saints at the half.
Third Quarter. The Pats, who chose to receive in the first half, come out strong as Vince Wilfork sacks Brees on the second drive resulting in a 3rd and 25. Despite an heroic dash by a slightly gimpy Reggie Bush, the Saints punt on 4th and 7. After some fairly workmanlike first down conversions, Wes Welker brings it home at the end of the quarter, making it 14-10 Patriots.
Fourth Quarter. Ah, the tension is as thick as an oyster po’boy! Back and forth it goes, with the Pats and Saints trading field position and failing to convert on third downs. Then Darren Sharper intercepts a Brady pass to Sam Aiken, whose hip must still be bothering him, and runs it back for a TD. 17-14 Saints, with only 1:43 left on the clock. Which, as Patriots Nation knows, makes it Brady Time. Starting on his own 17, Brady systematically brings the team down the field, administering a series of short passes to Welker and Brandon Meriweather. With :27 remaining the Pats find themselves at 4th and 7 on the Saints’ 41. Belichick, who suffered a ton of shit due to his 4th down conversion call against the Colts, demonstrates his tough-mindedness once and for all and does it again. As the Saints might say, “He smelled greatness!” Despite pressure from several large Saints individuals, Brady keeps his composure in the pocket and connects with Moss, who takes a balletic leap and brings that baby home. Gostkowski makes it 21 and as the seconds tick away, it’s Hard Times in the Big Easy.
Postgame: I happen to like the Saints, especially in the aftermath of Katrina. They’re a fun, gutsy team, inspiringly symbolic of resilience in the face of tragedy. Of course I want the Pats to win it all but if it can’t be them, I’ll be rooting for the fleur-de-lis.