Maybe karma will finally allow the Saints to prevail
Share with others:
Maybe it's karma that Vince Lombardi's grandson, Joe Lombardi, is the New Orleans Saints' quarterbacks coach.
Maybe it's the experience of the 2006-07 NFL season, when the Saints defied the odds in Sean Payton's first season in New Orleans, only to fall one game short of the first Super Bowl berth in club history.
Maybe it's Payton and Drew Brees and Scott Shanle and Will Smith. The tough inside running of Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell. For some reason, the notion that Brees and Payton will hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy tonight at Sun Life Stadium seems like a natural conclusion to a "season of firsts," as Payton likes to call it.
Then again, nobody fights the karma.
"The chance to be a part of a Super Bowl winning team is huge," Joe Lombardi told The Times-Picayune's Jimmy Smith Tuesday. "And then there's a little personal story that makes it a little more special."
Uh, yeah. Anyone who was alive when the late, great Vince Lombardi did his thing on the Green Bay Packers' sideline can understand. The charismatic, gap-toothed coach, one of the reasons pro football became so popular about 40 years ago, was one of the "Seven Blocks of Granite" during his playing days at Fordham University. He was a tough, demanding coach. He suffered no fools.
The Saints will face Peyton Manning and the resourceful Indianapolis Colts tonight in Super Bowl XLIV. They're the underdog, but they sure aren't acting like it. They're loose; they have a strong sense of focus. There is an air of confidence.
The Saints look like a team that belongs in the Super Bowl, their lack of history in the big game notwithstanding. And that starts with Payton, the team's fourth-year coach, and Brees, the undersized but driven quarterback who changed the culture of pro football in New Orleans with one stroke of the pen four years ago.
All you need to know is that 10 months after Brees joined the Saints, they played in the NFC championship game, a team that helped New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf South to turn the page on deadly Hurricane Katrina.
The Saints lost that game at Soldier Field, but you had the feeling they'd be back. Someday.
That someday is here.
"For me, as a quarterback and as a guy who is very competitive, I'm in this league to win championships," Brees said Tuesday during Super Bowl Media Day. "I don't see any [other] reason why you would want to play this game. You play this game to be the best. You play this game to win championships, especially at the quarterback position. You are measured by wins and losses. You are measured by championships.
"And we have no greater opportunity than this week to have that chance."
Opportunity. To paraphrase Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the Saints hear it knocking, on the window. On the door. On Sunday.
The Saints won 13 consecutive games before an inspired comeback fell short Dec. 19 in a 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the Louisiana Superdome. They survived the Tampa Bay meltdown the next week and the meaningless game at Carolina, and they came back with a vengeance. They drop-kicked Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals into the Gulf of Mexico. They turned five turnovers, including a Brett Favre interception late in regulation, into a 31-28 overtime victory against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game.
And the French Quarter went nuts.
Imagine if the Saints haul a Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Poydras Street early Monday morning. New Orleans might have to take the whole day off.
"One thing we were able to do was handle some of the setbacks," Payton said. "We played from behind; we played with a lead. As the season unfolded, I liked the way we responded. You develop a vision. Our players felt that."
They're feeling it in South Florida, too.
First Published February 7, 2010 12:51 am