Is it starting to look like 2009 all over again? That’s when the Saints seemed to get every piece of football good fortune.
It happened last Sunday against the Redskins. A roughing the passer call against Washington linebacker Preston Smith turned a fourth down for the Saints into an automatic first down.
Two plays later, Mark Ingram scored on a 36-yard touchdown run.
On the second-to-last play of the fourth period, playing a first-and-10 at the Saints 34, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins was whistled for intentional grounding, knocking the Redskins out of field goal range.
Jog back eight seasons. With 19 seconds to play in the NFC Championship Game, on the same end of the Superdome turf, Minnesota was penalized for having 12 men on the field. On the next play, Brett Favre was intercepted by Saints cornerback Tracy Porter. The Saints won in overtime.
Eight years ago, the Saints defeated 12-4 Minnesota and 10-6 Arizona in the playoffs. But, the road the 2017 Saints face appears much more difficult. The Philadelphia Eagles are 9-1. The Minnesota Vikings are, like the Saints, 8-2. But, the Vikings own any potential tiebreaker against New Orleans, thanks to a season-opening win over the Saints.
The Rams are 7-3, and so are the Carolina Panthers. Even if the Saints defeat the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina, they still have a very tough road to a possible first-round playoff bye.
The Eagles’ remaining six games are Chicago, at Seattle, at Rams, at New York Giants, Oakland and Dallas.
Minnesota’s last six are at Lions on Thanksgiving Day, at Atlanta, at Carolina, Cincinnati, at Green Bay and Chicago.
After the Rams and Carolina, the Saints still have a road game against the Atlanta Falcons on a Thursday night, the New York Jets, Atlanta again, then a road game against Tampa Bay.
Without a first-round bye, the Saints’ playoff path could look something like the following: Host a first-round playoff game as the No. 3 seed, then travel to Minnesota and Philadelphia.
Regardless, the 2017 Saints are history makers. They are the first team to lose its first two regular-season games and win the next eight.
One of the most exciting Saints’ regular-season wins ever was dripping with irony. The pre-game “Who Dat” cheer was led by former Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem. In December 2009, with the Saints trailing at Washington, 17-10, Drew Brees was intercepted by Kareem Moore. As Moore ran with the ball, Meachem took it from him and raced 44 yards for a touchdown.
The moment was not lost on Saints head coach Sean Payton, who acknowledged the Meachem Miracle in his post-game press conference. That season, the Saints were the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a record of 13-3.
Eight years later, to get a first or second seed – and a first-round bye – the Saints may have to be even better.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at email@example.com.