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DATELINE: Atlanta, Ga (Different Season, Same Ole Ending)

The Saints have proven to be maddeningly consistent over the past three seasons and that's not a good thing....




Most organizations would think about firing its Head Coach or shaking up its roster --sure the Saints have done plenty of the latter in the past three years as for the former---well Sean Payton remarkably is not on the hot seat but remains a hot commodity around the league.

Payton won't talk about the speculation but insists this 7-9 is not the same as the previous two 7-9's.

"It's a different team, obviously it's disappointing," Payton told me after his Saints fell in Atlanta to clinch its third straight losing season. "We have to find a way to get over that hump. There were too many games this year, too many opportunities this year,"

Very true--the blocked extra point against Denver, the game winning two point conversion against Oakland were pivotal but let's face it, these Saints benefitted from a San Diego collapse in week four as well.

Bottom line--these Saints are not a playoff team and while they showed promise in all three phases of the game, these Saints couldn't put it all together when it mattered most as they lost seven games by six or fewer points this season.

"We had a chance to win some of those close games, and generally the teams that get into this field (playoff) have usually won more than their fair share of those games decided by seven points or less. We talk about that number a lot because so many of them are inside of a touchdown and I feel like we had opportunities and we didn't do a good enough job."


This team could tease you---would climb back to .500 only to lose four of their next five.

Beat the mighty Seahawks then blowout the Rams only to fall apart in consecutive games with no offense against the Bucs and Lions then tear apart the number one defense in the NFL at Arizona?

Drew Brees seems to feel this team is on the cusp of something special as they were in consecutive non winning seasons back in 2007 & 2008 but he also knows his football clock and his patience can't last forever.

"I don't always want to be saying next year, next year, next year, eventually there are no more next years." Brees told me after the game. :I don't know how much time I have left, I'm gonna battle for as long as I can."

But that's where these Saints are--- another season finale in the books where the aftermath has the same old storyline where we are all left wondering if Payton will bolt, will the defense ever get fixed and how much Brees has left in the tank?

A broken record.....

This year's draft class delivered yet many holes remain in all areas of this team's defense and you wonder how much longer the Saints offensive line can rely on mainstays like Jahri Evans and Zach Strief?

The questions will linger in an all too familiar offseason for the black and gold.





"MARK" IT DOWN: Mark Ingram has flirted with it for years but finally got over the hump this year. Two years ago he was 36 yards shy of being a one thousand yard rusher and last year he was more than on pace but injuries prevented him from getting there---this year was different.  His 38 yard scamper in the fourth quarter put him over the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career where Ingram became the first Saint to do it since Deuce McAllister back in 2006. With the Saints playing comeback, didn't look like he was gonna get there but Sean Payton fed him the ball late which Ingram appreciated with a big sideline hug---a far cry from their exchange in Arizona a few weeks back.

CAN'T GUARD MIKE: Michael Thomas finished his rookie season with all the receiving records in toe. His 10 receptions for 156 yards put him past Reggie Bush for the rookie receptions mark and he would also pass Marques Colston for most receiving yards and rookie touchdowns.

MR 5000: Drew Brees is clearly in a class by himself in several regards, especially this one. Nine NFL quarterbacks have thrown for 5000 yards but none of them have done it more than once. Brees has amazingly now done it five times getting over the milestone against Atlanta. How he's not a Pro Bowler this year amazes me?

LUTZ ON FIRE: It's been awhile since Saints kicker Will Lutz has missed a field goal---you have eaten your Turkey, put up your Christmas Tree, wrapped and unwrapped your presents and rang in the New Year. He goes into the offseason having made his last 13 straight where his last miss was 11/17, the Saints Thursday night game at Carolina---impressive stuff.

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT.... Who knows where Sean Payton ends up but I would be surprised if he bolts to Los Angeles? He would be behind the curve with draft picks as this franchise gave up the farm for last year's top pick in rookie QB Jared Goff and then you have the unproven Goff? That's a huge risk for the Saints risk taker. I always thought if Payton would leave, it would be for Indianapolis where he leaves Drew Brees in his prime and picks up calling plays in the prime of quarterback Andrew Luck's seemingly strong run. The only downside would be leaving a loyal owner in Tom Benson for an erratic one in Jim Irsay.

Stay Tuned....

Mike Nabors

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By: Mike Nabors

An Emmy award winning sports reporter who covers a wide variety of events for CST. Primarily, Mike serves as the network's reporter for Saints coverage.


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