Drive to Victory: New Orleans Saints' Goal-Line Stand of the Year

By Mike Luca
November 13, 2012 3:51 pm
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SpagsSteve Spagnuolo watched Remember the Titans before Sunday's NFC South shootout.

You know it, I know it - Sean Payton, Joe Vitt, the entire NFL community, and even Will Patton knows it...but no one has told Roger Goodell yet, so keep the gates locked.

Coach Yoast didn't want them to gain another yard.

As easily anticipatory as it is for a professional football team to accumulate three fundamental feet of offensive production (especially when heading into the opponent's end zone), it is the elementary, visceral, cold-hearted ambition of every defense to prevent such on every play.

Doing so four consecutive times not only influences the drive or the victory, but it can intangibly pave a new Bourbon Street for the remainder of the season.

The Super Bowl XLII champion New York Giants were potentially on the verge of beginning 2007 with an "insurmountable" 0-3 record, as the Washington Redskins had 1st-and-goal at the 1, down 24-17 with 58 seconds to go.

A defensive unit led by Michael Strahan and now known for its superior and relentless pass rush at the expense of Tom Brady used those four consecutive plays to turn their negative tides, establish momentum for the ensuing title run, and unify as one formidable entity.

Defense is neither regarded nor praised in this column, but for a franchise buried under the depths of the Bounty Gate scandal, lack of stability in the coaching staff, an "indomitable" 0-4 start, and (actually since Super Bowl XLIV) the porous performance of 11 men praying for Drew Brees to bail them out week after week, their latest triumph was worth mentioning.

Plus, there were no qualifying game-winning fourth-quarter comebacks from the offensive side of the football to choose from, so my hands were as tied as those of David Akers and Greg Zuerlein (make a field goal!).

In a contest that manufactured 894 yards of total offense (700 passing), the New Orleans Saints (4-5) delivered the once-unbeaten Atlanta Falcons (8-1) a 31-27 loss by way of an unprecedented red zone stop completed with just 1:42 to go.

The Dirty Birds haven't been given their due respect throughout a flawed yet unblemished first half, and Matt Ryan was 15-0 whenever he threw three or more touchdowns before the day began. In the end, Who Dat Nation became impenetrable, and Mercury Morris and the Mardi Gras Mahi Mahis (or 1972 Miami Dolphins, as sober people would refer to them) were heard popping bottles and leaving the littered foil behind them.

Following Garrett Hartley's 31-yard field goal that put New Orleans up by four at the 5:54 mark, Matty Ice...wait a second...should I have picked...the field, hold on - that's the door...oh hello, Gregg Williams...what's that? You're back for my head?

As I was saying, Matty Ice was marching down the field once more, amassing a career-high 411 yards along the way, soaring through a defense ranked dead last in net total yards allowed and tied for No. 28 in the league with 28.4 PPG allowed.

With help from his smaller pass-catching running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, and the rest of his full-feathered cast of receivers, 9-0 appeared to be all but a heartbreaking lock.

Then, on 1st-and-goal at New Orleans' 10 with 2:26 on the clock, a defensive line, linebacking corps, and secondary all riddled with suspensions, injuries, and overriding ineffectiveness came together for a highlight-reeled and legal team effort.

Ryan dropped back from the shotgun on first down, and although the defensive ends over-swam the rush, the Falcons' quarterback still felt the apparent pressure in a solid pocket and settled for the check down to Harry Douglas (4 receptions, 49 yards, 0 touchdowns).


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