Saints vs Raiders: a cause for hope
I haven’t been to a Saints game since I was fortunate enough to procure tickets to the Monday Night Football game last season against the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite the eventual 7-9 record, the Saints stomped the Eagles to the tune of 28-13. If your team is playing the Saints in the Dome on prime time television, go ahead & change the channel because the Black & Gold are about to light up the scoreboard.
Friday night, the Saints played their second preseason game of the 2013 NFL calendar year against the Oakland Raiders. There were a myriad of reasons to not get excited about this match-up, but mainly because it is preseason, and it’s the Raiders. Although this game didn't warrant enough reason to light my Saints candle and offer my future first born child to the football gods, I was cranked to ten to be back in the dome.
We parked a few blocks away at a friend’s business, so the convenience allowed us enough leeway to not leave work early -- what was I thinking? At 6 PM, we casually made our way down to Poydras Street before kickoff. I had no plans to attend Friday’s game, but another’s misfortune turned into my reward: free Saints tickets. Not having to pay for the tickets certainly helped my wallet, but the beverages in the Superdome surely did not; I still cannot believe it costs $14 for a double cocktail and $8.50 for a beer in New Orleans of all places.
The walk to the Dome was short and the security check line was surprisingly shorter, despite the new enforcement measures for NFL games. The ladies with us adhered to the NFL’s new bag policy, so I was responsible for lip gloss, money, and IDs, despite the limited capacity of my shorts and wallet. We managed to find our seats after much confusion and misdirection. Drew Brees launched a deep bomb of a pass down the sideline to second year receiver Nick Toon, who hauled it in near the goal line. As soon as I sat down, I stood right back up in an eruption of "Yeaaaa!!! Who dat?!?" Using a quick huddle, the Saints lined up before I could sit, and running back Mark Ingram took the hand-off from Brees to score the first touchdown of the contest.
Saints 10, Raiders 0.
As the game went on, the defense played lights out, accounting for seven sacks on the Raiders’ quarterbacks. After one week, the NFL’s historically worst defense was now the number one ranked defense in the preseason; yes, it is just preseason. However, on Friday night, the Saints D showed the Who Dat Nation both what they are capable of this season and that their past transgressions are just that, in the past. The potential of this group was on full display in front of the home crowd and in true New Orleans Saints fan fashion you could feel the 'this could really be our year' attitude pulse throughout the Dome.
The starters played the majority of the first half while rookies and second-year pros were mixed in so the coaching staff could see what the young guys are able to do. Fifth round draft pick wide receiver Kenny Stills took advantage of this opportunity when he snagged a pass near the sideline in the end zone. Channeling his inner ballerina, Stills managed to keep his toes just enough in bounds, changing the scoreboard from Saints 10, Raiders 0 to Saints 17, Raiders 0.
Despite the each the fact that it's only preseason and that the opponent was a developmental Raiders squad, the Saints delighted fans in the Dome and throughout the Gulf South. Although the Saints' second-string players allowed the silver & black to fight their way back into the game, they did just enough to secure the victory.
Saints 28, Raiders 20.
Had the Saints lost this contest, it would have still been considered a victory. The important part of preseason, aside from individual player analysis, isn't the final score. It's the score left on the board when both teams’ starters leave the field. The Saints' first-string offense and defense left the scoreboard heavily in their favor.
Saints 23, Raiders 7. Who dat.