What physical takedown of an opponent who, according to perception, was more likely to be the team bringing the noise and the pain?
What record-setting day by receiver
What clock-expiring field goal to cap a furious rally, in front of 73,025 fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome whose throats today should cause a bump in the hot tea and lozenge industries?
OK. It actually did happen, for sure. There are statements and eyewitness accounts readily available. New Orleans’ 23-20 victory over San Francisco very much was real.
The defensive stinginess (196 yards allowed, just 127 passing), offensive production (387 yards, including 92 rushing and four yards per carry) and resilience (overcoming three turnovers and a failed fourth-down attempt, all of which led to points) weren’t aberrations.
Thursday, they have an appointment in Atlanta, to play the Falcons (2-8) at the Georgia Dome, with a 7:25 scheduled kickoff.
So while friends, family and fans all get to continue to bask in the afterglow of the win over San Francisco, debate penalties that were or weren’t called and celebrate the fact that the Saints remained perfect (6-0) at home, the team immediately turned its attention to improving its 2-2 road record against a team that’s out of the playoff hunt, but would love nothing more than to flatten one of tires on New Orleans’ shiny 2013 ride.
And because it’s a Thursday night game, the Saints’ usual 24-hour celebration rule might’ve been shaved down to 24 minutes.
“There’s no 24-hour rule this week,” defensive end Cam Jordan said Monday. “This is, ‘You know what? We got out of that game, we won the game, it was a hard, physical-fought game and we’re looking toward Thursday.’ We’re already breaking down film today.”
Everything, from a preparation standpoint, is compressed because of the short week. Padded practice is unlikely; the Saints are more apt to use mental reps to prepare for the game and to allow bodies the maximum amount of time to rebound from Sunday.
It also helps that Thursday’s opponent is familiar. The division rival plays New Orleans twice a year; the Saints and Falcons opened the season on Sept. 8, with New Orleans claiming a 23-17 victory in the Superdome.
“Someone you’ve played already, I think, can make the transition a little less hectic,” Coach Sean Payton said Monday. “I think the big challenge is physically, playing an afternoon game and turning around and playing another game in a few days. (The concern is) the toll on the players, and trying to get them as much rest as possible prior to playing another football game.
“It’s a division opponent, No. 1. And No. 2, a division opponent you’ve played already. You go back to the scouting reports, you kind of update the changes in regards to personnel.”
Jordan said the challenge is daunting, but that it will educate Saints players.
“This is a test and we’re going to have to try to overcome,” he said. “Honestly, why not have it?
“It’s a divisional opponent, it’s our rival and to flip around and have a game Sunday and then have a game on Thursday, it’s going to say a lot about our fortitude and what we have on our team.
“We know them, they know us. Familiarity helps in a short week but at the same time, it’s going to be a physical, hard-fought battle regardless. We always play each other tough.”
It’s a test for which the Saints likely will be without cornerback
“It was a significant injury,” Payton said. “We’re just kind of keeping our fingers crossed with him. I spoke to him (Sunday) night in the hospital.
“It’s always difficult when someone like Jabari, who’s been with us and been a staple with what we’ve done defensively, goes down with an injury like he sustained.”
But the team had little time to reflect on it, or most of what happened Sunday. A short week demands short memories.