Saints' total team effort eases the absence of Breesby J.W. Miller on 09/23/19
One of sports’ enduring clichés is that the team is bigger than one player. You probably could not convince turd-in-exile Antonio Brown of that fact, but the most recent evidence is the Saints’ unlikely win at Seattle on Sunday. That victory did show that the team is bigger than one player, even if that player is future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
Teddy Bridgewater came in and played a steady, mistake-free game while his teammates took care of the rest. From the punt return for a touchdown by undrafted rookie Deonte Harris to the magical feet of Alvin Kamara to the scoop and score by Vonn Bell that highlighted a total defensive effort that held a prolific Seahawk offense to 14 points until four minutes remained in the game. “Well, look, that’s why it’s a team,” head coach Sean Payton said after the game. “There was something about the week we had in the locker room, even in the pregame.”
The loss probably came as a huge surprise to the Seahawks, who are as formidable in their outdoor insane asylum as the Saints have been in the Mercedes Benzon Superdome. They could be forgiven for expecting a victory over a team playing without its leader and coming off a disappointing loss to the Rams, their all-of-a-sudden conference nemesis. I know how they feel because the game reminded me of another Saints team years ago in which the cleat was on the other foot.
It was December 1, 1991, and the Saints were on their way to their first division championship. They were 9-3 at the time, and the 49ers were 6-6 and struggling. Their future Hall of Fame QB Joe Montana was out for the season, and their other FHoFQB Steve Young was hobbled with an injury. That left journeyman Steve (or as Jim Finks called him “Sonny”) Bono in the irons. A couple weeks earlier, the Saints defense had suffocated Bono, holding him to 15 completions in 32 attempts for a measly 131 yards, in a 10-3 win at the Superdome. Now we get to feast on good old Sonny again!
We flew to San Francisco fully expecting to bring home another victory. Rumors flew around that Young may be ready to play, but when we arrived at Candlestick Park, we received word that Young again was inactive and Bono would be the one dodging the Sack Pack. I remember exhaling a big sigh of relief. But what transpired is the reason they play the game anyway.
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but in the second period Bono got the Niners on the board with a 19-yard TD pass to WR John Taylor. The Saints came back quickly to tie the game on a 6-yard Steve Walsh strike to WR Floyd Turner. But on the ensuing kickoff, Dexter Carter ran 98 yards in, around and through the Saints cover team to give the home team a 14-7 lead. Morten Andersen drew the Saints closer with a 52-yard field goal to close the half, but Mike Cofer matched that with a 42-yarder of his own, and the Niners led 17-10.
The Saints tied the game on a 6-yard run by Fred McAfee, and a 3-yard TD pass from Walsh to Turner gave the Saints a 24-17 lead entering the fourth quarter. But before I could light the victory cigar, Carter caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Bono to tie the game and a few minutes later “Sonny” hit Jerry Rice for a 47-yard strike to put the Niners up. The Saints did not score again in the 38-24 Niners’ victory, reminding all disbelievers that Steve Bono had the same team around him that had made Montana and Young so dominant.
Flash back to today. Our local heroes are now 2-1 against three teams that made the playoffs last year, and they face another one with the 3-0 Cowboys coming to town next week. The Saints started the season with the toughest schedule in the league, and after Brees went down the naysayers came out in force. But another team effort on Sunday will put the league on notice that the Saints are resilient, talented and more than up to the task of surviving without Drew Brees. Just ask Sonny Bono!