Saints alive! That game stunned me last night, but I guess it shouldn't have. One of the great things about football, and you see it all the time, is that emotion can carry you a long way.
Stupid me: I thought after the initial flurry of excitement, both from the team and from the fans, the Atlanta running game would wear down the Saints. But after the blocked punt that New Orleans returned for a touchdown, the tide turned into a tidal wave, and the rest is history.
I'll tell you the one thing I noticed about the football side of it: The Saints were smart to deal Donte' Stallworth to Philadelphia. Not that Stallworth isn't good; he is. But in getting a fourth-round pick for a guy they weren't going to re-sign (which turns into a third if the Eagles sign Stallworth to a contract extension this year), the Saints also added a very useful piece, middle linebacker Mark Simoneau.
He was a backup in Philly, but he has all the value of Harry Carson to these Saints. Add two rough-and-tumble, gap-plugging overachievers acquired from Dallas, Scott Shanle (for a seventh-round pick in August) and Scott Fujita (in free agency this offseason), and the linebacking corps has gone from one of the worst in the league to respectable. The evidence: Atlanta's Mike Vick and Warrick Dunn came in averaging 221 rushing yards combined. They had 101 on Monday as Simoneau, Shanle and Fujita combined for 17 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and four or five quarterback pressures of Vick.
Passion and a defensive backbone won that game.
Now on to your correspondence. I need to start today by saying thank you. I've been reading your letters to Army First Sgt. Mike McGuire in the wake of the death of one man in his platoon and the serious injuries suffered by two others in a bomb blast in Iraq, and I just want to say I appreciate from the bottom of my heart your e-mails of condolence. I will forward them to him and his fellow improvised-explosive-device hunters in Iraq. By the time you finish sending them, there will probably be at least 1,000 more e-mails. Believe me, they're all going to help Mike and his men get through the tough days ahead.
Toward the end of this column I've offered just a sample of the many notes to McGuire. Trust me, they're worth checking out.
And as for the football stuff....
A FAVRE GUY CHECKS IN. From Jeff Breitenfield, of Madison, Wis.: "I guess Brett Favre has quelled the 'He should have retired' or 'He should be traded' talk ... for at least a week, huh? The Packers, as a team, may or may not be very good, but anyone who thinks Favre has 'lost it' is out of his mind. He's been incredible the past two weeks. Imagine if the young Packers O-line, and team as a whole, starts to jell? Oh my.''
They're still waaaaaaay too porous on defense to be a playoff team, Jeff. But Favre will play some interesting games this year, and they'll be competitive. I don't like the Monday-night matchup at Philly, though.