Didn’t get enough candy corn last night? The local spook house wasn’t scary enough?
Well, as Aaron Rodgers would say, “R-E-L-A-X.” Halloween isn’t over yet, at least not here in Who Datsylvania.
For those of you feeling deprived, here are some leftover tricks and treats from the Saints’ spooktacular 28-10 victory at Carolina on All Hallows’ Eve Eve:
Trick: The NFL schedule-maker
The Saints are only team this season playing a Thursday night road game after a Sunday night home game.
Sean Payton was still agitated about it Friday, saying that he and General Manager Mickey Loomis would bring it up the league’s spring meetings.
“It’s a challenge, but yet it’s a very simple fix,” he said. “And it’s just common sense, which is making sure the teams playing on Thursday play the early game the week before. But that suggestion box is on the third floor of a two-story building.”
Hear that, Roger Goodell?
Treat: Payton would have been handing them out after the game
As it was, he took the unusual step of shaking the hand of every player as he came into the locker room.
Obviously, winning decisively on the road on a short week meant as much to him as any victory in a long time.
“I was real proud of how they handled the challenges of a short week,” he said. “The same way with the coaches. By the end of three or four days, half of the staff had a cold or cough, and none of us had a lot of sleep. A year ago, we had a real tough loss (at Carolina) and, to get a win like that, you have to play a game with emotion.”
No doubt they had that.
Trick: Stopping Cam Newton
Until Johnny Manziel gets on the field, there’s not a more dangerous running quarterback in the NFL. Newton showed that Thursday by getting outside on his touchdown run and on a couple of other carries.
But he’s an unsteady passer, especially when pressured in the pocket, which the Saints were able to do with a minimum of blitzing. Newton’s 10-of-28 passing night was the worst, percentage-wise, of his career, and he was sacked four times.
Colin Kaepernick presents another challenge next week, but against the Saints last season he was 17-of-31 for 127 yards, plus three carries for 28 yards. No doubt the Saints would take that again.
Treat: Keenan Lewis
Before the game, the NFL Network guys were touting Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin as the second coming of Megatron.
He may well be some day. But with Mr. West Bank guarding him primarily in single coverage, Benjamin had only two catches for 18 yards despite being targeted 10 times.
After the game, Deion Sanders called Lewis one of the league’s best cornerbacks. Considering the adjustments the secondary has gone though this season, Lewis is the team’s defensive MVP and should be going to his first Pro Bowl.
Trick: Drew Brees takes flight
He launched himself up and over for the touchdown that restored the Saints’ two-touchdown lead in the third quarter.
It was the first time Brees had executed the play since 2009 at Miami, and Payton said it wasn’t something the team practices anymore.
“Drew’s got a pretty good sense of where the ball’s at, and they were in a 6-2 defense — just like Miami was back in ’09,” he said. “There’s that moment when we’re deciding whether we’re going for it or not, and it’s like that buddy who convinces you to go out for more dessert and you just go do it.
“When I know what he wants to do, it’s like, ‘Go ahead.’ My big concern was that the side judge doesn’t see it clear the plane, and I wasn’t able to get down to the end zone to help him call it.”
Treat: The continued emergence of Mark Ingram
Just think how it was a few weeks ago, when it seemed like his being out with a broken hand made it clear that Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas were the team’s best options at running back.
But with them out now, the burden has fallen on Ingram, and he has responded with back-to-back games of 172 and 170 yards.
But Payton pointed out that Ingram has now had 54 carries in less than a week and that, with the anticipated return of at least Thomas next week, Ingram needs some relief to help him reach the finish line.
Still, it has been fun to see Ingram come out of his shell — not just on the field, but off it, too.
Trick: Navigating November
San Francisco, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Pittsburgh all have winning records and are a combined 18-11-1.
Although the next three games are at home, where the Saints have been unbeatable over the past two seasons, coming out of Thanksgiving weekend at 7-5 would be as satisfying as an extra helping of turkey and dressing.
Treat: The December schedule
It’s the mirror image of November’s.
Carolina, Chicago, Atlanta and Tampa Bay all have losing records and are a combined 9-22-1. Plus, they’re all trending downward.
That doesn’t guarantee a division title, but if the Saints don’t win the NFC South, it’s going to be a major upset.
At this point, the Saints would be the No. 4 seed in the NFC, which at least means a first-round home game. No. 3 is attainable but isn’t much better than being No. 4.
Getting into the top two, which means a first-round bye, will take a lot of losing by current division leaders Arizona, Detroit and Dallas. (Who would have bet that parlay going into the season?)
But considering where things stood a couple of weeks ago, it’s shaping up as a merry Christmas in Who Datville.