If you’re a Louisiana football fan, you can check into Heartbreak Hotel anytime you like.
Sometimes, though, it seems you can never leave.
Sometimes it seems you’re doomed to repeat the past.
Saturday night, the LSU Tigers lost to Alabama, the San Francisco 49ers of their nightmares, 20-13 in overtime after grabbing a three-point lead with less than a minute left in regulation.
Sunday afternoon, the New Orleans Saints lost to the 49ers, the Alabama of their nightmares, 27-24 in overtime after fighting back to take a three-point lead in the final two minutes of regulation.
Two big, painful losses to two traditional powerhouses that folks in our underdog-minded state dearly love to beat that were close enough to see and smell and taste but remained too far away to touch.
If you thought the Saints-49ers game would be a tonic for the hangover of a late-night slugfest in Tiger Stadium, it looked like a good bet.
The Saints came in after a successful icy ascent past Green Bay and Carolina in a span of five days last month, finally climbing out of the hole they dug with their 0-2 start to plant their flag atop the NFC South at 4-4. The 49ers were 4-4 after a blowout loss at Denver and a blown chance at the goal line in a loss to St. Louis at home.
Two teams going in seemingly opposite directions, but it was the more desperate 49ers who jumped out early, taking a 14-0 first-quarter lead that was hard for the Saints to overcome.
In the end, though, the Saints were as much the agents of their own demise as the 49ers were. Roll the lowlights, please:
-- On the Saints’ first possession, Drew Brees threw a pass into coverage that was intercepted by strong safety Antoine Bethea. He returned it 12 yards to the New Orleans 19 to set up the 49ers’ first touchdown.
-- Just before halftime, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick fumbled on a sack by Tyrunn Walker, the ball recovered at the San Fran 44 by Cam Jordan. Trailing 21-10, the Saints desperately needed points, but on second-and-2 from the 22 Brees threw into triple coverage — not double, triple — for Jimmy Graham and was picked off by cornerback Chris Culliver.
-- The Saints fought back to take a 24-21 lead with 1:52 left on a 2-yard Brees-to-Graham pass that was pinpoint perfect. Four plays later, the 49ers faced fourth-and-10 at their 22, but Kaepernick scrambled around to find Michael Crabtree, of all people, as open as the Gulf of Mexico for a stupefying 51-yard grab to the Saints’ 27. Talk about nightmares: It was oh-so-reminiscent of the long pass that helped Cleveland beat New Orleans. Phil Dawson’s field goal tied the score with 44 seconds left in regulation.
-- The Saints moved to the 49ers 47 with 5 seconds left, and Brees found Graham again for a touchdown pass that would have won it with no time left. But Graham was flagged for pushing off on cornerback Perrish Cox — a proper call despite Graham’s protests — and the score was disallowed.
-- In overtime, Brees was hit from behind and fumbled, the ball recovered at the Saints’ 17. Dawson immediately trotted out for the 35-yard kick to win it.
In the Saints locker room afterward, the tone couldn’t be described as upbeat, but it wasn’t exactly despondent either.
“It’s tough, but we just lost to a team that’s been competing to go to the Super Bowl,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said.
“We didn’t get this one,” cornerback Corey White said, “but we’ve got to move on.”
“We didn’t finish,” linebacker Junior Galette said. “It’s very frustrating.”
In the view-from-20,0000-feet sense, this loss didn’t cost the Saints very much. New Orleans is still on top of the NFL’s Marshmallow Division, also known as the NFC South, at least as long as Carolina loses Monday night at Philadelphia like it should.
But the Saints’ aspired to be better than this, and the faithful inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (which is starting to show a noticeable number of empty seats) are beginning to get restless. After Brees’ second interception, there were boos, sounds that have hardly if ever troubled the ears of the Top Saints, though at least booing was better than that siren.
Brees, Mr. Stand-Up Guy as always, didn’t protest.
“I probably deserved it,” he said. “I would have booed myself. Something’s got to get fixed. I’m not happy about it. I can’t turn the ball over at the rate I’m turning it over. I’m aware of that.”
Brees has 11 turnovers in nine games (10 interceptions and Sunday’s fumble) compared to his 18 touchdown passes. Not bad numbers, like the Saints’ standing in their division. But as with LSU, which is now officially out of the hunt in the Southeastern Conference Western Division, “not bad” is not what the Saints aspire to be. Not this year, when they were labeled as one of the NFL’s elite teams.
They still can be. Still, even though the injured knee cornerback Keenan Lewis bravely played on could be a serious concern. The 2011 New York Giants were a meager 9-7 before getting hot and upsetting New England in the Super Bowl.
But the Saints are running out of chances and plausible excuses for winning not being a major, siren-worthy problem.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.