Last week, reporters smiled smugly when Jerry Jones suggested his Dallas Cowboys were being overlooked as playoff contenders after their 2 and 1 start.
Meanwhile, it looked like the Saints - coming off their first win of the season - were starting to round into the form that has made the playoffs for them a foregone conclusion recently and a trendy Super Bowl pick before this season.
Then came last night. And it was hard to judge who was more shocked by the outcome - cowboy followers in victory or those of the Saints in defeat. Suddenly, it's impossible to dismiss the cowboys as co-leaders of the NFC East as playoff participants, and nearly as impossible to include the Saints as co-denizens of the NFC South basement as playoff probable.
Sean Payton wouldn't address the notion of the playoffs in his post-game press conference. Nor should he have. Instead, he said it was important to look at "why we're not winning." Well, just cue up the tape and stop it anywhere in the first three quarters. The reasons are that numerous and that pervasive in every phase of the game.
Jones would call the first half effort the best he'd seen during his 25 years with the Cowboys. Considering everything, it was probably the worst Payton has had the misfortune to watch and preside over in his eight years with the Saints.
You could make the case that the saints have played successively worse in every game this season, all of which have come against teams that had non-winning records a year ago. There's plenty of time to turn this around, but precious little evidence that this deeply flawed team will.
They don't give out awards after just one quarter of the season. But if they did, the Saints would be a unanimous winner of one. Of the NFL's 32 teams, they are its most disappointing.
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