NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - 5-4, 4-5... It may be the difference of just one game. But for the Saints, it meant so much more.
They knew the script going in. Three other times they started 1-4 under Sean Payton, three other times they battled back to 4-4 and three other times they could never get over the five-hundred hump at any point in the season.
Sunday was their chance to be different. Sunday was their chance to show everyone that those were different teams and this was a new roster with a new brand of players that were finally going to buck the trend.
They couldn't do it.
Instead they followed that familiar script and lost to an uninspired, 1-6 football team playing for an interim head coach. As my colleague Jim Henderson told me after the game, 'it wasn't like they were out playing to win one for the Mulark.'
So true. The Saints had every opportunity to not only win and put the NFL on notice at 5-4. But do all of that in not just victorious but in complete dominant fashion as well. There were truly times it looked like the Saints would run away with a three-touchdown victory, not a six-point overtime defeat. Instead, they begged the Titans to stay in the game with mistakes and eventually Tennessee took them up on their offer and left New Orleans with their second win in eight tries.
"There's not a lot of wiggle room when you start off the way we started," coach Payton said afterward.
And that is where reality hits this team. If you've read my columns over the last three weeks, you know I've come closer and closer to officially jumping back on board. This was the game, I was finally ready to declare the Saints are back.
Now, I'm having a hard time ignoring history. One that says in each of those previous three seasons, the Saints battled valiantly to keep their season relevant into December. But ultimately came up short.
History says they'll likely follow that script again.
Unless of course they flip it around, something they clearly were unable to do on Sunday.