Tide finally turning in New Orleans?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 31, 2006

For as long as anyone can remember, the New Orleans Saints have been a laughingstock &8212; or at least something close to it &8212; in the National Football League.

The franchise, started in 1967, did not reach the playoffs for the first time until 1987. Since then, there have been plenty of years of promise only to end in disappointment.

Sunday night may have been the unequivocal proof that a new day has dawned.

Email newsletter signup

The Saints rolled into Dallas and not only beat, but decimated, a very good Dallas Cowboys team 42-17 in a game that could have been much worse had the Saints not run the clock for much of the fourth quarter.

After the Cowboys&8217; Julius Jones took off on a 77-yard touchdown run on his first carry early in the first quarter &8212; something which would have caused the Jim Haslett-era Saints to fold up shop &8212; New Orleans completely controlled every phase of the game.

New head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees appear to be the city of New Orleans&8217; biggest coup since, well, maybe ever.

Brees is putting up incredible numbers &8212; numbers so good he&8217;d be the runaway favorite for NFL MVP if not for LaDainian Tomlinson&8217;s monster season. He&8217;s put a ragtag bunch of receivers on the map, because who had ever heard of Devery Henderson, Marques Colston, Terrance Copper, et al prior to this season?

I&8217;ve tried to stay away from making any pronouncements on this team up to this point this season, because every time I&8217;m ready to do so they go in the opposite direction, but at this point I firmly believe them to be the best team in the NFC.

Will that matter come playoff time? Maybe. There&8217;s no way they lose a home playoff game this season, not with the crowds they&8217;ve had. Unfortunately, with the Chicago Bears virtually assured of home field advantage, winning in Chicago in late January could prove to be difficult for a team that hasn&8217;t run the ball well at times this season.

Reggie Bush seems to be coming into his own at the best possible time, Deuce McAllister is playing well despite not being fully recovered from last year&8217;s knee injury, Brees is playing better than any quarterback in the league and the defense is playing well enough to continue winning.

With games remaining against Washington, at the New York Giants and at home against Carolina to close the season, plenty of things can still happen. However, if the Saints can secure a bye, anything can happen.

Let&8217;s hope this is the year that so many Saints supporters have waited so long for. They certainly deserve it.

On another note, The Democrat sports department has welcomed a new member this week. Matt Rutherford, an Ole Miss graduate, began work Tuesday.

He is excited to be here and excited to dive into the local sports scene. We&8217;re excited to have him, and believe he will bring more of the local sports coverage you&8217;ve all come to expect.

Tim Cottrell is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached by phone at 601-445-3632 or by e-mail at