(Last week: 8-8)
I'm writing this with most of the fourth quarter left and right after Kenny Stills' touchdown, but my mind's made up.
These Saints have quit. Mentally, which is the worst way.
I know the feeling. The year I played high school football, we started 4-0, tying for first place in one of Louisiana's largest districts. Then we dropped four in a row. Then we won the homecoming game against a winless team, a game so lopsided that I played in it. Our finale was at home against a team against which we were even. I think we still had a chance to make the playoffs at that point, but it was remote. We fell behind early and never caught up. By halftime, all the energy was gone. We had nothing to play for and even pride seemed out of reach. We knew we blew the season. At that point, it's not even resignation anymore — it's damn close to apathy. A feeling that it's so clear your time isn't now, that all you can do is wait for the planets to line up again before you even get a shot.
I'd know that feeling again in 2005-06, when I applied for dream job after dream job and got closer and closer every time, until at one point in later interviews they were telling me (winkingly, of course) to get ready to work. Then I was rejected. It hurt a lot every time, but after a while I grew numb to it, as if nothing would ever work out until a different year agreed with me. All I could do at that point was ride out however long it took until mojo bothered to pay a visit. In between, I took a minimum-wage job and tried to make the best of it. This is the point in this season that the Saints and their fans are going through, and it's a grinder.
The sad thing is that, at least until today, the Saints had no reason to quit. They were still alive, and might still be. But with the Falcons stepping up today, that seems all but impossible now. All those close-shave losses just kick that much more wind out of you in that case. There's a certain amount of heart you never get back when you have a long stretch left to play for nothing.
I envision possible wins against Carolina and Tampa Bay, but that's a best-case scenario. The Superdome is no longer an advantage, the fans have checked out and the players aren't clicking (even considering injuries and similar chip-falling factors, it's awful). I figured we'd all forget the 2014 season the moment Week 17 ended, but it's a shame that the team seems to have forgotten it already.
It didn't have to be this way.