I think this is gonna be the week, bitches. The timing seems to be just right for Dulymus’ triumphant return to the ranks of Dudes Sean Payton Allows To Tote The Rock.

The Believer will tell you that it probably makes more football sense than it would have in any of the first three games. San Francisco has the weakest run defense and the strongest pass defense the Saints will have faced so far.

The Cynic will tell you that, between the injuries and the public perception reaching critical mass, Coach Payton might not have much choice left.

They’re both right. And all indications so far this week are that Coach Payton is well aware of it.

Word is that they’re paying special attention to short yardage and goal line situations in practice this week, and that Dulymus is getting his reps. And why wouldn’t that be the case this week? From just about any perspective, it makes perfect sense for this to be the week. Let’s start with the cynical perspective, because cynicism is fun!

Sean Payton hasn’t had a very good couple of weeks from a public relations standpoint. That tends to happen when you piss away two winnable road games in a row and find yourself in the division cellar. Worse yet, both games featured game-changing failures on 3rd & short. And all the while, the most accomplished tailback in franchise history, and one of the three most popular players in franchise history, picked splinters out of his ass. The only guy on the roster who even remotely resembles a "big power back." The Saints’ running game in general is an embarrassing 28th in the league. Reggie Bush still can’t seem to break through that 3.6 ypc ceiling, and the larger the sample size, the more shine wears off of Pierre Thomas.

And for the second week in a row, after a close loss, the best Sean Payton has been able to come up with in the way of an explanation is "Because I chose to go this route. This is what I thought was best." As hollow and dismissive a response as that is to begin with, there’s a certain ridiculousness in the implication that Sean Payton has instituted some kind of a "two-backs max" policy when formulating the week’s gameplan.

He might very well have been right to have held Dulymus out. We’ll never know. And had the Saints won both of those games, or even just one of them, the second-guessing wouldn’t be nearly as hysterical intense as it is. But, as Jim Henderson so saliently pointed out a couple weeks ago, "The great thing about second guessing is that you can never be wrong." Especially when you’re Message Board Guy, and are never wrong anyway.

But it’s even worse than that. It’s not just Message Board Guy spewing stupid shit all over the internets, as is his usual wont. It’s people who are usually level-headed and not prone to inane squirrelishness. It’s the Les Easts, the John DeShaziers, the Bertos, the Chefs and the Chicks of the world asking legitimate, pertinent questions.

Of course there’s a strong emotional factor involved. Everybody loves Dulymus, and were he less popular than he is, Payton wouldn’t be facing such intense scrutiny and skepticism. But he is. As a result, Payton faces the prospect of having the public turn on him. And "right" and "wrong" aside, that does matter. A lot. It’s show bidness, baby.

Now, Payton finds himself back in the Dome, facing a rising tide of discontent and disillusionment from tens of thousands of people who have gotten pretty used to shouting "DEEEEEUUUUUCE!!!!!" And Sean Payton has a choice. Those chants can either be directed towards Dulymus in a 100% positive way, or they can be defiantly, sarcastically directed at Payton. And if it’s the latter, it’s only going to get worse from there.

The bottom line is that Payton is quickly losing the benefit of the doubt amongst Saints fans. And again, right or wrong, a coach needs that. It’s show bidness, baby. If Payton really thinks that Dulymus is no longer capable of getting the job done, then he needs to give Dulymus the opportunity to fail and prove him right. As long as the public doesn’t have any evidence to the contrary, they’ll remain convinced that Dulymus is capable, and Sean Payton remains the bad guy. The tricky part is doing that without sacrificing a game, and the odds of successfully navigating that minefield are as favorable this week as they’re gonna be.

And then there’s the issue of injuries. The Saints might very well line up Sunday with Jack Hunt, Robert Meachem and Lance Moore as their only healthy wideouts, and Billy Miller, Buck Naked and the dude who created The Shield as their only tight ends.

Not that that’s necessarily a forfeit lineup of wideouts, at least not as long as Drew Brees is throwing to them. And as long as Billy Miller can sustain verticality, he’s certainly capable of making a play or two. I don’t want to underestimate the potential for passing success, even given the current situation. Hell, one could argue that all the Saints really need is Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and an offensive line. But nobody will argue that it’s anything resembling ideal. And let me point out again that San Francisco has the best pass defense the Saints will have faced so far. So the Saints are doubly screwed in theory. The running game will be at a premium.

And what about that running game? Reggie has been straight up beastly overall, but he still can’t run for shit when he takes a handoff. And everybody knows it. Peter Tom has been… well… not good. Stecker Ace may or may not be able to go, or to go fully. And San Francisco has the weakest run defense the Saints will have faced to date. They’re giving up 131.3 ypg to the likes of Edgerrin James (6′, 219), Julius Jones (5′ 10", 208) and Rudi Johnson (5′ 10", 225).

At some point, this team is going to have to give opposing defensive coordinators some kind of motivation to pay the slightest respect to the Saints’ run game. What better time than this week? Versus an opponent with a strong pass defense, a weak run defense, while missing most of your passing weaponry, at home, in front of tens of thousands of people who you need to get back on your side, with the one and only back on your roster who has proven the necessary aptitude?

Where’s the downside?

Because here’s the upside:

Put this "Dulymus vs. Payton" thing to rest. Because if it’s that, Payton can’t win. So prove that it isn’t that. Put Dulymus in the best possible position to succeed and give him the opportunity. As long as the Saints win, and they should, Payton comes out on top regardless.

If Dulymus succeeds, we’ll still never know for sure, but there’s ample reasonable basis for argument that there was a method to Payton’s perceived madness.

If he fails, well, nobody’s gonna be happy about it, but at least we can take solace in Payton’s being "proven right". We can put to rest any perceived "disrespect" issues on Payton’s part. We can give the benefit of the doubt back to our head coach. For a while, at least. Until the next thing.

From every conceivable angle, cynical and optimistic alike, this game is just begging for Sean Payton to drop a Deuce on its chest.

Let’s call it the Superdome Steamer.

Prediction: I’m going with the best case scenario. Payton has been right all along. Dulymus wouldn’t have helped the last couple of weeks, but he sure as fuck helps this week. The whole "Payton vs. Dulymus" thing has been all in our heads from the start. Payton and Dulymus hug it out on the sideline after his second rushing touchdown, Saints grind out a 21-17 win, because that’s what the matchups dictated this week.

No promises beyond Sunday. This is still a fancypants, finesse, pass-first team, and that ain’t about to change. But Dulymus is officially back at the grownups table, just like Coach promised us all along that he would be when the time was right.

Everybody wins.


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