Just when you think you've got this thing all figured out. Just when you think you've figured out exactly what this 2012 Saints team is, and how the rest of this script is gonna play out. SHOCKING PLOT TWIST! Like sands through the hourglass…

Seven sacks. A 99-yard pick-six. A season-low 226 passing yards allowed. An opponent goes 0-5 in the red zone and is actually outscored 7-6 on those 5 red zone trips. A season-best PTOMAC™ of 13. An actual Chris Ivory sighting! 140 offensive rushing yards at a clip of 5.6 per, including runs of 23, 22 and 19. Three cheers for the incompetence of the opponent! High five!

I suppose we probably should have seen this coming. After all, this thing has been a goddamn daytime soap opera ever since February 7, 2010. If not long before that. One incomprehensible plot twist after another, each more ridiculously convoluted and downright bizarre than the last. Why wouldn't the Good Saints show up out of the blue, a week after having been left for dead in Denver, just in time to thwart Stefano DiMera's latest evil scheme?

It don't make no damn sense, but so what? It's entertaining as all hell. You haven't the foggiest idea what the next shocking plot twist might be. All you know is that it's coming soon, it's gonna be batshit insane, and it's gonna require all the suspension of disbelief you can possibly muster. 

Might as well be Sunday afternoon, don't you think? Stay tuned.

Meantime, there's no sense in refusing to acknowledge that Monday night was the very definition of a crazy plot contrivance. See, that's how they get ya.

Everything's going pretty much as expected… 18 yard pass on the second play from scrimmage, terrible call on a barely-defended pass where the ball was clearly on the ground but was inexplicably upheld as a completion on replay review, roughing the passer flag on a sack in which Vick ducked right into Martez Wilson's helmet, Hartley shanks a field goal, 40 yard run to the Saints' 5… all standard-issue stuff.

Then, just as you're getting bored because you've seen all this over and over again, out of nowhere, shit gets all crazy. Because people start doing stuff that never happens in real life.

Andy Reid decides to let his $100MM quarterback, who's about to lose his starting gig to a rookie any day now because he can't quit turning the ball over, pass the ball. 99 yards later, the Saints are up 7-0. Good call, coach. Next Philly drive… LeSean McCoy runs for 13, then again for 25 (called back on penalty) then Bryce Brown for 8, then McCoy again for 34 to the Saints 4. Hey coach, I've got an idea! How about letting Vick pass twice! They'll never see it coming! Thanks again, Andy.

Next Saints drive goes 76 yards for a touchdown on 3 passes for 17 yards and 4 runs for 59. Wait, what??? What the hell were these writers smoking when they came up with that? (Actually, they were eating rotisserie chicken.)

Eventually, the Saints win in a kinda-sorta blowout despite being outgained 447 to 371, allowing 221 rushing yards, Vick outpassing Drew 272 to 239, allowing a 77-yard touchdown pass and runs of 40 and 34 yards, and on and on like that. Now that's what I call "making the plays when we need to!" High five?

I'd say "Don't get used to it" but you already know that. Furthermore, the more appropriate admonition at this point anyway goes more like "Don't get used to anything." Because who the hell knows what manner of wackiness these crazy bastards have in store for us next.

Sure, it'd probably be a good idea to keep in mind that it was the Eagles. And they're terrible. A complete dumpster fire the likes of which not even Roger Goodell could ignite. Andy Reid and Michael Vick are both lame ducks, and they're both well aware of it. A team with a better head coach and a better quarterback doesn't allow that 99-yard, 14-point swing in the first quarter. And as a result, they kick a chip shot field goal with 14 seconds remaining to win 23-21. Or something along those lines, anyway.

A team that isn't already well into its death spiral doesn't allow the Saints defensive line to post 7 sacks, regardless of how depleted their offensive line might be. It doesn't go 0-5 in the red zone, and it doesn't inexplicably quit running the ball while laying down 8 yards per carry and breaking off 20 and 30 and 40 yard runs. Hell, even a team that is well into its death spiral doesn't do that. That's the kind of shit that only happens in soap operas.

Meantime, in the B storyline, Sean Payton is apparently playing some kind of long con that would make even Roger Thorpe blush. (At least according to the tortured logic of Affliction-wearing douchebags.)

Apparently Payton's diabolical (not to mention needlessly complicated) plan goes a little something like this: Payton signed a contract extension more than a full year ago, all the while knowing full well that Roger would put the ole Ginger Hammer to it for some reason and void the whole thing. Alternatively, had the contract been approved, he also knew that Mickey Loomis was going to be suspended, fired, or would resign over the all the bounty bullshit, giving Payton an out and making him a free agent after the 2012 season. Kinda like he already would have been anyway. 

Then after learning of his own suspension, Payton intentionally sabotaged the living fuck out of his own team by selecting Joe Vitt and Aaron Kromer as his fill-ins for 2012, knowing that the team would fall flat on its ass, thereby securing himself ALL THE LEVERAGE.

Why he'd go to all that trouble rather than just, you know, not signing an extension in the first place, is anyone's guess. Unless it was all for purposes of SOAPY MACHIAVELLIAN VILLAINY! So it must have been that.

Somewhere, J.R. Ewing is tipping his ten gallon hat in Sean Payton's general direction. Or something.

Still not enough sexy soapy intrigue for ya? Well, there's always the possibility that the whole thing might have been some kind of restraining order against Rita.

I've got a hunch that if by some chance that was actually the case, Divorced Sean Payton may have reconsidered since then.

Meantime, Occam's Razor would suggest that it's no more complicated than this: If for any reason Mickey Loomis is no longer the Saints' general manager, the only possible explanation is that in some way or another the shit has hit the fan something fierce. Doesn't matter how, doesn't matter why. All that matters is that if Mickey's gone, clearly all hell has broken loose.

Who wouldn't want to have an out if he were to find himself in that kind of situation? It's not any kind of long con, it's just self-preservation in the event that this whole thing really does end up collapsing upon itself for real and for good. And it's not like that's not a very real possibility any minute now.

The good news is that, at least in theory, most if not all of the shit that could possibly have hit the fan has already hit. (Knock on wood.) And Tom Benson stood behind Mickey and Sean 100%. No firings, no resignations. Mickey has served his suspension, all indications are that Sean himself is being a good boy and will be reinstated right on schedule in February, the old man is still breathing and remains at least twice as lucid as Bobby Hebert, and the team on the field has more than demonstrated Sean's importance while not completely falling apart. Best of all worlds for Sean, no?

On the other hand, I suppose none of us will be surprised if Loomis starts referring to Payton as "a very good (not great) coach" in press conferences and Payton starts petitioning Roger to not let the final year of his original contract "toll" into 2013 and all kinds of other shit that'll make you want to shove a screwdriver up your nose. After all, these are the kinds of things that happen in fuckin' soap operas.

It'd certainly be one hell of a SHOCKING PLOT TWIST. But I've got a better one. How about the Saints just go ahead and shock the goddamn world by pulling off the unlikeliest of all runs? Ya like that? Do you love it?

I mean, don't look now, but the Saints have won 3 of their last 4. Joe Vitt is back. Mickey Loomis is back. Little by little, things are running their course and getting themselves at least somewhat unfucked.

Sure, the Spagheads and the Ohm Patrol still blow. They still blow to a(n) historic degree, in fact. But that's been true all season, including this current 3-1(!!!) stretch. The difference now is that Monday night, for the first time all season, the Saints won a game despite the historic shittiness of their defense, and with Drew Brees being somewhat less than godlike (239 yards passing, 2 fumbles, 1 lost.) Which is something none of us ever thought stood a chance in hell of happening. Not this year.

It might not feel like it, given the 3-5 record and all, but I'll be damned if the Saints haven't had a four leaf clover stuck up their collective ass for well over a month now, Falcons style.

Strange Magic indeed.

But is that kind of thing in any way sustainable? Of course not.

*pregnant pause*

Except maybe in a soap opera.

And that's kinda the thing right about now. It don't make no damn sense, but it doesn't have to. It's all a crazy-ass soap opera. No scenario is too implausible at this point. Hell, I'd go as far as to say the more plausible, the less likely.

And this week, in a plot development so hackneyed it could have spewed forth from the Powerbook of the laziest Hollywood hack, here comes the Saints' archnemesis. The 8-0 yet perpetually butthurt Falcons.

Whom the Saints just happen to own.

Own.

I suppose it remains to be seen whether the Saints are in the Falcons' heads, or whether it's just that Sean Payton is in Mike Smith's head. One of those two things is clearly true, and if Twitter is any indication, I'm betting that it's the former. (Yes, I routinely place wagers based on information gleaned from Twitter.)

Which stands to reason, given that the Saints have owned them for over half a decade now. Straight up owned.

Regardless, here's the dirty little secret: The Falcons just aren't all that good anyway.

They can't run the ball and they can't stop the run. (Sound familiar?) Five of their eight wins have been of the "escape" variety. That 8-0 record is a mirage. They're no juggernaut, they're an average team that's been extremely fortunate so far.

Granted, the Saints are pretty damn fortunate to be 3-5 at this point too. But somebody's luck is gonna run out Sunday afternoon, and I'm betting that it's gonna be theirs. Why? Because that would be the more SHOCKING PLOT TWIST! (Also, have I mentioned that the Saints own the Falcons? Because they do.)

By golly, I know it's crazy, but I'll be damned if this thing is over just yet. It probably ought to be, but I don't think it is.

We're just at that holy shit moment 30 minutes in, right before the commercial break. The point where the comatose supervillain moves his finger, your jaw drops, and you realize that they've set this thing up to go in any direction imaginable over the back half.

The only thing you can be sure of is that the comatose supervillain didn't just move his finger for no reason.

Don't you fuckin' dare touch that dial.

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