Gimme gimme gimme fried chicken!

So who figured Our Heroes were gonna strut into Philly Saturday night and party like it was 1987?

Fortunately, this time a combined 142 rushing yards from Hilliard and Mayes (and another 29 from Barry Word) along with a perfect 4-4 by the Ginger Dane — or was that Florian Kempf? — and a typically dominating defensive performance were able to overcome yet another two picks from the Cajun Cannon. (Word on the street is that they're thinking about going with Fourcade for the first half this weekend at Seattle.) And how about that Dombrowski kid?

When only a few of us are left, we will feel an irresistible pull towards a far away land… to fight for the prize.

That sensation you were feeling late Saturday night was the Quickening. Believe it.

Clearly Coach Payton of the Clan Payton has finally figured out the formula for winning on the road, especially in the playoffs. Fried chicken, green Gatorade, velour track suits, and a ground & pound offense designed to limit Drew's opportunities to throw the game away. Put the game on the shoulders of your best unit — the defense — and on offense, defeat the Kurgan at his own game: brute force.

You must learn to conceal your special gift and harness it until the time of the Gathering.

Evidently all the talk last week of changing things up wasn't just lip service. It was way more than just another motivational gimmick (although clearly it worked in that context as well.) For a guy with such a longstanding (and perhaps a bit overblown) rep for creating confusion and doing precisely what the opposing defense least expects, Payton's sudden transformation from Air Coryell to Ground Chuck was about the most "going southpaw" thing he could possibly have done.

It was an unqualified success. And as a result, the Saints once again accomplished the improbable. The unprecedented. The seemingly impossible.

If you're looking for reasons to BELIEVE(!!!) that this thing truly is happening, that the Saints can and will continue to survive and advance, despite the deck being stacked heavily against them, maybe you don't have to buy into much more than the notion that Sean Payton has gotten his groove back.

That, after four months of being admittedly "rusty" coming back from a year-long sabbatical and feeling his way through a whole new reality, while stumbling along the way from time to time, all indications over the last week or two are that he now finds himself "peaking at the right time." Suddenly he's fully comfortable again, he's got his finger on the pulse of this new version of his team. And as a result, he's on one hell of a roll. He's pushing all the right buttons.

I think the tipping point was that week 15 abomination in St Louis when Coach Payton had "seen enough" and replaced Charles Brown, and a day or two later, Garrett Hartley.

They lost the following week at Carolina, thanks in large part to yet another two picks and an overwhelmed left tackle starting his first NFL game. But they played well, they rushed the ball 30 times for 126 yards with 101 of them from Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson, they rode yet another fantastic performance from the defense, they were 2-2 on field goals, and they had the game won right until the last play.

They lost, but in retrospect, it seems like that whole week might have been when it finally all clicked and Our Fearless Leader finally settled back in for real, and for good.

And ever since, he's pretty much been shitting gold.

Let's go back to the motivational gimmickry aspect of last week for a few minutes, because it was goddamned awesome. It was Sean Payton at his absolute Svengali-esque best. Those who don't get it will insist that it was all a bunch of silliness. And they're right, it was. But that was precisely the point of it all.

I have something to say! It's better to burn out than to fade away!

Neither they nor we had been having a whole lot of fun for the last month or so. Everybody's asses were all tied up in knots, both theirs and ours. The deck was stacked against them, and few thought they had it in 'em to actually pull it off.

We fans were going to support them anyway, of course. But there was a hell of a lot of angst and fear — not to mention quite a bit of downright resignation — and not a whole lot of genuine confidence going in. The vibe was a lot more like walking the plank than anything. And while we Saints fans still carry around a shitload of fatalistic baggage, probably always will, it's rare these days for the prevailing vibe surrounding the team and the fan base to be an expectation of defeat. And clearly, for Coach Payton, that kind of vibe is unacceptable. A problem that must be fixed.

And fix it, he did. Enter the chicken. And the Gatorade. And the sweat suits. It was all just so much damn fun. Clearly "distractions" aren't always necessarily a bad thing. Or perhaps the more appropriate word in this case is "diversion." It turned the whole mindset upside down.

And it went a hell of a lot farther than just alleviating the stress and assuaging the fear. It changed the atmosphere completely. It was infectious. It "went viral." It blew up into a whole crazy-ass thing. A huge virtual party with the Saints, and everybody was invited. Didn't matter who you were or where you were, you were welcome to participate in any way you saw fit. It appealed to our sense of whimsy, our affinity for talismans and omens and ritual and whatnot.

The effect was unmistakable. If we were going out, by golly, we were gonna go out with a bang. In our own inimitable style. If the whole thing was going to hell in a bucket, then we damn sure were at least gonna enjoy the ride. Because that's just how we roll. No apologies. The sin wouldn't have been going out, but going out meekly, with heads hanging. That's just not part of the culture here anymore.

It was a mood-altering stroke of brilliance. And perhaps we fans deserve the bulk of the credit for what it became, because nobody asked us to do it. It just kinda happened organically. Which made it way more awesome than the whole towels/noise thing a few weeks ago at the Benz™, which was manufactured and phony. The Saints won that game, and that's great, but it didn't really have anything to do with the gimmickry, which fell flat for obvious reasons.

This was far different. And while I don't want to overstate the effect it may have had with regard to the team's actual performance on the field, as silly as it might sound, I will say that I don't think the psychological/emotional effect is insignificant. You know as well as I do that some of these guys are checking out Twitter on their phones 10 minutes before kickoff. And as frivolous as it might be for thousands of people to be eating fried chicken and drinking Gatorade (and tweeting about it) for no other reason than as a gesture of solidarity with Our Heroes, it's the kind of thing that just can't help but to warm your cockles. Not just ours, but theirs too. How could it not? (You soulless bastard.)

Because it was genuine. It was grass roots. And it was just sooo us.

But it's hard to imagine anything like that happening if Sean Payton (and the team) hadn't provided the inspiration for it. If they as a team — OUR team — hadn't conceived and embraced the whole silly thing. If they hadn't, at precisely the right time, put fully on display precisely the kind of personality and culture with which we so readily and joyously identify.

It was an absolute motivational master stroke. Classic Sean Payton. Classic "Who Dat Nation."

Did it win the game? Of course not. The players on the field and the coaches on the sideline won the game. All I'm saying is that if home crowd noise is generally accepted as a legit factor, then we fans can also allow ourselves the conceit that such grand (if frivolous) unsolicited gestures — especially ones so incredibly "stupid" and hilarious — can and do contribute significantly to the team staying loose and maintaining a mindset that's conducive, and in certain cases (this having been one of them) perhaps even critical, to success. And I've got a hunch that Coach Payton would agree.

(Crude and slow klansman! Your attack was no better than that of a clumsy child!

'Preciate that drop there, Riley.)

And so it went. For the first time in human history, the New Orleans Saints won a playoff game in the opponent's stadium.

Seems fitting that it would happen during one of the most bizarre playoff weekends ever, with the Colts coming back from down 38-10 to win 45-44, the 49ers winning on the Frozen Tundra, and the Chargers winning on the road at Cincinnati. (Alright, maybe that last one wasn't so shocking. Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis, amirite?)

Fortunately for us, it doesn't look like the craziness is about to end any time soon. If the first few days of this week are any indication, this weekend promises to be every bit as batshit as last weekend was.

I mean, for the love of fuck, the Pants and the 49ers are apparently embroiled in a full-blown slapfight over which team Ric Flair will truly be pulling for. Which is just fantastic. High comedy. Charlotte is legitimately butthurt over Richard Morgan WOOOOOOO BY GOD Fleihr doing what he does, what he's been doing for damn near half a century. "TURNCOAT!!!" That's just sooooo Carolina. What a bunch of fuckin' marks.

You think the Saints are worried about where Ted DiBiase's loyalties truly lie? Hell no! (Because Tom Benson keeps those palms well-greased.)

Meanwhile, San Francisco is all up in arms after a sex tape surfaced in which Grace Slick was banging a bunch of dudes from Charlotte. Advantage: push?

Seattle has apparently adopted a stoner jam band from Vermont to serve as their answer to our rap duo from Atlanta. Once again, advantage: push? I guess. Fuck if I know. I'll give them this much, at least Vermont isn't home to an NFC West rival. Then again, I suppose New Orleans gets points for turning an Atlanta act heel. Or something.

Confession: I loves me some Phish. I enjoy the fuck out of those guys, and people who say they're terrible are stupid (and quite possibly evil.) Give me those guys over just about anybody who's ever actually come out of Seattle, all day long. Then again, I have been known to enjoy a bongload or two now and again, so take it for what it's worth.

Anyway, all this nonsense is incredibly entertaining. It's this kind of stuff that reminds me why football is so goddamned awesome. Because it turns us all into such complete fucking idiots. And it's glorious.

[Pete Carroll] was an effete snob! He died on his knees.

And so the Saints now journey once again to the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel (or wherever) to avenge previous atrocities and shit.

Once again, the improbable awaits. The unprecedented. The seemingly impossible. Once again, the Saints are going in presumed already dead.

No word yet on whether or not they're Bringing the Chicken, but we do know that they'll be bringing a shitload of that sweet, sweet Quickening.

How do you fight such a savage?
With heart, faith and steel. In the end, there can be only one.

Surely you've already been well-hipped to all the esoteric stats which seem to lend credence to the notion that the Saints might very well have a puncher's chance this weekend. The playoff rematch record, 1 seeds vs 6 seeds, etc. But all that stuff is largely irrelevant.

Here's what's relevant: Everything changed last Saturday night. Everything. The last lingering remnants of the impossible were finally vanquished, once and for all.

And now? Oh, this shit is so on.

You have power beyond imagination. Use it well, my friend. Don't lose your head.

 

 

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