Happy throngs, take this joy. Wherever. Wherever you go.

To hell with drafting five spots higher come April. That right there hit the damn spot, and was totally worth it.

So much for the ridiculous notion that the Saints had "given up" or "don't give a shit anymore." So much for fans resigning themselves to 1970s-style Saints football for the next ten years because Roger slammed the window shut. So much for the offense having lost the Magic. So much for the defense being hopelessly, irredeemably shitty. So much for Mark Ingram being The Next Troy Davis. So much for Joseph Morgan being The Next Onome Ojo. So much for Jimmy Graham being a one-year-wonder. So much for the 100 Million Dollar Man being in the early stages of being washed-up and/or having lost his edge. So much for this team being a shell of its former self. Sunday's performance reaffirmed that the killing machine of the last three years is still in there somewhere. Feel free to exhale now.

The best thing about Sunday's righteous beatdown, and what made it worth it, was that it restored some semblance of genuine confidence going forward. (Or at least it should have. Your mileage may vary, I guess.) It gave us a much-needed glimpse of the Good Ole Days of 2009-2011, and offered us plenty of good reason to believe that those days might not be quite over yet after all. It lent a good bit of renewed credibility to the hopeful notion that 2012 has been just a brief hiatus. A reloading year.

It was also big fun. And that's always welcome, of course, under any circumstances. But after the last three weeks, I think we all really, really needed a big dose of that. All of it. Every last bit of it. And I suspect that the Saints themselves needed it too.

Confidence had been waning something fierce over the last three weeks, and with good reason. Not just for the 2012 season, but beyond. There was a growing sense that the wheels might be coming off. That this team simply isn't good enough anymore, Sean Payton or no Sean Payton. That "fixing it" was gonna be a hell of a lot more daunting than any of us could even contemplate without curling up in a closet and crying for weeks, if not outright impossible without a wholesale rebuilding effort. That the Golden Age of Saints Football might be coming to an end far too soon. And it was horrifying.

If Sunday's performance didn't at least temporarily put those fears to rest, it should have.

Oh, I know, I know. It was "just" Tampa, a mediocre team that's been imploding for the last month anyway. Big fuckin' deal, right? Also, any given Sunday and whatnot. So the Saints destroyed a mediocre team right in the face. At home. The Saints played their best game of the season and the Bucs had probably already given up even before the opening kickoff. Meh, good for them, I guess. Way to bone themselves out of draft position though. And for what? Nothing! Way to finally play to their full potential (for once) a week after pissing away their last hope for a playoff berth. Yeah, great job, assholes!

Either the Saints just caught that old lightning in a bottle for a week and managed to play well above their current capabilities, at home, with virtually no pressure on them, against a relatively crappy opponent who was probably just going though the motions — or — what we saw Sunday was actually the Real™ Saints, and that might even be worse, because if that's the case, where the hell have they been all season? If this is really what they're still capable of, then why the hell did they piss away the season in the first place? Did they just not give a shit? Were they all emo over daddy having been sent to prison? Either way, this offends me! What a bunch of chumps!

Oh shove it up your ass, Uptown Lady.

Meh. Keep crying over the spilt milk that is the Saints' 2012 season, I guess, if that's what does it for ya. Me? I choose to be happy that, if Sunday is any indication, at least they've got a mop. And another gallon in the fridge.

Hopefully it won't have spoiled by next fall month. (WHAT?!? Yeah, I said it. Because, see, mathematically… hey, I'm just sayin'! Shut up, asshole! It's true!)

Look, there are any number of reasons/"excuses" for why this season went off the rails. We've gone over them all time and time again. And ultimately, we'll never really know for sure which of them were significant and which of them were mostly bullshit. It's likely that all of them played their part in some way or other. It really has been death by a thousand cuts this season. And without even just a handful of them, who knows how much differently this season might have played out.

If only Roger hadn't been such a dick. If only Drew and/or Loomis had gotten off his ass a little sooner back in the summer. If only Joe Vitt hadn't run out of pixie dust. If only Steve Spagnuolo had found himself that magic wand and the Spagheads had come around a little more quickly. If only they'd have brought Tuna in here for a year. If only Chris Ivory hadn't been pulling splinters out of his ass the first half of the season. Fuckin' Jimmy John's. Ellen, Callen. And on and on like that. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. We'll never know for sure.

What we do (or should) know for sure though is that 13-3 seasons don't just grow on trees. That individual players and teams as a whole don't just perform to their full potential every week, year after year, for close to a fuckin' solid half-decade. Especially under such crippling and demoralizing circumstances. These dudes ain't robots. Ups and downs, they happen. Even to the best of 'em.

But what Sunday's performance showed us (or should have) is that, despite everything, Drew Brees is still Drew fuckin' Brees. Jimmy Graham is still Jimmy Graham. Darren Sproles is still Darren Sproles. Marques Colston is still Marques Colston. Lance Moore is still Lance Moore. Joe Morgan might not have been a preseason illusion after all. Mark Ingram is capable of being a productive NFL tailback. (After all, Tampa does have the #1-ranked run defense in the NFL.)

Cameron Jordan is at least as good as Charles Grant ever was, and if that sounds like faint praise, it's not, because for a few years there Charles Grant was pretty damn good. Curtis Lofton is awesome. And don't even get me started on Isa Abdul-Quddus and Rafael Bush! (Qu)Dduuuuuuuuuuus!!!

By golly, there might actually be hope for the Spagheads after all. I've gotta tip my cap to Angry Who Dat here. His mostly baseless (at the time) and incredibly premature wide-eyed assertions that it was only a matter of time until this defense quit being historically shitty eventually proved to be right on! Good call, AWD! Take (yet) a(nother) bow! You were right all along! (Oh how I do love my colleagues on the Illegitimate Saints Beat. High five!)

41-0, bitches. Seriously. Just let that sink in.

It wasn't a meaningless preseason win in December. It was one for the archives. And it was genuinely Important. A hell of a lot more important than moving up a few slots on the draft board.

It showed (both us and them) that beneath the layer of shit they've been covered in this season, the Real™ Saints are still in there somewhere. It revealed that the Saints haven't really morphed into some kind of ugly, malformed version of their former selves, it's just that this whole season has taken place in some kind of funhouse mirror. The whole thing has been distorted all to hell by more factors that realistically could have been compensated for on the fly.

That's not an excuse. That's just the reality.

Which isn't to suggest that none of it was their own fault, because of course a lot of it was. I'm not saying that there weren't mistakes made, because of course there were. A lot of 'em. But this team deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the fact that, given the circumstances, it didn't end up whole lot worse. Because you know as well as I do that it easily could have.

I mean, the mere fact that The Miracle Ending — against all odds — is still on the table going into week 16 is a minor miracle in and of itself. This thing could still go all storybook. It probably won't, but it could. Still.

So be proud. Smile. Have fun with it. And if for whatever reason you just can't, then I kindly invite you to back the fuck up out of my face. Thanks.

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