Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Falcons-Saints Fix Job

Beth and I watched the MNF game last night between the Falcons and the Saints. Division rivals, both 2-0 and looking to take an early division lead. Of course, the Saints had an advantage that the Falcons couldn't possibly overcome: it was their first game back in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina. The Saints won in a blowout, 23-3. The Saints dominated from start to finish, and the Falcons looked like a bad high school team. The fans in New Orleans got their team back, got their stadium back, and the big win on the national Monday Night Football stage gave them their pride back. After the game and still today, New Orleans has been the darling of the media, and the NFL is basking in the great PR.

Fixed. Rigged. Crooked.

There is simply NO WAY that the Saints are that much better than the Falcons. The Saints moved the ball with impugnity, and the Falcons were lucky to grind out the few first downs that they got. Atlanta insisted on running the ball up the middle when it had become perfectly clear that the holes weren't there. Dunn ended up with 40-something yards, the Atlanta receivers all of a sudden got a case of the drops, and Vick was sacked 5 times. The Saints seemed to have ALL the calls go their way (I distinctly remember the refs waving off a flag for pass interference on NO... I guess the line judge didn't really see what he initially thought he saw). The Atlanta defense, which had gone the first two games without allowing a touchdown, spent the entire night in a deep zone that Brees picked apart. NO blocked a punt AND a field goal (took the punt in for a TD).

The fact that they are in the same division made it all possible. Division rivals play home-and-home, so there will be a rematch later in Atlanta. The Falcons dump this game to the Saints and the Saints can return the favor in Atlanta. That way neither team takes an advantage in the division.

It was an opportunity for positive press that the NFL could simply not turn down. The media raves about the Saints (and the league indirectly). The Saints franchise, which before the hurricane had been in serious danger of relocating, gets a HUGE boost. The league has expressed a strong desire to keep that team in New Orleans, and the owner wouldn't dare even think about moving them now. Conversely, the Saints losing that game would have greatly diminished the impact of the reopening of the Superdome, and would have deadened the press coverage of the game, the New Orleans area, and the Saints franchise.

Go ahead, call me crazy. But if I had any money, I would bet the farm on the Falcons on November 26th.

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