Five observations from a weird Monday night
|Chris Graythen/Getty Images|
|Reggie Bush's record-tying two punt returns for touchdowns could not prevent New Orleans from losing, 30-27, to the Vikings on Monday night.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
NEW ORLEANS -- Five observations from Monday night's game.
1. Even if you've been a Saints fan for years, what happened against the Vikings has to rank near the top of the list of worst moments in franchise history. The Saints have lost a lot of games through the years because they were flat-out bad.
That's no longer the case because the Saints had enough talent to move the ball 729 yards (counting return yardage). They also wasted what could have been one of the most spectacular performances in the history of "Monday Night Football".
Reggie Bush, who never has been able to establish himself as a feature back, nearly established himself as a feature player. He single-handedly put the Saints in position to win. Then, they somehow lost, 30-27.
"We lost this game collectively from top to bottom,'' Bush said.
No, they did not. Bush did more than enough for the Saints to win.
Bush returned two second-half punts for touchdowns and gave the Saints a 27-20 fourth-quarter lead. When you've got that against a team quarterbacked by Gus Frerotte, you should be 3-2 and on your way to certain victory in Sunday's home game against Oakland.
"All for nothing because you didn't win the game, all over stupid stuff,'' quarterback Drew Brees said.
Bush had five punt returns for a franchise-record 176 yards and the Saints had a team-record 354 yards on punt and kickoff returns. But Bush's performance, which had the fans in the Superdome chanting "Reggie,'' is going to be forgotten.
It could have been a turning point in a career and in the Saints' season. It wasn't. Failure just about everywhere else means Bush's performance didn't really matter. What should have been one of the most glorious victories in franchise history will be one of the worst losses.
2. Even though he's young, Sean Payton is known as an old-school coach. I'm starting to wonder if that reputation is deserved. Payton is supposed to be a coach who puts a disciplined team on the field.
However, the Saints were anything but disciplined against the Vikings. They were flagged 11 times for 102 yards. Yes, there were a couple of controversial calls and non-calls, but you should be able to overcome that when you're setting records for return yardage, passing for 320 yards and holding Adrian Peterson in check.
"It starts with me,'' Payton said. "I've got to do a better job.''
Yes, he does. A few weeks back, the Saints gave Payton a new, five-year contract. It looked like a good move at the time. Now you've got to question if the move was premature.
Injuries -- and the Saints have had their share -- can't be an excuse for this one. The Saints had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown, lost two fumbles and had two passes intercepted.
"I felt like we were a better team,'' Brees said. "Without those turnovers, I think we win this game pretty easily.''
3. Give Frerotte a ton of credit. He's old, he took some shots and he got only 32 rushing yards out of Peterson. But, on his last two drives, Frerotte produced 10 points. His 33-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian was a perfect throw. He got some help from a pass-interference penalty on Kevin Kaesviharn to set up the winning field goal.
He kept Minnesota's season from getting out of hand and it's looking more and more like coach Brad Childress made the right call in declaring Frerotte his starter for the rest of the season. The Vikings have too much going for them -- Peterson and a very good defense -- not to be in contention this year.
4. Saints kicker Martin Gramatica, who missed a field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter, spoke with the media after the game. He didn't do that after missing a key kick against Denver.
"I hit it solid, but it went left,'' Gramatica said. "The worst thing about it is that I let the team down.''
Yes, he did. But the Saints have no one to blame but themselves for their kicking problems. The entire league knows Gramatica has a history of being erratic at times. The Saints went out and drafted kicker Taylor Mehlhaff. Then, they decided to go with Gramatica. It's starting to look a lot like they made the wrong choice.
5. I wouldn't read too much into the fact that running back Deuce McAllister got only six carries, a week after getting 20. McAllister did get the call, and produced, in some short-yardage situations.
The Saints came in knowing they probably weren't going to run a lot against a Minnesota defensive front that doesn't give up very much.