NEW ORLEANS -- The best thing you can do when you get to a place you haven’t been before is act like you have.
That is precisely what the New Orleans Saints did Monday night.
A franchise that’s never been to a Super Bowl and a quarterback who has been accused of not winning big games went out and destroyed the closest thing we’ve seen to an NFL dynasty in recent times. The 38-17 victory over the New England Patriots brought the usual company line about it being “only one win’’ from every corner of the locker room.
Except for this:
“It only counts for one win on the stat sheet,’’ quarterback Drew Brees said immediately before veering from the teamwide game plan for the only time all night. “But, emotionally, those types of wins can mean a little bit more.’’
Ding, ding, ding. There, somebody admitted the obvious. This truly was more than a win. This was proof that the Saints are for real. This is the kind of win that builds confidence.
This was the kind of win this franchise really never has had before. Yeah, those wins against the Jets and Giants looked real nice earlier in the season. But that was before we found out the Jets and Giants weren’t all they were cracked up to be.
This … this was the New England Patriots (7-4). "Monday Night Football." Bill Belichick. The Saints aren’t supposed to win games like this and they sure aren’t supposed to totally dominate in games like this.
But they did. Get used to it because the Saints really are different.
“That’s confidence … confidence in the guys I’m throwing to and the guys up front blocking,’’ Brees said on a night in which he threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers against a head coach who just might be the greatest defensive mind ever. “I feel like that way a lot.’’
That’s the big thing -- Brees feels it and the entire team feels confident. Even the defense. Even when starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter weren’t able to play because of injuries and even after replacement starter Randall Gay had to leave early with a leg injury.
And even when the Saints had to turn to veteran cornerbacks Mike McKenzie and Chris McAlister, who weren’t even on the roster two weeks ago, and rookie Malcolm Jenkins to stop Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
If you didn’t know any better and just flipped on the game, you would have thought McKenzie was a Pro Bowler in his mid-20s and not a guy the Saints let go after last season because he was old and had been through a couple of major knee injuries. McKenzie was out there on special teams and he was covering Moss and intercepting a pass.
“That’s all part of being in the NFL,’’ McKenzie said.
True, but McKenzie wasn’t in the NFL until he returned to the Saints, who switched defensive coordinators and schemes since his departure. He went through precisely four days of practice.
“We obviously didn’t play up to their level,’’ Brady said.
Think about that statement and all its implications for a second. The New England Patriots did not play up to the level of the New Orleans Saints.
Those words never had been uttered before -- at least not this decade and at least not seriously. Now, those words have been screamed by every one of the 70,000 or so fans at the Superdome, who actually appeared to force Brady into two timeouts with their noise.
And it goes even deeper than that.
Who was the real defensive genius in the Superdome? New Orleans coordinator Gregg Williams. Not Belichick.
Belichick couldn’t figure out any answers for Brees. But, then again, I don’t think anyone could. Brees was perfect -- literally. He had a 158.3 passer rating, which is technically a perfect passer rating.
After the game, a reporter started to ask Saints coach Sean Payton about what happened on one of Brees’ touchdown passes.
“Which touchdown pass?’’ Payton asked.
He appeared to be very serious. There were plenty to choose from. There was that 75-yarder to a wide-open Devery Henderson.
“I couldn’t believe I was that wide open,’’ Henderson said.
Yes that Darnell Dinkins -- the third-string tight end who is on the roster just to block. The guy who had not caught a pass this season before Monday night.
“That’s what we expect,’’ said Colston, who had four catches for 121 yards. “Drew’s going to find the open man.’’
There’s more truth in that than you realize. Maybe it’s time for us all to start expecting this kind of thing from the Saints. They are 11-0 and they’re no longer a novelty.
They’re for real and they know it. Now, all of us know it.
“I don’t think about how good we’ve been,’’ Brees said. “I think about how good we can be.’’