Saturday, April 11, 2009

Top 10 plays of 2008

By request of gmg74 from the forum, I present you with the top 10 plays of the 2008 Saints season. Despite a rough 8-8 season with a run that ended just short of a playoff birth, the Saints had many memorable plays that electrified the season.

10. Week 1 vs. Tampa Bay: Down 13-10 in the 3rd quarter against the Bucs following a Tampa field goal, the Saints started their ensuing drive pinned back at their 16 yard line. On that first play, Drew Brees drew the defense offsides with a long snap count and took a shot downfield with the free play he inherited. Devery Henderson beat Ronde Barber to the ball and raced 84 yards to the end zone, giving the Saints a 17-13 lead. That would be the longest reception of Henderson's career to date. 

9. Week 1 vs. Tampa Bay: In that same game later in the 4th quarter, Tampa was driving down 24-20 and in need of a touchdown. With 44 seconds remaining, the Bucs' last chance would be at the Saints' 24 yard line working with 4th and 6. Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia would throw on a slant route to Antonio Bryant that Scott Fujita would step in front of for the game sealing interception. The Saints would beat their division opponent to start the season with a promising 1-0 record.

8. Week 12 vs. Green Bay: Get used to this one, Saints fans. There were lots of memorable moments in the 51 point effort the Saints put together on Monday Night Football. With the Saints down 7-0 early in the 1st quarter, Drew Brees hit Lance Moore on a short slant route. Moore would dart 70 yards past the entire opposition to tie the game at 7-7. Many times during Moore's early days on the Saints, people would comment during training camp that he beat old Saints speedster Michael Lewis in foot races. Not sure I believed it then or now, but there was no question watching him turn that 5 yard pass into a 70 yard TD that he was the fastest man on the field. 

7. Week 12 vs. Green Bay: Why throw 1 70yd TD when you can throw two in a game? This time the score was 38-21 and the game was pretty well in hand for the Saints. What happened was one of the prettiest plays of the season. Brees dropped back to pass, and with no one open he was flushed out of the pocket. On the dead run, he found Marques Colston and led him perfectly. Colston was covered well on the play, but managed to break loose of his defender with the time Brees bought with his feet. Colston stretched out his hands for the ball and ran 70 yards to give the Saints a 45-21 lead. We'll be coming back to this game later in case you can't get enough of it, don't worry.

6. Week 15 @ Chicago: With the Saints down 21-7 in the third quarter and desperate for a big play to get them back in the game, a huge boost came from Pierre Thomas. Thomas, a native of Chicago who played collegiate ball at Illinois, broke a few tackles and blasted his way 42 yards to the end zone which would jump start a Saints comeback and close the gap to 21-14. The Saints would lose the game in overtime, but that was one of the toughest runs of the season.

5. Week 17 vs. Carolina: Left for dead at the start of the 4th quarter, down 30-10 to the Panthers, the Saints would mount the most furious of efforts with 21 straight points that would give them the 31-30 lead with 3 minutes to play. Carolina would drive down and win the game 33-31 in the closing seconds, but the Saints made a game of it with their best comeback of the season. The 21 point swing was capped by a beautiful 13 yard pitch and catch from Brees to Lance Moore.

4. Week 5 vs. Minnesota: Who can forget Reggie Bush's electric performance on punt returns? We could easily make each of his returns part of the top 10. The Saints found a way to lose this one, 30-27, but Reggie Bush deserved the win with his heroics. Bush started his superhuman performance with a 71 yard punt return in the 3rd quarter which trimmed Minnesota's lead to 20-17. That play featured the most bone crushing of blocks by Jo-Lonn Dunbar, which will probably be seen on NFL highlight films for decades. On Bush's following punt return, he would break loose again only to be tripped up by the 50 yard line. Had he not slipped, he would have gone for another 6 points without question. The Saints would settle for a field goal on that drive to tie the score at 20. Then the Saints defense would get another stop, and Bush would runback his next punt return 64 yards for another touchdown to give his team a 27-20 lead. What a freak of nature, and what a performance. The only words that could ever aptly describe what Bush did that Monday night in front of a national audience: truly unforgettable. 

3. Week 14 vs. Atlanta: Pierre Thomas was the man of the day. He posted a 102 yard effort on 16 carries with a TD and also scored a TD on a pass from Drew Brees. But those numbers were only trumped by how he found a way to win this game for the Saints. Down 25-22 with 7 minutes left, Pierre Thomas took Atlanta's kickoff 88 yards to the Atlanta 16. A few plays later, he bulldozed over several Falcons for a 5 yard touchdown run to give the Saints a 29-25 lead. The Saints defense would then get a stop, and the Saints would get the ball back with 3:15 left. Thomas had runs of 9, 3, 2, 5,  and 4 yards to help the Saints run out the clock and claim the victory. The last run came on a 3rd and 3 which gave the Saints their final first down and left the dirty birds with no chance of regaining possession of the football. Lots of plays to choose from, but the 88 yard kick return started it all.

2. Week 8 in London vs. San Diego: The Saints won this game 37-32 on a terrible field with absolutely zero defense the entire game. Both teams torched each other with big play after big play, as they combined for over 850 yards on the day. But it was the most unlikely of heroes that would clinch this game for New Orleans: The Defense. Down 7 with the ball on the New Orleans 32, a previously flawless Philip Rivers floated a pass intended for Chris Chambers downfield. Chambers seemed open, but linebacker Scott Shanle soared in the air and managed to tip the ball up and into the waiting arms of teammate Jonathan Vilma. The Saints would get one final scare after taking an intentional safety as Rivers threw a hail mary pass into the end zone for the win, but the Saints managed to escape. The Saints put on a great show once again in front of a national audience, but their defense surprised us all by creating a huge turnover when it counted after getting badly embarrassed all game.

1. Week 12 vs. Green Bay: With 7:37 left in the 3rd quarter and the score 31-21 in favor of the Saints, Deuce McAllister plowed 3 yards into the end zone in front of the home crowd. This would be his 54th career touchdown, which would be a new Saints record. McAllister was a consumate professional on and off the field, a leader in the locker room, a warrior at game time, and one of the truly great people in the game. Oh, and arguably the greatest Saint of all time. The moment was without question one of my most special memories as a Saints fan. The entire crowd cheered his name for several minutes after the score, and even Deuce struggled to hold back his emotions. Deuce was greeted by his sideline to many congratulatory offers, including a big hug from Sean Payton. We'll miss you #26, you were the greatest.

Hope you guys enjoyed the great memories of last season, and let us hope for many more in 2009!