Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots featured one of the wildest endings of the 2013 NFL season. The Saints stopped the Pats twice in the final 3:29 of regulation before Tom Brady orchestrated a game-winning 70-yard touchdown drive with one minute to play and no timeouts.
The Patriots were helped by bad calls from the officiating crew, though perhaps none was as crucial as the clear hold on Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette on Brady's final touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins. Saints fans are naturally up in arms, but Cory Gunkel at Saints blog Canal Street Chronicles says the team itself deserves plenty of blame for the loss.
The Saints had their fair share of mistakes and didn't play perfect football by any means. Those bad calls didn't help. But they did have a lead in the fourth quarter -- despite the adversity -- and failed to keep it. That's on them. You can take it out on the offense for failing to put it out of reach. You can take it out on Brees for throwing a bad pick. You can take it out on Sean Payton and his play calling. You can even take it out on the defense for failing to make the final stop.
Whichever way you slice it, it still falls on someone wearing black and gold, not black and white.
This loss isn't a huge deal. It's a tough one to swallow but the team will learn from it and get better because of it. In the meantime, don't make the referees your reason for it.
Patriots fans, meanwhile, aren't stewing over the referees. The win stands as New England's most impressive this season for a team that is now 5-1 and seems to be trending upwards. According to Greg Knopping at Patriots blog Pats Pulpit, the performance of a hamstrung defense may have been the most impressive facet of the Patriots' victory.
In the win, the Patriots held Drew Brees to a paltry 47.2 completion percentage on 36 throws - his lowest mark of the season. They held him to 236 yards and 6.6 yards per attempt - also both season lows. They held a future Hall of Fame quarterback in check that had been playing at an elite level. Keep in mind that in the prior two weeks, Brees had a quarterback rating of 120 or greater, and had only seen the ball hit the ground 15 times. And this was against a couple of pretty solid defenses in Chicago and Miami.