When the New Orleans Saints began the 2017 season with a pair of downright embarrassing back-to-back losses — and while giving up an average of 32.5 points per game in the process — it initially appeared that the franchise was headed towards yet another disappointing season, for a 4th straight year.
After 3 straight 7-9 losing seasons in 2014, 2015, and again last year in 2016, just the horrible way that the team looked during those 2 opening losses had many Saints fans already "throwing in the towel" on the rest of the 2017 season — and despite the fact that a whole 14 games were still yet remaining on the team's regular season schedule.
And with the team's defense looking as bad once again as it had ever looked in 4 out of the past 5 seasons, nobody could really blame some of the team's fans for bailing out early on them.
But then — something funny happened.
Lo and behold: they started winning.
And winning. And winning again.
And yet once again.
As a result, now the Saints find themselves winners of 4 straight games; with the possibility of a 5th straight win this Sunday at home against Chicago, looking like a very real possibility.
And as a result: Saints fans are finally HAPPY, once more.
Everywhere across the "Who Dat Nation", Saints fans are rejoicing over the team's recent success; and embracing the fact that the team is finally starting to play at a high enough level once again on both sides of the football, to win games on a consistent basis.
These are the good times, indeed.
Good times, these are the good times
Leave your cares behind, these are the good times
Good times, these are the good times
Our new state of mind, these are the good times
Nile Rodgers and Chic, "Good Times" — 1979
(Cue the music)......
For Saints fans, the "good times" were long overdue, after having watched the franchise flounder in mediocrity for the past 3 seasons.
When the Saints walked off the turf at Qwest Field in Seattle during mid January of 2014 following their loss to the favored Seahawks in the divisional round of the NFC Playoffs, no Saints fan in their wildest dreams would have imagined that it would be another 3 and a ½ years before they would get to see "winning" football in New Orleans once again.
The biggest difference from then until now?
The level of play from the defense.
While there certainly have been other factors that have led to their renewed success this season such as the addition of RB Alvin Kamara for example; no one factor has had an impact as big as the total and complete revival of the much-maligned defense of the past 3 seasons.
In fact if you go back and look all the way back to the franchise's "peak" of success during the 2009 season, the biggest problem with the Saints defense since they won that Super Bowl is that whenever they performed poorly, they were absolutely TERRIBLE — and then to add even further injury to insult: got kicked in the teeth while they were down.
Whether it was Gregg Williams in 2010-2011, Steve Spagnoulo in 2012, or Rob Ryan from 2013 to the middle of 2015 (when current defensive coordinator Dennis Allen took over the job); the Saints always seemed to employ an uber-aggressive style of football that instead of yielding positive results, instead got them burnt like an over-cooked grilled cheese sandwich.
The exception being that 2013 season mentioned up above that ended at Seattle in the divisional playoffs, in which the unit amazingly was able to finish as the 4th best ranked defense in the entire League; but looking back appears to have been more of an anomaly than perhaps the fact that they were actually any good.
Nevertheless getting back to the current season, the Saints defense in their first 2 losses allowed 512.5 yards per game and forced ZERO turnovers during their losses in Weeks #1 and #2.
But now in the past four games?
The Saints have ONLY allowed an average of 270.3 yards (yes, that's not a misprint) and produced 10 turnovers, eight of them coming on interceptions.
But perhaps even more impressive? (at least from my point of view)
The Saints defense is playing with a notable attitude, or a "swagger".
They know that they're playing well, and that confidence is even having an impact on the way they are displaying their emotions while they're out on the field.
A majority of these players are all under the age of 30; and this year's unit has a handful of starters that are rookies or 2nd year players.
And what do young people (or players) often like to do?
Have a little fun, of course.
Beginning with the Detroit game and then this past week at Green Bay, a few members of the defense have made it a point after each turnover or big play (or when they've done something that they know has made a profound impact on the outcome of the game), to gather together as a group and make a picture-worthy pose that can be taken as a snapshot for members of the media.
And though it could be misinterpreted as trying to "show up" or embarrass an opponent, the honest truth is that it's done good-naturedly and it's meant more so for the Saints fans themselves — so that even they too can get some enjoyment out of the moment, as well.
I'm pretty certain that if you asked any Saints fan right now — regardless of whether they live in NOLA or anywhere else across this great nation of ours — about how'd they'd feel about this team openly displaying such emotion and maybe even a bit of "swagger", that they're more than okay with it.
As they should be.
That's what naturally happens when a group of grown men — either young or old — KNOW that they are playing as well as this young collective of players has played overall as a team, in the past 4 weeks.
It should be perfectly acceptable to a fan base that just a little bit over a month ago, was more than ready to "throw in the towel" on what appeared to be at that time, yet another disappointing year of New Orleans Saints football.
Now just 4 weeks later, the NFC South Division-leading Saints are the talk of the NFL Nation.
And for those fans that remain skeptical and who still believe that there is some type of impending "doom" lurking just around the corner, try loosening up a bit.
Soak it all in, and actually allow yourself to ENJOY the moment — just like the 20-something year old kids on this team are doing.
Indeed, these are the "good times".
Leave your cares behind........