Scoot: Lessons learned from the loss to the Patriots
by Jay Vise,posted Oct 15 2013 12:00AM
It is painful to watch highlights of the Saints – Patriots game…because every Saints fan, every player and even Coach Sean Payton all know it was a game we should have won.
In a Scoot Blog last week, titled, “The Saints As a Metaphor for Life,” I wrote: “Facing and overcoming challenges, demanding peak performances from yourself, knowing what it takes to win in life, learning how to lose and coming back from those loses and the idea of having ‘something to prove’ are all the reasons football is a metaphor for life!” And there are lessons to be learned from the Saints’ loss to the Patriots.
Here’s the great news – the Saints are 5 – 1 with a significant lead in their division and show signs of being a championship team, but as the team and the coaches review the game and why the Saints lost, we can also review the game and apply the lessons they will learn to our lives.
Whether it’s a football opponent, a proposal to a huge client or a person you are trying to attract – know your opposition. In the time-honored book, The Art ofWar, Chinese military general and strategist, Sun Tsu promoted the importance of knowing your enemy. Give credit to Patriots’ Coach Bill Belichick, he knew the enemy, the Saints, and he was prepared.
The no-huddle, fast-paced offense threw the Saints tenacious defense off balance from the beginning of the game. The Patriots’ defense essentially took productive tight end Jimmy Graham out of the game, but Graham may not have been at his peak performance due to a potential injury. The Patriots’ defense successfully interrupted the rhythm of QB Drew Brees and the effects were obvious. Truthfully, Brees missed a lot of targets and some of those targets, including Graham, dropped passes they should have caught.
But - the Saints fought back in the 2nd half and the running game started to work. Even Brees ran for 16 yards! It was 3rd and 20 with under 4:00 to play – Brees hit Kenny Stills for a touchdown pass and with 3:29 remaining the Saints took the lead 24-23.
The Patriots had the ball on their own 25 yard line – it was 4th and 6 and Belichick went for it. The pass was dropped and the Saints took over! Victory seemed certain and many of the Patriots’ fans began an exodus from the stadium. The Saints had come back to beat the Patriots and would be 6-0! And then something very unlike Sean Payton began to happen.
With 2:29 left in the game the Saints were forced to settle for a field goal, but now led 27-23. Brady and the Patriots got the ball back with just over 2:00 minute left in the game – Brady threw the ball up and the Saints intercepted! And with a Saints victory even more certain, the exodus from the stadium in Foxboro grew!
But the Saints could not get a 1st down and they were forced to punt – giving the ball back to the talented Tom Brady again as the game neared an end. And with just 10 seconds left…well, you know what happened. The Patriots scored and won the game 30-27.
The Saints offense gave the ball back to the Patriots twice near the end of the game and all the Saints had to do was make a few 1st downs to secure the win. It was very uncharacteristic of a Sean Payton Saints team to watch the Saints suddenly become a team that was playing not to lose – rather than a team that was playing to win. During his post-game press conference, Coach Payton was asked about the play-calling during the last few offensive series and he said they were trying to “possible” get a 1st down. “Possibly” get a 1st down – you should expect to get a 1st down.
What the players and the coaches will learn from that game is what we can all learn about life. The Saints protected their lead and the strategy of protecting something is different from the strategy of winning something. Years ago a program director told me something I have always remembered, “Scoot, it’s a lot harder to defend being at thetop than it is to get to the top.” He was right.
I wonder if late in the game the Saints and the coaching staff had already begun protecting the 6-0 record that they had in their minds, rather than continuing the aggressive fight they had started at the beginning of the 2nd half. This was the nationally televised game and much of the nation was watching. LIFE LESSON: Don’t stop your fight until it is over and never settle for what appears to be a victory in anything you do.
It is natural for some people to develop a false sense of success even before the battle is over – whether it’s a football game, a sales pitch or anything you do. This assessment of what happened to the Saints yesterday is not criticism of Coach Payton, Brees or the team, as much as it is using the human dynamics of what the Saints experienced yesterday as a metaphor for things we deal with in our lives. And you can trust that Payton, Brees and the entire team and coaching staff are going through this process themselves.
Since letdowns are inevitable in life, rather than going into the bye week with a 6-0 record, the last-second loss to the Patriots might cause the Saints to be even more relentless in their quest for the playoffs.
Remember the phrase “Finish Strong” – the Patriots stole that philosophy from the Saints yesterday. Let’s hope the Saints come back after the bye week in full possession of the “Finish Strong” philosophy – and that applies not only to a season, but to each individual game and also to everything we do in our lives!