The federal government tumbled over the brink of a shutdown Monday night.
The New Orleans Saints’ unbeaten streak? There’s no off switch on this thing yet.
In what looked like the biggest threat yet to the Saints’ Redemption Tour 2013, the Miami Dolphins sauntered into the Big Easy with a 3-0 record that included wins over Indianapolis and Atlanta and figured they could do a similar number on New Orleans.
When it was over, well, let’s just say at least the 1972 Dolphins don’t have to worry about the bad taste of toasting the 2013 Dolphins’ demise as the NFL’s last unbeaten team.
Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, couldn’t track down the Dolphins’ unbeaten record, not after the Saints did a second line tap dance all over Miami and came away with an emphatic, impressive, pick-your-adjective 38-17 rout.
As victories go, it probably doesn’t make the Saints as happy as sticking one in the eye of the archrival Atlanta Falcons with their 23-17 season-opening victory.
But for several reasons, this was the best win the Saints have had yet.
This was a statement game of the first order — and on “Monday Night Football,” no less. That it came against one of the NFL’s other six remaining undefeated teams only adds weight to the Saints’ win. And it was over long before it was officially over.
By my unofficial calculations, the late, great Dandy Don Meredith would have started crooning “Turn out the lights … the party’s over” with 8:12 left in the third quarter. That’s when Drew Brees measured Jimmy Graham for a 43-long touchdown pass. The former Miami Hurricane’s second goal post slam dunk of the night gave New Orleans a 35-10 lead.
The Saints were feeling it. The Dolphins had to feel it was slipping away.
“Start of the third quarter we got a three-and-out, we scored and then, ‘Ahhh,’ ” said Brees, giving a quick imitation of deafening crowd noise. “The place was rocking. You know that’s tough for another team to overcome.”
More like mission impossible.
Other than an impressive touchdown drive by the Dolphins late in the second quarter to pull within 14-10, about the most consternation Saints fans had to contend with was a 5-yard scramble by Brees. Cam Newton he is not, and every time he hits the turf he makes all of South Louisiana clutch its rosary.
The rest of the night, Brees was breathtaking in a Fun ’N’ Gun sort of way. His final tally: 30 of 39 for 413 yards, four touchdowns, zero picks. Miami’s Ryan Tannehill may have a bright future in this league, but on this night, Junior, bow to the master.
“It’s momentum,” Brees said. “It’s the feeling that whatever is called is going to work.”
It almost worked to perfection against Miami thanks to Brees, who it’s worth remembering was once a passed physical away from being the Dolphins quarterback.
The current Dolphins quarterback was completely schooled by the Saints. As has become the M.O. of the N.O. defense, the pressure cooked the calm demeanor with which Tannehill started the game until he started chucking and ducking and tossing up interceptions. Three of them, to be precise, plus a Curtis Lofton-stripped fumble.
“We’re not happy,” Tannehill said.
Somebody take the lad to Bourbon Street and buy him a sympathy drink. He needs one.
No drowning sorrows for Saints fans in the French Quarter these days. Sobering, though, to think where this 4-0 franchise was this time a year ago.
The Saints were 0-4, rudderless without banished coach Sean Payton, practically defenseless against opposing offenses.
Just a month into the fray, it was clear the Saints had no hope of salvation without Payton and that their season was, in a practical sense, over after it barely began.
The same was true Monday night, but we’re talking about the Dolphins’ hopes this time, not the Saints’ season.
If all this is starting to remind you of 2009, well, it’s getting hard to deny.
Seattle, Denver and New England have been getting the most love when the talk turns to the NFL’s best teams, but the Saints have earned an “amen” from the congregation.
The defense continues to be sharp, the offense has put together back-to-back 30-plus-point games and special teams, easily overshadowed in these parts, have been rock steady.
New Orleans still doesn’t have a running game to speak of, but the biggest problem in that regard is the Saints find it hard not to look like they’re piling on when they keep passing. It’s what they have to do.
Now comes the hardest part so far. Back-to-back games at Chicago and New England before the open date, teams that are a combined 7-1.
If New Orleans comes home with a split, it should be a satisfying result.
But the way these Saints are playing, shutting them down looks harder than eliminating gridlock in Washington.