The Saints remain an enigma as they enter the bye

“E. Nigma…Edward Nigma.”

“Enigma” is certainly a word that could be used to describe the New Orleans Saints as they sit at 3-2 entering their bye week.  Nearly a third of the way into the season, there’s no telling which version of the Saints will appear on Sunday afternoons.

That phrase is also a quote from the much maligned (but beloved by yours truly) superhero flick, Batman Forever, from the scene in which Val Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne/Batman deduces the true identity of The Riddler.

It was a much simpler time back then, in the summer of 1995.  Batman Forever was one of the first movies I remember seeing in theaters, with the very first being 1994’s Star Trek Generations (also underrated).  Back in the mid-90’s, the Elmwood Palace Theater in Harahan was a sparkling new mega-plex still untainted by the corporate reach of AMC.  Going to the movies meant excitement, thrills, surprises.

Maybe you’d run into your crush from school.  Or maybe you’d see a trailer for something totally fucking rad like Power Rangers: The Movie or Lost in Space, because the Internet wasn’t really a thing yet and you had no idea what surprises the coming attractions would hold.

Back then, seeing an iconic character like Batman on the big screen meant feeling something.

But there’s the rub with Hollywood, see.  Nothing is ever truly new or exciting.  It’s always the same old story in a new glitzy package.

You see too many movies and you start to realize that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is boring.  There are no creative risks.  The hero never dies.  There are no stakes.

I’m truly ashamed to admit that at times during the 2017-2020 iteration of the Drew Brees/Sean Payton Saints, I got bored.  There were some games in which Brees and Michael Thomas slanted the other team into submission; games in which the opponent never threatened because of the uncanny efficiency of Brees and Payton’s offense.

The Saints were almost too good.  But now all of that is gone.

It seems poetic that on the same afternoon the Saints beat the Washington Football Team in a wild one to the tune of 33-22, I went to see No Time To Die, the first movie in years that made me feel like I was truly at the movies.

Without getting into spoilers, the new James Bond film (which has been delayed for over a year and a half because of the COVID-19 pandemic) delivers the perfect movie-going experience.  It has just enough of the Bond formula to be what I want, but also enough twists to keep me on the edge of my seat.

No Time To Die gave me what I want in a way I didn’t expect.  In many ways, this is what the Saints are delivering on a weekly basis.

Jameis Winston and the offense are winning games and scoring touchdowns, but the production is coming in unpredictable fashion.  Winston has scored in nearly every conceivable form: regular touchdown passes, tap passes, runs, passes meant to be thrown out of the back of the end zone, and one Hail Mary for good measure.

Screenshot: @Saints, via Instagram

After five weeks, the Saints rank 11th in scoring offense and a putrid 28th in yards.  The eye in the sky don’t lie – the Saints are scoring and making big plays and winning but they aren’t looking pretty doing it.  Winston is on a 17-game pace to throw for 3,032.8 yards and 41 touchdowns, which is lopsided enough to end up on a “bizarre stats” SportsCenter Instagram post.

The defense is beginning to show some cracks.  They still rank 4th in scoring, but have fallen to a mediocre 14th overall in yards allowed thanks to some head-scratching plays against the Giants and Washington Football Team the previous two weeks.  Don’t get me wrong, the defense is still the strength of the team and is tied for 2nd overall with an eye-popping 9 interceptions.  Rookie corner Paulson Adebo looks like a stud and Marshon Lattimore had one of the best games of his career against WFT’s Terry McLaurin, one of the league’s best young receivers.  But one gets the sense that opposing offensive coordinators are starting to find the seams in the quilt.

At this point, saying this is like beating a dead horse – this team has not yet reached its final form.  It is a work in progress, one that still needs a touch of Michael Thomas here, a dab of David Onyemata there. Perhaps a brush stroke of Wil Lutz.

As the credits roll on the opening act of the 2021 season, only one thing is clear.  The New Orleans Saints will return. We just aren’t sure which version yet.

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