Saints slide leaves questions
By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Dec. 30, 2002
NEW ORLEANS Yet another long offseason filled with questions looms for the New Orleans Saints. Who will be left when the porous defense is invariably re-tooled?
Will Aaron Brooks be the starter next season? Will there be a monumental collapse next season after yet another hot start? Why did it happen this year? Perhaps offensive tackle Kyle Turley summed it up quite directly.
Had they made the postseason and not Atlanta, they would have gone in sporting a record of 5-1 against current playoff teams. The only loss being a nine-point home setback to Cleveland, ironically the team that tried to throw them a life preserver on Sunday.
The Cleveland/Atlanta game, pivotal to the Saints playoff hopes, was not shown on the arena scoreboard that shows the scores of other NFL teams. That is, until the second quarter when the host Browns grabbed a 10-0 lead. The Superdome crowd loudly roared their approval.
But ultimately it didn't matter.
More Magnificent Mike
On his first punt return of the day, Michael Lewis ran it back 38 yards to the Saints 47. On that return he became the teams record holder for most punt return yardage in a single season. He eclipsed the mark of 503 yards set by Tyrone Hughes in 1993. He later broke Hughes kickoff return yardage record of 1,791 yards, which was set in 1996.
Perhaps the most entertainment came after the game was over. The ring fans saw on the visiting sideline near the 30 yard-line was not because there was a WWE event slated for the next day.
Saints Director of Ticket Operations Mike Stansfield got into the ring for a promotional boxing match with a season ticket holder. An area season ticket holder's name was drawn out of a pool for a chance to step into the ring with Stansfield.
Neither competitor had boxing experience.
Other postgame activities included the Harlem Globetrotters and a punt, pass and kick competition.
Once again, Meridian's Kenny Smith was not included on Sunday's active roster. Other notable omissions for the Saints included: WR Jerome Pathon, LB Darrin Smith and S Steve Gleason. Former Saints OT and Ole Miss alum Tutan Reyes and TE Wesley Walls, a Pontotoc native, were on the Panthers list.