The New Orleans Saints had an excellent opportunity Thursday night to cement their place atop the NFC South and make a strong statement that they are among the best teams in the NFL.
They failed to do that, losing a nationally televised game to the Atlanta Falcons.
The archrival Falcons overcame multiple mistakes to beat the Saints and make the race for the playoffs much closer.
In the days since the close game, Saints fans have been troubled by multiple media reports that one of the referees in the contest is a former player for the Falcons.
Phil McKinnely played for the Falcons from 1976 to 1980, and he was on the officiating crew that oversaw the Saints game.
Although fans will always be angered by calls that go against their team or in favor of the opponent, there is little evidence to suggest that the referees in general or McKinnely in particular cost the Black and Gold the game.
In fact, he has officiated in two other Saints games this season, both of which they won. And he has worked other Falcons games without generating suspicions of bias.
It is far too easy to buy into conspiracy theories that seek to absolve a team’s weaknesses and place the blame for losses on the league or the officials.
Instead of focusing on these issues, the team and its faithful fans must put their efforts into the rest of the season, making sure the Saints make the playoffs and are poised to win in the postseason.
The signs so far this season have been positive. And they don’t change because of one loss.
The Saints have a much-improved defense, a great running game and one of the best quarterbacks who has ever played football.
These components don’t guarantee success, but they do put the team in better shape than it has been in recent years, when inconsistent defensive play seemed to cost it wins in spite of quarterback Drew Brees’ incredible statistical performances.
Regardless of last week’s loss, this has been a special season, and there is every reason to believe that the success will continue. Even in one of the best divisions in the NFL, the Saints have managed to compile a great record and seem to be headed toward the playoffs.
With so much going in favor of the Saints, fans should enjoy the success rather than focusing on a single defeat.
Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.