Motivation. It comes in many forms for professional football players in the NFL, but for All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas and his New Orleans Saints teammates, their source of motivation in the next few days and weeks during the NFL Playoffs will all be about respect; or at least in the view of the Black and Gold’s elite superstar: a severe lack of it.
Yesterday on Twitter, Thomas posted a Tweet on Twitter that strongly suggested that he and the whole Saints franchise have been keeping track or making “mental notes” if you will; of all of the talk, criticism, and in his personal viewpoint (and many on the team themselves), a big-time absence of respect that’s been levied at them from a sizable portion of well-known people (and places) from across the vast spectrum of the sports world.
To be more specific, the Saints understandably have had a “chip” on their shoulder ever since they basically were robbed of a Super Bowl appearance after the infamous “No-Call” in their controversial loss last year in their final Playoff game vs. the Los Angeles Rams — and Thomas and the entire Saints organization have since grown tired of hearing all of the negativity that’s being said about them seemingly from a variety of locales throughout the entire nation.
That would include the so-called respected observers and analysts in sports media that exclusively cover the NFL on a daily basis; as well as other people and places such as politicians, entertainers /celebrities, and of course other fan-bases that all have been notably unsympathetic for what the Saints were forced to endure (the agony of losing in the controversial manner that they did) last year.
Thomas, who set the NFL record this season for the most catches (149) for a wide receiver in the League’s entire 100-year history two weeks ago, tweeted that “2019, we took notes on all the disrespect. (In) 2020, we get to get disrespectful back”.
2019 we took notes on all the disrespect. 2020 we get to get disrespectful back 🤞🏾
— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) January 2, 2020
Not that Thomas or the Saints want anybody to “feel sorry” for them. But they are sick of hearing the narrative that they and their passionate “Who Dat Nation” fan-base are nothing but “sore losers”.
With the #3 seed Black and Gold set to play the #6 seed Minnesota Vikings in the opening Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs this weekend at the Superdome, the narrative that the Saints and their fans are “sore losers” is still prevalent among many.
And as it turns out, now it’s even inspired some to bring up the Saints’ notable failures in the NFL Playoffs in recent years, which included their heart-breaking last-second loss to the same Vikings two years ago at Minnesota in what infamously became known as the “Minneapolis Miracle”.
Believe this much: the “trash talking” from some of the Saints’ biggest detractors and critics, as well as a handful of fan-bases whose favorite teams are possible opponents for New Orleans in the upcoming weeks ahead should they advance deep into the post-season, is at a “fever-pitch” at the moment.
Obviously, Thomas and the team have gotten somewhat annoyed by all of the falsehoods and mischaracterizations that have been thrown out there publicly in recent days, since the bad memory of that well-documented “Minneapolis Miracle” are being dredged up all over again; with Sunday’s Wild Card match-up at the Superdome looming.
But make no mistake about this much if you’re a Saints fan: NOBODY in the NFL right now wants to face the Saints.
This is a Saints team that this year won 13 games and their 3rd straight NFC South Division Championship. Perhaps more impressively than that of course, they went undefeated (5-0) after losing starting 19th year veteran QB and future NFL Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees to a torn thumb ligament in the 2nd week of the season; behind their much-improved defense as well as the stellar play and leadership of back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater.
However as great as all of that success was for them, the other “elite” teams in the NFC such as the #1 seed San Francisco 49ers (who New Orleans lost to by just 2 points a few weeks ago) and the #2 seed Green Bay Packers in particular, have to be very weary of a Saints team that has been nothing short of phenomenal in all phases in recent weeks heading into the post-season.
New Orleans has an offense that’s led the NFL in scoring over the past several weeks (over 36 points per game average) and whose defense is peaking just at the right time heading into the Playoffs as they only allowed 45 total points in their final three games (15 per game); while recording 8 sacks and forced 4 turnovers in the process. And that’s not even including the solid if not at times spectacular performance by rookie kick returner Deonte Harris.
However, the Saints themselves aren’t being over-confident and instead are narrowly focused and honed in on achieving the one major goal that they’ve always had since this current version of the team has been built over the course of the past few seasons, since adding young superstar players around the soon-to-be 41-year old Brees such as Thomas and Alvin Kamara; which is (and has always been) going to and WINNING the Super Bowl.
Nevertheless, the narrative that the Saints “can’t win the big one when it really counts”, still remains prominently.
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) January 21, 2019
“It says a lot about our group to be able to take some of those circumstances and some of those unfortunate things and be able to turn it into something positive. And use that as fuel, use that as a way to just bring us closer together”, Brees said to ESPN beat writer Mike Triplett in an exclusive interview after practice on Wednesday.
“A lot of people before this year talking about [how we would be] worried about the losses too much, we wasn’t going to be back, and we sitting at 13-3,” Saints 3rd year cornerback Marshon Lattimore added in the same interview with Triplett. “I said from the beginning, ‘It’s a loss, we can’t do anything about it, we over it now.’ I just know what type of team we’ve got, nobody really holds their heads down.”
“A lot of people wrote us off then,” 7th year veteran starting left tackle Terron Armstead said. “But we’ve won games different ways — low-scoring, high-scoring. So I think just the makeup of this team, the grit that we have, has built us for what we’re about to do.”
Armstead’s comments could actually become prophetic. And as for Thomas?
That’s up to you as a devoted ‘Who Dat’ and die-hard Saints fan to determine, for yourself.
But perhaps Thomas summed it up the best after his record-breaking performance two weeks ago, and they are words that the ENTIRE NFL probably had better “take note” of themselves.
“We’re trying to play and go to a championship right now, and at the end of the season we’ll look up and see all the things we accomplished. But right now we’re focused on one common goal, and that’s a championship.”
Those are words to live by if you’re a fan of NFL teams within the NFC in cities such as San Francisco, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Minneapolis (Minnesota); and even over in the other conference (AFC) depending on which team makes the Super Bowl from their side, like Baltimore, Boston (New England Patriots), or Kansas City.
Words that clearly lay out the fact that no matter what might be said otherwise — nobody wants to face the New Orleans Saints in the NFL Playoffs right now.
Maybe that’s a sign that they’ve finally earned some respect, after all….
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius