Jeff Riger: The Big Easy Was Great Even If The Game Wasn’t
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And just like that it’s over! After all the anticipation and prognostication, the Lions are one and done in the playoffs, something that everyone predicted. Of course Detroit had their chances as they led 14-10 after the first half and it truly looked like the Lions might shock the world. But then the 2nd half happened and order in the NFL was restored as the heavy favorite home Saints did what they were supposed to do; terrorize, torture and flat out dominate Detroit for a 45-28 win in the Big Easy.
But Saturday was more than just Lions vs. Saints for me as I took a 24 hour trip to New Orleans to take it all in. From the people to the game to an accident in a cab in front of the Super Dome, the Big Easy was good times. Below is a detailed (ok maybe not that detailed) of what went down leading up to the Lions first playoff game in 12 years.
5 a.m. Farmington Hills
Alarm went off, showered and headed to Metro Airport. I could not shake the feeling that the Lions were going to pull the upset. I was so confident that I even Facebooked about it sitting in the terminal waiting for the plane. Does anybody even Facebook anymore or is it all Twitter these days? I think it is, maybe that’s why I posted on Facebook and not Twitter, I was afraid of the true backlash if I was wrong. And as usual I was.
6:17 a.m. Metro Airport
Walked through security and one of the guards was questioning me about my one day trip to New Orleans. He was suspicious on why I would only be going for only 24 hours. After being in the Big Easy I now understand why, considering one day is not nearly long enough to experience the fun, however at the time I just was convinced that he thought I was guilty of something.
The guard must have believed me as he allowed me through and on to my full body scan. After the scan, another guard yelled out “Go Lions” and “beat those ^#%$@&g Saints” while giving me a high five. A couple of other guards chimed in as well. Everybody, even at 6 in the morning in Detroit at an Airport was geek’d about the playoff game.
10:44 a.m. Atlanta, Georgia
While boarding my connecting flight to New Orleans I noticed that every other person on the flight was headed to the Big Easy for the National Title game on Monday night. All passengers were wearing either LSU or Alabama colors and then there was me wearing a Detroit Tigers shirt. I thought a couple of brawls were for sure going to break out. One already wasted LSU fan yelled at a Tide fan over and over again until the point where a couple of attendants had to step in. The drunk shouted “we already beat you; we should be playing Oklahoma State, not you. #&%* y%@!” I quickly was realizing that nobody cared about the Lions-Saints game and instead everybody was just excited about partying before Monday’s game at the Superdome.
12:39 p.m. New Orleans Airport
Landed and hopped on a shuttle bus to the hotel. On the bus was Lions GM Martin Mayhew who already seemed to have his game face on. I know I’m a media member and am supposed to be impartial but I told him “good luck” and he said “thanks.” C’mon, I had to name drop one time in this blog.
2:50 p.m. Downtown New Orleans
Standing outside “Mothers” restaurant waiting to get in I noticed 3 or 4 people wearing Nick Fairley jerseys in a sea of Saints apparel. To that point, those people were the first Lions fans that I saw. Of course all the New Orleans fans felt the same way as they started to heckle the Fairley fans. The quotes they were yelling went something like “bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep you, you will get your bleep destroyed.” You get the picture, it wasn’t very nice!
3:42 p.m. in a Cab
On our way to the Super Dome our cab driver got into an accident. He yelled at the lady he hit while she looked at the damage on her car and then quickly sped away. I’m pretty sure some laws were broken but really didn’t care, just wanted to get to the game
4pm to 7 p.m. at the Super Dome
A whole lot of waiting as fans filed in as I tweeted and ate again. I was ready for football.
7:09pm (8:09 Detroit time)
Will Heller hauls in a touchdown from Matt Stafford and I remember thinking to myself “huh, Will Heller, everybody could have predicted that to be how the first score would go down.” Right?
Erin Andrews walked by with Chris Fowler and Mike Tirico. They obviously were all in town to call the National Title game on Monday night. I actually followed Andrews to get a better look. Yep, she is hot. There is a great chance that I might have creeped her out as I continued to follow her almost into the ladies restroom. What? I just wanted to see what she looked like in person. I was impressed; however I don’t think she was with me.
9 p.m. or so
I have to be honest; at this point I stopped keeping track of the time because I was so focused on if the Lions could get a stop on defense. After leading 14-10 at the half, I had high hopes that my face book post of 15 hours before would come true. Of course then came the agony as Detroit could not stop Drew Brees at all, not even close. 3rd down and 4th down conversions were unreal for the Saints and it was pretty apparent that it was over. All my life the Lions have not been able to get off the field on 3rd and 4th downs and Saturday night was no different. Those 3rd and 4th quarter drives by Brees and CO. could have been the most painful in memory. Oh yeah, the officiating was awful as well.
I don’t know the exact times but he got burnt over and over. He also had the chance to intercept Brees numerous times. He didn’t! Thought I should point that out! He then had a silly tweet. Look it up, you will be amused. It went something like “y’all can go back to being broke and miserable…now back to regular scheduled programming.”
11:08 p.m. after the game
After the Lions made their way in the locker room after the loss (you can watch that video below) defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham quickly exited the dressing room with his travel bag in hand and left the building. Who could blame him? His defense on back to back games gave up over 1200 yards and 90 points. Saturday night the Saints finished with 626 yards of offense, you probably don’t forget that stat anytime soon.
I took in all the postgame interviews as most the players and coaches were upset yet proud of the season. You can watch many of the videos below. Jim Schwartz was in no mood to answer questions but he did and took offense to a reporter telling him that the main reason for the loss was the Lions failure to get points off the two turnovers they had in the first half. Schwartz also refused to reflect on the season and was adamant that the Lions should have scored a touchdown but the officials blew the play dead on a forced fumble in the first half.
2 a.m. walked out of the Super Dome looking to get to Bourbon Street
Was told by multiple cab drivers that they could not even get us near the area considering how packed it was.
4am went to bed
9am woke up and realized that even though the Lions got dismantled the night before there is so much reason for optimism and promise with the Lions and I don’t remember the last time I could say that.
By the way, that New Orleans place….yeah it isn’t bad.