NFL Network pays tribute to the New Orleans Saints on the latest installment of its America’s Game: The Super Bowl Champions franchise.
Debuting Sept. 8 at 9 p.m., the night before the Saints open defense of their title against the Minnesota Vikings, the team they topped in OT to make it to the Big Game in South Florida last February, the documentary provides a rapid recap of the formation of the team, leading up to its glorious 2009-10 campaign, against the backdrop of the city’s recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Brad Pitt serves as the overall narrator of America’s Game: 2009 New Orleans Saints, which is presented from the views of coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees and linebacker Jonathan Vilma, all of whom made their professional ascents after starts outside The Big Easy.
There are plenty of highlights from the club’s 13-game winning streak, followed by a rapid run-through of the season-closing three consecutive losses and how the team had to buck league history.
Well-worn images and stories — Payton’s recruiting trip of Brees that showed housing where Drew and wife Brittany would want to raise their family and their turn into a devastated area that cemented his arrival in the Crescent City; the fan explosion in the Superdome after the Saints blocked a punt versus the Atlanta Falcons in their first game back at their home venue; Reggie Bush “sporting wood” before the NFC Championship game against Brett Favre’s Vikings; Brees holding his young son aloft, amidst the confetti after the 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts — surface as well.
But it’s the insights and lesser-told tales that make the doc worth watching: Payton’s performance as a scab QB under Mike Ditka against the Saints in 1987; the coach’s predilection for Juicy Fruit gum; the insertion of Rex Ryan’s favorite adjective into the middle of a fleur-de-lis sign in the end zone on the deciding field goal of the NFC title tilt; Vilma’s call to the podium after that game; the role Bill Parcells played in “ambush, the championship-changing onside kick to open the second half of Super Bowl XLIV; and NFL coaches’ habits of sleeping with “Tiffany.”
In the brief epilogue providing sights and sounds from the parade route at “Lombardi Gras,” the Saints’ trio talk about what the triumph meant to them and the city of New Orleans, how that Super Bowl XLIV was all of theirs. Indeed, 42 years of the franchise’s on-field futility and the hurt of Katrina are encapsulated by a close-up on a young woman, a single tear easing down her face to the accompaniment of Bruce Springsteen’s plaintive version of “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
It’s a wonderful image — one this reviewer couldn’t help but emulate — in recalling one of the NFL’s all-time compelling stories.