There’s a very healthy way to view football, one that makes for a well-adjusted and even-keeled life, and that’s to give in to the sheer unpredictability of it all. You can see the analytics and know the tendencies and say that this offense is more susceptible to this kind of defensive scheme, but it’s never 100 percent and we continually act shocked when the improbable bleeds into our reality. This happens all the time in football, and what can we really do about it? We can give into its charms and let the madness take us where it wants. Ceding control can be liberating, and it throws projectiles at your high-def set.
And so once in a while, we get something like Sunday’s battle between the Saints and Giants, a game in which it appeared that both defenses were mistakenly set to sleep mode. But no one knew that. You want to believe that you could see a 101-point game coming. Maybe someone’s missing multiple members of its secondary. The other team’s got a running back who looks like 20-year-old Barry Sanders ripping a hole through the Big 8 way back when. Usually, the signs are there, but nothing prepares you for the third-highest scoring game in the history of the NFL. This was as close as one gets to football as chaos theory.
But this kind of football also took on air of inevitability. Usually in sports, the inevitability only shows up when something bad is about to happen. We can feel the sports god of whimsy casting his eye in our general direction and muttering under his breath, “Yep, it’s your turn now.” This was not quite that, though. There were 14 touchdowns scored in this game, 13 of which were on offense. That means drives, that means plays with a certain sequential rhythm. You see the touchdown on the assembly line in mid-development. And then there’s a finished product — Drew Brees taking the flea-flicker and going 34 yards to Willie Snead, or Eli Manning throwing 50 yards to Odell Beckham Jr. to open the second half — but there’s another and another and another. Usually, they stop coming. And sometimes, like on this day in New Orleans, they don’t.