NFL News of December 29, 2002

The last Sunday of the NFL season was a day to watch playoff hopes go up in smoke and careers end.

No NFL team fell harder than the New Orleans Saints (9-7). It’s certainly not unusual for the Saints to miss the playoffs, but the way they went about it this year was rather dramatic.

They started 6-1. They went 5-0 against first-place teams. Then, with three games left—all against the league’s also-rans—they curled up and died. Lost to Minnesota. Lost to Cincinnati. And lost to Carolina.

Sunday, they were eliminated in a 10-6 loss at home to the Panthers, a team that hadn’t won a division game since 2000.

Fans started booing quarterback Aaron Brooks and the offense early. By the second half, the chants of “We want Jake!” —calling for backup quarterback Jake Delhomme—boomed though the Superdome. Brooks finished 12 of 31, with two interceptions.

And one can’t say the Saints weren’t fired up. Several players —most of them Saints receivers and Panthers defensive backs —did some shoving and exchanged words during the pregame warm-up.

— David Cohen, The Philadelphia Inquirer “Playoff hopes dashed, careers end on last Sunday of season.”

After the 2002 season, Jake Delhomme signed with the Carolina Panthers. He led them to Super Bowl in the 2003 season, eventually falling to the New England Patriots. The Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009.

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