By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
Though the winner of the game ultimately didn’t make it to Minneapolis, New Orleans Saints GM Mickey Loomis still feels as though his team left another trip to the Super Bowl on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“Look, for the rest of my life, I’m going to feel like, ‘We were this close to being in three Super Bowls,'” Loomis said, via The Times-Picayune. “And hopefully it’s more than that.”
Loomis is counting a 2011 NFC Divisional Round loss to the San Francisco 49ers as a game he feels his Saints should have won en route to a Super Bowl appearance. Much like Minnesota this season, San Francisco ended up losing the next week in the conference title game, but Loomis feels “there was a path” to the game’s biggest stage.
Add that with this season and New Orleans’ Super Bowl XLIV triumph to cap the 2009 season, and you get your three.
Oddly enough, New Orleans trailed San Francisco 17-0 in that 2011 game, just like it did against Minnesota before mounting a comeback. Both ended in late-game heartbreak.
“What’s hard about the end of the season, any season, is that it’s so hard to get to a point where, man, you’ve got a real chance to get to the Super Bowl,” Loomis said Wednesday. “And when something happens, you feel like it got taken away from you. And I’m not saying ‘wrongly’ or anything like that. Just that, hey, it got jerked out from under us.
“And it’s just like, ah, you got thrown back into this deep hole and there’s no light.”
Loomis might feel additionally regretful knowing his franchise quarterback, who took New Orleans from perennial hopeful at best to legitimate contender, is very much in the final act of his career. Time is short. An opportunity lost is that much more painful to swallow.
With a destructive backfield duo in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, and receiving weapons at multiple spots, New Orleans is set up to win immediately and replicate one of the franchise’s most impressive seasons since that ill-fated 2011 campaign that saw the Saints finish 13-3. With Brees standing at 39 years old, it’ll need to come quickly — which is ideal for Loomis, who won’t want to return to the lightless, deep hole anytime soon.