Saints Panthers Football

New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr pass against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Something extraordinary happened this weekend, an achievement you likely were unaware occurred.

The Saints’ 20-17 victory against the Carolina Panthers on Monday night completed a historic trifecta for the "Big Three" local football teams in the New Orleans area.

It marked the first time ever that the Saints, LSU and Tulane have won road games on the same weekend.

That’s right — ever. As in “all time.” Or, technically, since 1967, when the Saints came into existence.

It sounds incredible. How could it not have occurred in the previous 56 years, right? But when you consider how difficult it is to win on the road, the long stretches of anemic play for each of the three teams and the fact that their myriad schedules rarely align for three road games on the same weekend, then the rare achievement makes more sense.

Before this weekend, there’d been 47 instances where the Saints, LSU and Tulane played road games on the same weekend, and at least one of the trio had lost each time.

There’d been four previous times that Tulane and LSU each won their road games on Saturday only to see the Saints fail to complete the trifecta on Sunday, losing to the Texans (2007), Falcons (2004), then-Redskins (1988) and Broncos (1979).

Granted, this is trivial stuff, the kind of esoteric information that only football nerds like myself appreciate. (Full disclosure: The research took several hours and three cups of coffee to complete on Monday.) But it’s also revealing, a potential harbinger of promising things to come for local football fans.

The Saints, LSU and Tulane all appear headed for big seasons. Not just winning campaigns, but potentially special ones.

Yes, I know. It’s incredibly early. Way too soon for sweeping proclamations. Adversity in the form of injuries, bad breaks and blown calls awaits. But if ever there was a year for things to come together, it’s this one.

And heaven knows, we need it. What with the unbearable weather, incompetent civil services and embarrassing local political leadership, we could use some positivity during these tough times.

This football season promises to deliver.

The Saints are 2-0 for the first time since 2013, one of just nine unbeaten teams left in the NFL.

The good news: The last four times they’ve started a season with two wins, they’ve gone on to make the playoffs.

The bad news: The schedule toughens up from here. A dicey road trip to Green Bay awaits. The Packers will test the Saints in ways the Titans and Panthers did not.

But the dominant defense will keep the Saints in every game until the offense comes around. When you hold opponents to 20 points or fewer, you’re going to win a lot of games in the NFL, and the Saints have now done it a franchise-record 10 consecutive times. And in case you've forgotten: Alvin Kamara returns in Week 4 to bolster the offense.

Against a user-friendly schedule that avoids the league’s elite teams and quarterbacks, a double-digit-win season doesn’t just seem possible. It seems likely.

“We’re 2-0, and I don’t think we have played at the level all of us have expected to play at yet,” quarterback Derek Carr said Monday night.

The outlook is just as promising on the college front. Football is largely a quarterback-head coach business, and it’s been a while since both LSU and Tulane had batteries as strong as Jayden Daniels-Brian Kelly and Michael Pratt-Willie Fritz.

Tulane and LSU each have a loss on their resumes, but both setbacks were understandable, and neither will prove damaging in the big picture if the Tigers and Green Wave can take care of business the rest of the way.

Just as they did a year ago, the Tigers have rebounded strongly from their season-opening loss to Florida State and must now be considered the favorite to repeat as champions of the SEC West.

Daniels, as Kelly noted, is playing like a Heisman Trophy candidate, and the defense — led by Harold Perkins, Maason Smith and Mekhi Wingo — appeared resurgent against Mississippi State.

Considering Alabama and Texas A&M’s struggles, the schedule looks decidedly less formidable today than it did three weeks ago.

If the Tigers can split testy road games at Ole Miss and Alabama, a 10-2 regular season and SEC West title is well within reach.

The Green Wave, meanwhile, also looks like strong favorites to repeat as champions in the American Athletic Conference. With Nicholls State on deck, Tulane can afford to rest Pratt's knee injury for another week before working him back into the fold for conference play against UAB in two weeks.

Assuming Pratt returns to form, Tulane likely will be favored in every game the rest of the way. It’ll be disappointing if Tulane doesn’t finish with double-digit wins for a second consecutive season, a feat the program hasn’t accomplished in the previous 118 years.

After this historic football weekend, hope springs eternal for the Big Three. Even another potential “first” could be in the offing.

The Saints, LSU and Tulane never have recorded double-digit wins in the same season. This could be the year for the Big Three’s first-ever triple-double.

A special football season is upon us. Perhaps a historic one.

Email Jeff Duncan at JDuncan@theadvocate.com or follow him on Twitter at @JeffDuncan_