NEW ORLEANS the scene made the movie Jerry Maguire look like a warm-up act.
There was the man believed to be an inspiration for one of the leads in Cameron Crowes cinematic homage to the art of sports agenting, Drew Rosenhaus, standing outside the Saints locker room by himself. Black leather jacket. Jeans. Slicked back hair. He was waiting for his guy the player nobody thought would be hosting waves of microphones and tape recorders new Orleans cornerback Mike McKenzie.
Believe it or not, the moment and the man following the Patriots 38-17 loss to the Saints had left Drew Rosenhaus yes, that Drew Rosenhaus virtually speechless.
You rarely see stuff as an agent that shocks you, he said. This whole event did.
McKenzie is one of Rosenhaus army of clients, and hardly one of the more high-profile members of the agents stable. the 33-year-old hadnt played in an NFL game in more than a year and was just signed by the Saints the week before.
He was a player whose fractured kneecap the season before had led many to believe his NFL career was done. And when McKenzie went unsigned through Thanksgiving, it was believed that the player who had left so many marks as a member of the Packers and Saints for a decade had seen his time come and go.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, McKenzie didnt fade off into the shadows of life after professional football. One huge interception, another enormous fourth-down deflection, and three tackles served as the background for this story, which Pats fans certainly didnt expect to uncover.
In Hollywood vernacular, it was Cuba Gooding Jr. springing to life in the end zone after his character in Jerry Maguire, Rod Tidwell, caught his career-defining touchdown pass.
Only this was real. for the real-life agent, this was better.
Ive got to think about that one, Rosenhaus said when asked what this movie would be titled. I dont know. Miracle in new Orleans? The Bayou something. Im just stunned. Im too stunned to think of a title. Lets start with the book first.
This we do know: Whatever the title, the Patriots arent going to be assisting in boosting its Amazon.com rankings. What was a dream for McKenzie and Rosenhaus will keep Tom Brady and the Pats sleepless for a few nights to come.
It started with Rosenhaus text message to his client Sunday night asking if he thought he would be active for his first game of the 2009 season. And then came the smack-in-the-face reality that expectations were getting ready to be altered.
I didnt dream he would play, Rosenhaus said. And then when I saw him against Randy Moss, I was like, Wow! That was incredible.
It only got better for McKenzie and worse for the Patriots.
With the Patriots holding a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter, Wes Welker gathered in a punt, split the middle, and jetted up to the new Orleans 46-yard line. an 11-point lead and valuable road momentum was half a field away.
But on the Pats first play after the return, McKenzie darted in front of Moss to pick off the short, over-the-middle pass from Brady. Before the pass, and the subsequent Saints drive, Sean Paytons team had a league-best 117 points after turning the ball over. three minutes and six seconds later, it was 124.
Drew Brees would throw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Thomas seven plays after the McKenzie interception, and the Pats would never lead again.
It was a situation where I knew I had some help coming so I knew I could be really aggressive. I had an opportunity to make a play and I made it, said a wide-eyed McKenzie, only partially pulling off the appearance of calmness in his whirlwind return to the NFL.
And then, after making what may have been the pivotal play in the game, McKenzie fittingly put the punctuation on the Patriots night(mare).
With the Pats trailing by 14 points with just under five minutes to go in the third quarter, the visitors decided to go for it on fourth-and-4 from the Saints 10. new Orleans safety Darren Sharper would say after the game that his defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, had warned his squad that the Patriots would be going for it on fourth down four or five times.
The Saints were ready, and McKenzie was no exception.
After a timeout, Brady tried to hook up with Moss on an out pattern to the new England sideline. But McKenzie jumped the route, deflecting the ball out of bounds, thereby giving possession and momentum back to his team.
I think more than the first takeaway was the breakup he had on fourth-and-(4). That was probably bigger than the interception because it kept points off the board, Sharper explained.
Hes a tough football player. He made more snaps than anybody and to come straight off the couch to do it we needed that tonight.
The Saints certainly did need it. the Patriots undoubtedly didnt. And Rosenhaus? He didnt seem to know what to make of what just transpired.
It was one of the greatest accomplishments Ive been associated with, the agent said. To see a guy that in the 11th game of the season, steps in into one of the biggest games of the year and plays like an All-Pro it might have been his best game Ive seen him play in years. it really is incredible. it shocked everybody.