History: Every Man A Bum

Jan 11, 2011 by

Saints 36 – Seahawks 41

No sooner had Twelfth Night come and gone, the Saints followed suit and disappeared from NFL post-season play in a dismal loss to the Seattle Seahawks who sported a 7-9 regular season record and the worst record ever of a playoff team. To say that the Saints underperformed (an eleven point road favorite, the highest line for any visiting playoff team in the history of the NFL,) would be akin to telling you that water is wet or that the Earth revolves around the sun. This game was an amazing capsule replay of the entire season: starting out well, falling behind, surging in the homestretch only to screw the pooch at the buzzer. I really hate to call out any one player, but I hope Roman Harper enjoyed watching this game because he sure as hell wasn’t playing in it. That’s all I have to say about that.

I don’t want to hear about injuries. Injuries are a crutch for teams whose healthy players can’t get it together. From the start of the season, the Saints were plagued with injuries, but unlike last season they were completely mishandled. In 2009 when a player went down the Saints adjusted the roster and moved forward. Doctor says a player’s out for six games, well, that’s when we’ll take a look at him again, otherwise we have our starting line-up and we’re coming straight at you, no matter what. This year, however, the focus was constantly on when Player A or B would return instead of concentrating on building teamwork between the healthy players. So much time was spent promising quick returns of the injured that it most certainly affected the drive of their replacements. Last year when a table leg broke, we took it to a carpenter to be fixed; this year, we just propped it up with whatever was handy, served Thanksgiving dinner on it and watched in horror as it wobbled around for awhile before finally collapsing.

Last year the Saints outscored opponents by an average margin of 106 points. This year it was a lowly 4.8. Drew Brees had his best and worst season as a Saint, due largely in part to the lack of a running game which was a direct result of an ineffective offensive line. Brees completed 448 of 658 passes –both career highs– for a 68.1% completion rating, second only to last years 70.6%. His 4620 yards thrown ranks second highest in his career behind last years 5069. His 33 TD’s fell one short his career high mark of 34 set in 2008 and tied in 2009. However, Brees also threw 22 INT’s –a career high– and he was sacked 25 times for 185 lost yards, a career second-worst. (His worst record is 27 sacks for 223 yards which came in his final year at San Diego.) Brees also took 14 more hits in 2010 (66) than he did in 2009 (52). Did Drew make mistakes? Of course, but the pressure he was under this year was ridiculous! That he managed to make it through the year without injury is baffling.

Rushing. This year the Saints beleaguered rushing corps ran the ball 380 times for 1519 yards and nine TD’s. Compare that to last seasons 468 attempts for 2106 yards and 21 TD’s. Yes, we had injuries but we also had the same number of bodies on the field. The key here is in the attempts and the yardage. The offensive line was so ineffective this year that in many games the Saints hit the panic button early and abandoned the run. Now if the O-line can’t open up holes for the running game, how effective do you think they’re going to be against the pass rush? You can look at the INT and sack stats in the last paragraph and draw your own conclusions. Overall, the Saints dropped from 1st place in offense to 6th despite having similar stats in both years.

Defense. Believe it or not, the Defense had better stats this year than last, ranking 4th overall compared to 25th last year but that’s somewhat misleading. Essentially our statistical percentages went up compared to the total number of plays, meaning we were more effective at what we did but we simply didn’t do it often enough. Takeaways and TD’s were glaring exceptions though. In 2009 the Saints defended 109 passes and picked off 26, five of which were returned for TD’s. 2010 saw those numbers drop to 77 defended and 9 INT’s only two of which were TD’s. The defense also forced 25 opponent fumbles last year recovering 16, three for TD’s. This year the Saints D forced just 15 fumbles recovering 13, none for a score. That means this year there were some 60 fewer plays that we failed to stop the opposition –3.75 plays per game– and if you can’t stop them, you can’t beat them.

Special Teams. The less said here the better. Suffice it to say that ST was pathetically flawed this year with only one TD compared to 9 last year. On defense, we allowed 6 TD’s compared to 3 last year. Kick and punt coverage seemed at times to be  non-existant giving up huge chunks of turf and making the defenses job that much tougher. This is Greg McMahons fifth year with the team, his third as ST coordinator, and he needs to seriously spend the off-season trying to figure out what the hell happened. Whether it was a change in training regimen, diet, drills or lucky socks he needs to get his act together and smack his boys back into shape.

Now let’s talk penalties. Penalties killed us this year, right? Well, yeah, but not the way you’d think. We had roughly the same calls –5.7 penalties/game this year compared to 5.6 p/g last year– but more of them came at crucial moments. Offsides on 1st & 10 in the 1st quarter is a walk in the park compared to pass interference in the endzone on 3rd & 24 with a minute to go in the 4th!  One stat that leaps out is that at home we averaged 4.2 p/g but on the road we averaged 7!! Clearly we don’t know how to behave ourselves when visiting. There’s not much you can do about penalties; shit happens. Try to play smarter next year. Failing that, try not to get caught.

So here we stand, outside looking in with an empty bottle of Boone’s Farm in one hand and a half eaten lump of King Cake in the other that’s just slightly smaller than the lumps in our throats. If you look at the season as a whole we did a damn fine job and had it not been for the magic of last year we’d all be hooting and hollering about how far we’ve all come and what a great season we had. Last year. Man, last year ruined this year for everybody… except the guys that make those ‘Wait ‘Til Next Year’ bumper stickers.

-M Styborski | http://mstyborski.magcloud.com/

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