From One Speechless To The Next…

Nov 6, 2011 by

From a 62-7 trouncing of the Colts to a 21-31 defeat by a winless Rams team which was nowhere near as close as it sounds, the New Orleans Saints are finding new ways to leave their fans speechless. I get that teams will sometimes have bad days, but usually not against opponents who find new ways to define failure each week. Unless, of course, you’re the Saints who were also beaten by an 0-8 Rams team in 2007 and beaten in back-to-back games by the 0-4 Cardinals and 0-5 Buccaneers in 2004. There are other examples, but of course there are also exceptions. We solidly beat the Colts the previous week and in 2008 we somehow beat the 0-14 Lions on their way to the NFL’s first ever 0-16 season, but those games may have been driven more by destiny than any effort on the Saints part.

The inconsistency here goes beyond simple fundamentals and hearkens back to the days when Jim Haslett decided the starting lineup by benching players caught banging the same cheerleaders he was. While I doubt that anything that repugnant could happen under Sean Payton, it makes one wonder exactly what is preventing this team from gelling. Rookie mistakes are one possibility, but Jabari Greer is no rookie and he gets beat almost every time the ball comes his way. Play calling? Between Payton in the Booth and the Vitt/Carmichael experiments there’s a good argument here, but not good enough to explain the chasm between the last two games. Hunger? It’s a popular opinion that since many players now have the standard Superbowl Champion increase on their paychecks that they’re just coasting now. It’s a nice way to spend a beer at the end of a bar, but probably only a reality in one or two cases. Is there a player on the field severly playing below 100% health like Brees did last year? I’ve heard no rumours yet, but the fact that Payton pulled this once opens the possibility that it can happen again. I admit I’m just baffled. I have no definite answers.

Then there’s the shortened training camps, the recent changes in how practices are run, the distraction of a deal to rename the Louisiana Superdome under the brand of owner Tom Benson’s affiliated Texas car dealership for a quarter of what it’s worth, the injuries to Mark Ingram, Marques Colston, Zach Strief and others, the disturbing tendency to panic early and abandon the run, Greg Williams defense showing cracks that opponents capitalize on, a porous O-line… Call it a combination of everything and we might be halfway there.

And now we face a rising Tampa Bay team with a healthy LeGarrette Blount coming off a nice and restful bye-week. A divisional opponent that is already one game ahead of us and that beat us head-to-head just three weeks ago. You’ll remember that was the game where TB S Sean Jones’ unpenalized late hit on an already tackled and heading out-of-bounds Jimmy Graham drove Graham into Payton’s leg… Can you say grudge match? The fortunes of both teams hang on the outcome of this game and while the Saints refuse to use the term ‘must-win’, we all know what this game means. Everything points to Tampa Bay utterly embarrassing the Saints which probably means that the Saints will eventually take control this week and drop the Bucs down a notch. I’ll call it Saints 30 – Bucs 27.

The Saints lead the series against the Bucs 23-16, 12-10 at home. The past three years saw the teams split the regular season games with only one of our wins coming at home. The ’07 season saw the Saints lose both games and in ’06 we won both for a subtotal of 5-6 vs the Bucs in the Payton/Brees era.

Last week, Drew Brees took down the last major Saints record held by Archie Manning: Career Passing Attempts. Brees (2256) is now 21 attempts past Manning (3335). Archie still holds the records for career interceptions (156) and times sacked (337). Brees remains comfortably below those numbers with 89 INTs and 111 sacks, but as this season wears on he’s catching up fast!

Brees is averaging 352 passing yards/game and is still on track to break Dan Marino’s 1984 season yardage mark of 5084 by about 400 yards. Likewise, he’s still on target to break Peyton Manning’s 2010 season completion mark of 450 by about 35 completions. His run on Drew Bledsoe’s 1994 season attempt record of 691 is currently on pace to fall shy by just five attempts. Last weeks garbage-time score kept Drew’s consecutive game TD streak alive at 35 and if he tosses one this week he will tie Brett Favre at 36 for second place all-time behind Johnny Unitas’ 47-game streak.

-M Styborski