Monday, September 28, 2009

Saints Third Week Review: Defense Steals Brees's Thunder

It was a rare good week to have the Saints defense in fantasy play and an even rarer bad week to have quarterback Drew Brees in your lineup.

More so than any of the team’s four draft picks (of whom two are sitting out this season on the injured reserve list), Saints fans have spent months speculating about the impact newly signed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would have on a squad that in 2008 was just as inept as the offense was prolific.

On Sunday, Williams’s touch was noticeable as the Saints defense stepped up in Orchard Park, NY limiting running back Fred Jackson to 71 yards on the ground while wrecking havoc on Bills quarterback Trent Edwards, sacking him four times and intercepting a deflected pass. The only touchdown pass of the game was thrown by Bills punter Brian Moorman to defensive end Ryan Denney on a field goal fake.

There would be no touchdown passes by Drew Brees during the windy Sunday afternoon contest.

Going into the Bills game, the Saints were viewed as an offensive juggernaut that had to be contained by a defensive unit just enough so the opposing offense could put just enough points on the board as time expired. As absurd as this might sound, this was the successful strategy that kept the league’s number one offense out of post-season play as the Black and Gold dropped enough close ones to barely miss out.

Against the Bills, viewers saw what appeared to be a different team out there. When the long pass wasn’t getting it done, the offense shifted gears putting the ball in the hands of running backs Pierre Thomas and Lynell Hamilton, both having their most significant playing time of the season.

Head coach Sean Payton didn’t win by razzle-dazzle plays but keeping the second-half gameplan simple, wearing down the Buffalo defensive line and burning the clock.

What I Liked

The Bookends FINALLY Produce The expensive Will Smith-Charles Grant tandem had their best showing yet this season, combining for 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception. While not performing at their level of play, it was good to see some production out of the defensive ends.

Saints Last Two Number Ones Also Produce Safety Malcolm Jenkins had his second straight special teams play involving a fumble; Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, who doesn’t get much press, barreled through the Buffalo offensive line and picked up a sack.

T.O. Gets 1st 0 Since ’96 The Saints’ secondary steps up shutting down the flamboyant (yet talented) wide receiver, who went without a reception for the first time since he played for the 49’ers.

Sean Payton Play Calling Saints ran for more yards than they picked up in the air. Really Sean, I didn’t think you had it in you.

The P.T. Cruiser Is Back After being supplanted in the hearts and minds of most Saints fans (me being an exception) by Mike Bell, running back Pierre Thomas, sickness, iv and all, had a career day just in the second half of the game. Thomas, who was pegged to be the team’s number one running back prior to sustaining an injury in the Texans pre-season game, reintroduced himself to fans mourning the injury status of Bell. Thomas rushed for 126 yards and scored two touchdowns. Fellow underrated running back Lynell Hamilton rumbled for 24 yards on 5 carries, including a touchdown.

Every time I get to thinking Mickey Loomis was a genius for drafting punting Tom Morestead I remind myself that the Saints general manager was also feverishly looking to trade out future picks for Beanie Wells when the Saints already had a depth of talent in this department at a bargain.

But I digress.

Canadian Bills Fans Friendly folks with accents so thick that there was nooo waaaaaaay they could ever pass themselves off as Americans.

What I Didn’t Like

American Bills Fans 4 PM games bring out the Mr. Hyde in football fans thanks in large part to the vast quantities of beer they knock back London-style before the game. The stadium shuts down alcohol sales after half-time and Ralph Wilson Stadium reminds me of my college days at Tiger Stadium with security checking people for smuggling booze. Bills fans are an intense lot, with many standing right up until the part when they walked out when it was apparent they were not going to win.

The fans there also produce as much trash and litter as a Mardi Gras parade.

I actually felt sorry for one poor soul who had the audacity to sport Chicago Bears gear at the game as a pack of Bills fans cornered him and heaped violent rhetoric in his direction.

I also saw security bursting through crowds on several occasions when altercations broke out across the stadium. While it’s not fair to generalize an entire group due to the actions of a minority, I can say that the Bills had a higher proportion of angry drunks in their stadium than I have seen anywhere else. And yes, that includes Soldier Field.

Of amusement are their cheater chants whenever an opposing team gets penalized. To the credit of the passionate Bills fans, Ralph Wilson is one of the loudest NFL stadiums I have been in.

Ralph Wilson Stadium Perhaps the worst venue in the NFL for a football game. No mass transit. You need to park in someone’s yard (I’m not kidding). Located in the middle of nowhere. Bleacher seats. Narrow concourses. Terrible traffic ingress/egress. It would be considered a lesser college football stadium outside of the Big 10 and SEC.

Two positive marks: good staff and suites on the plaza level, something that could not be done in the Superdome.

Interesting Stat: Though the Saints scored their least about of points against Buffalo, the Black and Gold won by a slightly larger margin against a team that came within a hair (or fumble) of beating the vaunted New England Patriots compared to their rolling of the hapless Detroit Lions. The Saints beat Detroit by 18 and Buffalo by 20.

Interesting Fact: While waiting for traffic to clear in someone’s back yard near Ralph Wilson Stadium, I managed to pick up WWL 870 AM’s post-game show, though there was not shortage of static.

Nuclear Rhetoric: Two words that can counter the most profane screams from the locals: Toronto Bills

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