Originally I was going to title this one “Perfect Ten” but as the Times Picayune ran that headline before I got this column out, I figured it would be more appropriate to develop a different pun for a headline.
It would have been fitting though as the Black and Gold returned to the dominating form after struggling (relatively speaking of course) since their road trip to Miami. After a first half that was starting to resemble the Saint Louis and Carolina quagmire-like contests, the Saints snapped out of it, made Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback Josh Freeman look like a rookie for the first time after his previous impressive starts (once again, a relative assessment) and ran roughshod over the Bucs on both sides of the ball.
What was more impressive is that the Saints did so with some of their marquee starters ( CBs Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer, DT Sedrick Ellis and RB Reggie Bush) inactive.
With the Buccaneer season having ended long before the Saints arrived, the Black and Gold used the opportunity to expand their division lead over the Atlanta Falcons while maintaining the one game advantage with the Minnesota Vikings for homefield advantage in the playoffs and to rest some of their banged up players before the team’s biggest test this season when they face the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football.
What I Liked
Sean Payton’s Conservative Play-Calling Returning to the very field where the once pass-obsessed Saints head coach had his revelation in the midst of torrential downpour, Payton’s balanced offense put up points and controlled the tempo of the game.
Brees Finds Colston Saints quarterback Drew Brees reconnected with wide receiver Marques Colston after the team’s star receiver had an off-game in Saint Louis. Colston had five receptions for 74 yards.
Welcome Back Comrade Fujita Saints linebacker and Cal Berkley product Scott Fujita had a big impact in his second game back from injury. Fujita had 5 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove.
Special Teams Steps Up Of Thomas Morstead’s four punts, two were inside the Buccaneer 20 yard line with one being downed on the one yard line. Three Morestead kick-offs were touchbacks, limiting Tampa Bay’s one strong point.
Second-String Second-Line Continues to Gobble Passes Even with both starting cornerbacks out the Saints rookie cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and backup safety Chris Reis snagged picks.
Saints O-Line Gives Up NO Sacks Self-explanatory.
Meachem Haters Have a Bad Day Saints number one pick in the 2007 draft had two touchdown receptions.
No Breakout Runs This Week Unlike the Saints’ past four opponents, the Buccaneers ground game didn’t rack up big yards. Tampa Bay’s leading rusher that day, running back Cadillac Williams, ran for a total of 32 yards with his longest being 6 yards. Saints allowed 119 rushing yards on the day, far less than what Saint Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson accumulated on his own the week before.
What I Didn’t Like
Rookie Errors It was disappointing to see such poor time management and wasteful challenges made by Buccaneer coach Raheem Morris. Sure it hurt the opponents, but after suffering through the LSU-Ole Miss game, poor coaching bothers me in general. While it’s understandable for Morris to be desperate considering his opponent and the way the season has unfolded for Tampa Bay, such mistakes are inexcusable on this level and a possible omen that Morris is not the man to get the job done in Tampa. Blame immaturity though Morris, who is two years younger than me, can’t afford to make similar mistakes in the future.
Sticks and Stones- 15 Yards The penalty called on Saints running back Mike Bell for unsportsmanlike conduct after an impressive run seems ridiculous for talking smack to a Buccaneer defender. How far off are we from the day that all people who play this sport need to become eunuchs to avoid BS penalties. They must have had the SEC ref squad calling this game.
42’s Nonchalant Fair Catch With Bush and wide receiver Lance Moore out, the Saints put in three different returners. While none of the three did much, free safety Darren Sharper’s sloppy almost over the should fair catch could have resulted in a fumble deep in Saints territory.
Maybe I’m wrong on this one especially since I would be lucky to get through the first rung of the Coca-Cola Cash Catch, but from what I saw, Sharper did not properly field the ball during his one time up as punt returner.