Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Week 10 Review: Saints Are 9 and Oh Hell...

The New Orleans Saints have set a new franchise record, starting the 2009 season with a 9-0 start and have equaled the longest consecutive winning streak in team history, as the Black and Gold has won nine straight during the 1987 season and through the 1990-1991 seasons.
Whether they set a new record will largely be determined by adjustments that need to be made in order to more effectively stop opposing teams’ running game and the ability of their battered secondary to heal quickly.
As alluded in the preview to this game, a streaking Saints squad faced a spiraling Saint Louis Rams team in 2007 with disappointing results. The difference this time is that the Saints managed to barely escape what in no way could have been considered a “trap game”.
The Rams, to their credit, anticipated much of the Saints’ offensive moves, exploited the Saints’ weak defense against the run and took advantage of a once dominant, now depleted Saints secondary. The Rams also managed to win the time of possession war and went into the second half tied with the undefeated Saints, something equally shocking to fans both donning black and gold and blue and gold in attendance at Edward Jones Dome.
Even the historic victory guaranteeing the Saints a winning season and keeping pace with the primary playoff home-field threat Minnesota Vikings cannot put a happy face on matters. The stadium was as quiet as a mausoleum for most of the game with the crowd not coming alive until the last few minutes of the game. With the stands far off from the field, the Saints offense should have had an easy time communicating.

What I Liked

Not a Whole Hell of a Lot The Saints played one of THE worst teams in the NFL and the game went down to the last pass. The winning team can largely thank the losing team’s quarterback for bad clock-management in the waning seconds of the game. Had there been another thirty seconds or if the Rams had two time-outs, the results would have sent visiting Saints fans somberly walking out of the Edward Jones Dome to a funeral dirge.

The Underrated Get It Done It was a case of the black and gold “goats” beating the Rams on Sunday afternoon, with the wide-receiver nobody wanted picked in the first round of the 2007 draft , a sub-in tight end, the running back everyone wants to see traded and the kick return who was cut, though later resigned, coming through for the Saints.

Wide receiver Robert Meachem had a great 27-yard touchdown reception and 41 yards rushing. Meachem, who has amassed 71 yards rushing the ball this season, seems to be the player most skilled at executed those hated Sean Payton “trick-a-dickory” plays.

Running back Reggie Bush had the finest game of his season with two touchdowns, one on the ground and the other a reception and averaged 5.6 yards per carry AFTER you take out his impressive 55 yard dash. Kick returner Courtney Roby took the opening kick-off of the second half 97 yards for a touchdown, avenging his stumble in Miami.

Tight end David Thomas hauled in five passes for 45 yards, eclipsing starter Jeremy Shockey, who was covered as if he were the president, by three yards.

And finally back-up safety Usama Young, filling in for an injured Darren Sharper, picked off a pass deep in Saints territory. Had Young not also accidentally injured fellow team-mate Tracy Porter on a play, many fans might have forgiven that handicapped parking ticket after this game.

Saint Louis Hospitality Maybe it’s the humility kicking-in during a rough season or perhaps they’re just nice people, but Rams fans should be considered as some of the nicest in the league. Furthermore, the operators of the facility gave the Saints the courtesy of announcing their starters prior to the game in addition to other minor though noticed kindnesses.

Carolina Beats Atlanta The Saints now have a 4.5 lead over the Dirty Birds for the NFC South and the loss will hopefully drive down the price of tickets for when the Saints squad visits the ATL in December. The black and gold could potentially wrap up the division in two weeks.

O-Line Has a Solid Game Quarterback Drew Brees had more time to throw against the Rams than he has had in the previous few games. Though Brees’s numbers were not outstanding, the quarterback had the protection to make key plays.

$10 Parking under the Saint Louis Arch Hard not to remember where you parked your car, only a few blocks away from the Edward Jones Dome and a relatively low price.

What I Didn’t Like

Jekyll and Hyde Defense Running back Steven Jackson amassed 100 yards in the first half alone. In the second half, the Jackson was held to 31. Whether due to Jackson’s exhaustion or changes in the Saints defense, the Rams’ running game ground to a halt after half-time. Some solace could be found in that Jackson ran for even more yards against the Indianapolis Colts defense in week 7.

Conservative Play Calling I would have never thought such a condemnation would ever come from me regarding a Sean Payton team but when it came apparent that the Saints were not having much luck running up the middle against the Rams, Brees should have taken his chances throwing the ball more. While incompletions can stop the clock, a first down would’ve ended the game with the Saints’ offense kneeling the ball instead of their defense trying to swat away deep shots to the end zone. Maybe the two picks made Payton and Brees gun-shy about passing the ball towards the end of the game, though the futility of running up the middle against the Rams’ line made turning over the ball via punt or downs (as was the case) more of a likelihood.

Ain’t Going Nowhere Fast Saints running backs Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Which begs the question, why Payton didn’t greater utilize Bush against a clearly winded Rams defense?

Marques’s Worst Game/Best Play Wide receiver Marques Colston had two catches for 17 yards and the end zone fumble that resulted in a touchback that gave the Rams new life. Colston’s play of the game was catching the Rams’ onside kick with less than three minutes left.

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