Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Saints Week Twelve Review: Simply Amazing

In the same stadium where the famous “no mas” fight occurred, the hoodied spymaster of the NFL pulled a “Duran” benching his top operative while there was still time on the clock in what was a finish only the most naïve homer of a Saints fan would have predicted.

Going into the New Orleans Saints’ Monday Night Football match-up with the New England Patriots, I figured the game would have been a track meet along the lines of last season’s Saints-Chargers game in London due to the team’s battered cornerbacks. Instead, the contest resembled the 2006 routing of the Dallas Cowboys.

It’s almost inconceivable to consider that this squad was the same team that barely slipped past the Saint Louis Rams a few weeks ago, yet the Black and Gold, with a pair of just acquired free agent defensive backs helped contain one of the premier teams in the NFL without four of their key starters (running back Reggie Bush, wide receiver Lance Moore and cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter).

Now you know why the boys in Vegas give the Black and Gold good odds to win the Super Bowl.

What I Liked

Payton Twists the Knife Perhaps borrowing a page from New York Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan, the Saints head coach sent out two former Patriots on to the field for the coin toss. Sean Payton called the best game in his tenure in New Orleans.

Drew Dat and Dat and Dat The cornerstone of the franchise had his greatest game as a professional football player having a perfect passer rating of 158.3 against the supermen of the NFL. Brees, throwing like he did last season during his pursuit of Dan Marino’s passing record, completed 18 of 23 passes for 371 yards and five touchdowns.

Brees, in extending his team’s current unbeaten streak and his personal winning streak against the team of the decade.

Welcome Back Predator The Black and Gold Shop needs to go through their old inventory and see if they have any old #34s in the back. One of the highlights of the game for this Saints fan was seeing the return of the veteran’s dreadlocks on to the Superdome turf. Cornerback Mike McKenzie, who had been cut due to his spate of injuries, rejoined the team and appeared to have not missed a beat and had a key pick that shifted the moment to the Saints at a point when the Patriots could have opened up an even bigger lead. Here’s hoping McKenzie stays healthy, continues to contribute this season and is around for the next.

Who Dat? I had trouble figuring out who exactly had caught Brees’s final touchdown pass. Free agent addition tight end Darnell Dinkins, who had spent a good portion of the season injured, made his first reception count in the end zone. Payton had been high on Dinkins, choosing to keep him on the roster while cutting special teams player Courtney Roby. Fortunately the Saints re-signed Roby who had a key kick return tackle that set up McKenzie’s game changing pick.

Jaws Takes Down Another One Though he didn’t take it to the house, free safety Darren Sharper added another football to the future Hall of Famer’s impressive collection of picks snagging number 8 of the season and 62nd of his career. It should be noted that, with 5 games to go, Sharper is on the verge of breaking his personal single season record for picks, which currently stands at 9.

What I Didn’t Like

How can one complain after what will be considered one of the biggest regular season wins in the history of the franchise? A few things.

Obligatory Early Big Run It’s becoming a painful tradition with the Saints defense: start off slow giving up big runs in the first half before finally containing the opposing team’s ground game in the second half. Fortunately Patriot running back Laurence Maroney is no Steven Jackson with his biggest run being for 22 yards. Maroney had two touchdowns on the evening, virtually walking in on his second score.

Just Where Did He Think He Was Going? This is going to hurt a bit, but I got to call out defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. In his return back after injury, Ellis scooped up a fumble deep in Patriots’ territory and unwisely choose to scramble towards the end zone no where fast. The Patriots offense forced the ball out and got their second half drive restarted and went on to score a touchdown. Next time this happens Ellis, just fall down- you don’t have the ball skills nor the speed to do a whole lot with a fumble.

Is It Good? Kicker John Carney did not have a good night barely knocking in the Saints’ first score of the night off the goal post and then missing an attempt later in the game. Was it the NFL’s active all-time leading scorer’s fault or is it a snap and/or hold issue?

Game Ball: cornerback Mike McKenzie

While Brees had an incredible day, the newly re-signed McKenzie seamlessly picked up where the two Saints starting cornerbacks left off, especially as many commentators thought Patriot quarterback would pick apart the Saints’ sub-ins the secondary.

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