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Could the Saints Have Bigger Issues Than the Kicker?

To put it mildly, the New Orleans Saints offense is treading in unfamiliar territory. Currently they rank 6th in passing with an average of 237.3 yards per game and are uncharacteristically 14th in total offense with 331.0 yards per game. Still, perhaps the most shocking statistic to date is their 32nd ranking in rushing offense with a meager 57.3 yards per game. That’s right, Saints fans–the Saints are ranked dead last in the league in rushing heading into week 4!

Now, I know a lot of folks are up in arms about the situation with the young kicker, Garrett Hartley, and rightfully so. A team should be able to count on its kicker to make a 29-yard field goal. But I think an even bigger concern is why Coach Sean Payton really felt like he had to go for the win on first down. Drew Brees was masterfully driving the team down the field in their first possession of overtime against the Falcons, so there was absolutely no conceivable reason why they couldn’t have scored a touchdown. Could Payton have actually been that concerned about a turnover or a sack? Or even more importantly, has he lost faith in the ability of his offense to get into the endzone, even just a little?

I’ve pondered this until my head hurts. None of us can deny that there is something amiss with the once-potent Saints offense. The run game has been virtually nonexistent, with the exception of the second half of the season opener against Minnesota where Pierre Thomas ran with a bit of success. But since then, almost nothing. And with the defense not being able to score like it did last season, suddenly the offense looks–well, ordinary. As a result, the deficiencies at kicker have been exposed because the once high-flying offense hasn’t  yet even taken flight in 2010.

With all that said, I’ll tell you what I see. With the running game having been literally stifled, the passing game can’t get on track for some reason. In each of the three games thus far, the offense has looked absolutely brilliant toward the end of the game, leaving me to wonder, where the heck does that spark lie in the first three quarters? Now I know some of you don’t want to hear this, but our offense has looked flat and lethargic more often this season than it has looked dynamic and fresh.

So, what’s the real problem? Hartley’s woes are but a piece of the mystery. Some unenthusiastic enthusiasts are blaming the defense. Well, the defense is playing the way it always has. 22nd in the league in total defense, it’s still getting carved up on the ground (145.0 yards per game), although the passing defense is a bit better at 15th (217.3 yards per game). Still, in games like the one against Atlanta where the defense didn’t generate any turnovers, I wonder if whether the offense will be able to compensate with its current level of play.

Still, I’m no doubting Harriet. I know that the Saints can play better than they have been. How their season turns out depends on how soon they wake up and start playing some football. I can tell you, a couple of these teams they’ve faced so far think that they’ve laid out the blueprint by which to beat the Saints. They think that by controlling the clock to keep Brees and his offense off the field and shutting down the Saints running game, they can run our defense into distraction with their power runners. Sure, that’s a great gameplan, but it’s not foolproof as we saw on Sunday; the Saints had a legitimate chance to win that game. But the Saints offense has got to make the best of the time that it has on the field. It needs touchdowns rather than iffy field-goal attempts. And the offensive line has to do a better job at springing those holes for Thomas, Ivory, and Betts. And most importantly, the receivers should work harder to get open and then catch the ball when it’s thrown their way.  This is nothing new to them, so they need to start playing like it.

Drew Brees set the perfect example when he didn’t blame Hartley for the loss on Sunday. He was right to one degree–there were other factors that contributed, or at least could have prevented, the loss. As fans, we must stand behind them win or lose and not whine about it when things don’t go the way we would have liked. My hat goes off to the Atlanta Falcons who came into the Superdome and played a very good game down to the wire. They did what they had to do to win.

But as we look forward to Sunday and beyond, I hope that Coach Payton and his staff can pull some things together. The offense is more than capable of being just as explosive in the first three quarters as in the waning minutes of a game. And the defense has been known to make adjustments to answer any offensive gameplan.  It’s imperative at this stage that the coaches realize that the Saints cannot take the field with a business-as-usual mindset.  They’re going to have to be more creative, more alert, and more physical than ever before; they need to fix this ASAP or it’s going to be open season.  If that means tucking their tails between their legs and admitting that they let some of the wrong players go and try to make amends for it, then so be it.  Something is missing and I know they see it too if the fans do.  That brings me to this.

Some of my readers have complained that other Saints fans were wrong to be dissatisfied with the two narrow victories, adding that maybe the loss will make them appreciate the wins more. While I’m not defending anyone who doesn’t appreciate the hard-fought victories, I do understand their discontent.   It all reminds me of when I took Physical Science in middle school.  We’d taken a test on which I’d made a C.  Of course I was so happy because that class was harder to me than any class I’d ever taken in my life.  I was just glad I’d passed.  But my teacher had drawn a sad face on my paper.  In all of my excitement, I almost didn’t notice it.  When I went to her and asked her why she’d drawn a sad face on my paper when I’d passed her test, she looked at me sternly and said, “Because I know you can do better.”

So that’s the way we feel about the Saints.  We’re happy they’re winning right now, but we know they can do better.  That’s what we expect from them because that’s the level of play they’ve gotten us accustomed to.  And right now, they’re not playing like the champions we know they are.  Sure, we’re behind them 100 percent whether they win, lose, or draw.  We’d just like to know that they’ve put forth their best effort in doing so.

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2 Responses to “Could the Saints Have Bigger Issues Than the Kicker?”

  1. Marylyn says:

    I watched the game I recorded to DVR last night, in fact, I kept rewinding certain things. I went on to watching the last two before it. Forwarding through and rewinding.
    I did notice a pattern. I LOVE the Saints. That won’t change, but I have felt that we may be suffering just a tad from Superbowl hangerover or SOMETHING? I know the fame is there and it’s awesome, but can we be naiive enough to believe they are NOT as human as we? That it may not, even if just a little serve as a distraction to the game? The book signings, all the commercials and appearances, the cartoons, and the list goes on and on…….I love all this, but in the end, they’re human.
    Some are young fellas, such as Hartley that have been transformed into Heroes. Professional, Of course he is. However that does not negate the fact that in our eyes he’s still a young man. He’s capable of mistakes, but when it comes to being the Superbowl defending champs, you’re held to a higher standard.
    I’ve also seen another game, not ours, where they were tied and went for it. IT WAS a Turnover that lost them the game.
    Don’t we all also remember the 49ers game. That wasn’t a comfortable win. In fact, the were right at the end zone and got STOPPED, no score when they needed it. Are we not to believe that Payton did not think about all that as well. It seems safer to do the kick, of course you have to have a pretty reliable kicker when it determines the game.
    We can’t just blame him though, Drew threw two turn-overs. I don’t even blame Drew and i’ll tell ya why….I was studying the line. The Falcons defense were pressuring Drew. The line wasn’t doing a great job on that flick throw that was intercepted. Why is Brees being better protected? I’m SMH too. I don’t see it being our defense, but our Offense is what I see the problem is.

  2. I agree with you. The one thing we don’t want is to go into premature panic mode because the season is young. But the issues on offense are glaring right now. Like one reader said, everybody from the coaches to the waterboy should be on notice. I guarantee you that every team on our schedule thinks they have the perfect recipe to beat the Saints. Our coaches on offense and defense have to go back to the drawing board and come up with something new. Thank you for your comment. You’ve made some valid and thought-provoking thoughts.

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