NFL

Should the Saints and their fans hit the panic button?

12/28/09 in NFL   |   WhoDat12   |   2252 respect

As a lifelong Saints fan, I have seen the epic unbalance of this franchise.  It seems like each season either the team would have a strong offense or a strong defense, but never both at the same time.  Even during the early 1990's, in the days of the "Dome Patrol" Defense, the offense was good but not great.  Even the 2006 Saints, who made the NFC Championship Game, had prolific offense but a bend-as-far-back-as-you-can-without-breaking defense.  The 2009 New Orleans Saints have had the best of both worlds, with the offensive prowess of one Patrick Sean Payton and the defensive prowess of Gregg Williams.  But in the last six weeks or so, the Saints have faltered in either one or the other facet of the game, which has resulted in a lot of close calls, elevated heart rate & blood pressure of the fans, and two consecutive losses in the Louisiana Superdome. But given that the Saints stand at 13-2 and still control their own destiny for home-field advantage (but given the last couple of weeks, they may not even want it since they're 7-0 on the road), should they and/or their fans press the panic button? Here are five reasons why they should and five reasons why they shouldn't.

Why They Should Panic 1) Rush Defense - The Saints have become very average defensively against the run in the last several weeks. Much of that was pointed to the abscence of run-stopping DT Sedrick Ellis. But even since his return, the Saints still have had difficulty stopping the run. To be a contender, you must have a good running game and be able to stop the run. Lately, the Saints have had difficulty doing both, which brings me to...

2) Rushing Offense - At one point during the season, the Saints ranked in the top five in rushing, averaging nearly 150 yards a game on the ground with the three headed monster of Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Reggie Bush.  The Saints haven't been able to get the ground going in the last few weeks, leading to the offense having a 2008 Season state of mind.  Their inability to run the football last season cost them at least three games, due to the fact that they could not close out wins. And when you can't close out wins, they quickly turn into losses.

3) Lack of Depth Defensively - Winning covers up a lot of things, like the fact that the Saints have been decimated by injuries.  They've had injuries on offense (leading receiver from 2008 Lance Moore has been out most of the season), but the injuries really really took their toll on the defense, particularly the back seven.  This causedthem to bring in Chris McAlister, who was out of football, and bring back Mike McKenzie, who was also out of football. At one point, they were without three-fourths of their starting secondary and without their nickel & dime backs.  The schemes of Gregg Williams covered up a lot of that, but schemes can only do so much.  Backup CB Randall Gay has been inconsistent this season, and Malcom Jenkins is constantly out of position.  He was great on special teams early in the year, and his play in recent weeks indicate he should have stayed there.  Injuries in the secondary could be detrimental to the teams playoff run.

4) Play Calling - Payton has been quite creative when it comes to play calling, often thinking outside the box (note Payton starting the game against Tampa Bay off with a reverse).When you're facing a team that is ranked 30th against the rush, there is no logical reason for your quarterback to attempt 35+ passes.

5) Playing for four quarters: They've started fast and finished slow. They've started slow and finished fast. They need to start fast and finish fast. Simple and plain.

Why They Shouldn't Panic
1) Number 9: When he can get the time he needs, Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in football. It's difficult to count a team out as long as this guy can stay upright.

2) Key players are getting healthy: Tracy Porter has returned from injury. Jabari Greer, Jeremy Shockey, and Scott Shanle should be ready for the playoffs.

3) Motivation: Many people are calling the Saints fraudulent contenders. They should be more motivated than ever to answer the bell.

4) Coaching: When Sean Payton is himself, he is one of the best offensive minds in football. Pairing him up with Gregg Williams was an excellent combination.  They have the ability to get the most out of their players and put them in position to succeed. The players have to actually execute, but the table is set for them.

5) Fanbase: I know some may not think it counts for much, but the fans have continued to support this team, even when they did things like draft a kicker 11th overall, or trade their entire draft for one player (the Washington Redskins approve), or trade up in the draft to select a defensive tackle who couldn't tackle (so would that make him a "defensive"?). Even though some of the bandwagon fans have jumped off (some of them I pushed off), the true Who Dat Nation members have continued to support this team this year, even though they've  laid consecutive eggs.  Given all this fanbase has gone through, from natural disasters to front office and coaching disasters, the current Saints don't want to disappoint their fanbase. It may seem silly, but I believe it makes a difference

Conclusion: would hate to see this wonderful start to the regular season translate into playoff failure. I'm not ready to push the panic button, but I am standing near it.  Thoughts?
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12/28/09   |   the_odds_against   |   9 respect

I am a die hard Falcons fan. And these are our rivals and they have beat us (and half the league) fair and square. They have earned my respect as being a very good football team and I hope they earn some respect in the playoffs. After all they have been through....it would be nice to see a team from the NFC south represent on the big stage.

12/28/09   |   kantwistaye   |   4210 respect

MarkTheShark wrote:
Did you write that to get away from the fact that the Pack also lost to the Buccaneers this season...lol...Right now, I would rank the NFC teams this way but TIGHTLY bunched:
1)Green Bay
2)New Orleans
3)Dallas
4)Philly
5)Minnesota

 Ha.. I didn't even think of that. I really don't consider us contenders anyway.  Our bad omen is that its a passing league and we only have one NFL caliber CB right now.

12/28/09   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

kantwistaye wrote:
Another bad omen: They're the Saints.

Yet another bad omen: They lost to the Cowboys in December.

Did you write that to get away from the fact that the Pack also lost to the Buccaneers this season...lol...Right now, I would rank the NFC teams this way but TIGHTLY bunched:
1)Green Bay
2)New Orleans
3)Dallas
4)Philly
5)Minnesota

12/28/09   |   kantwistaye   |   4210 respect

MarkTheShark wrote:
One bad omen: no team that has lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has ever gone onto win the Super Bowl in that same season.
Ever.

Another bad omen: They're the Saints.

Yet another bad omen: They lost to the Cowboys in December.

12/28/09   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

One bad omen: no team that has lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has ever gone onto win the Super Bowl in that same season.
Ever.

12/28/09   |   Sheryl43   |   5 respect

I agree with you. They got to get it together.

12/28/09   |   Captain_Chaos   |   287 respect

I dunno if the panic button needs to be hit yet - lose next week to Carolina (which the way they have played the last 2 weeks scares me), then I would see the panic button. right now I believe all NO fans should be concerned for how we have played - I know I am.
I have faith that we will Rally and make another run to get to the Super Bowl.

12/28/09   |   elevenbravo138again   |   1163 respect

wrote:
They'll be fine... Until second round of the playoffs!

Correct!

12/28/09   |   Debi_L   |   11781 respect

Certainy not ready to write them off!! Hey, I am first and foremost a Redskins fan, but as I've said before, I will not cheer for the Cowboys or the Steelers EVER.  I became a "fan of sorts" after Hurricane Katrina, watching them claw their way back into contention, and now that they've made this far, I'm with them all the way.  And no, I'm not a bandwagon jumper, it's just been great to see an "other than" team do so well this year. 

BTW, Great article George.

12/28/09   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

The Saints have one critcal crack in their armor: run defense. They need to start rallying to the ball EVERY down. The Saints CAN run the ball if they choose too, kinda hard when #9 is at your disposal. I'm not ready to write the Saints off completely. However, they certainly are not the run away favorite of the NFC either.

12/28/09   |   kantwistaye   |   4210 respect

 That Saints fanbase is one thing I will never question.  I'm always amazed at how loud that Super Dome gets when the Saints give the fans a reason to cheer.