Wow, I have to say this was definitely a hard game to watch for me. It came down to overtime and it was extremely tough game. The final score hurt, especially when we had the chance to finish it off in OT and failed miserably at it. This game was very hard to endure, especially when it was a loss to Atlanta, a divisional opponent, so on with the show.
Drew Brees threw 2 INT’s in this game, and both were preventable. Of course, had he not thrown the INT’s, he would have ended up with 4 sacks instead of only 2. The offensive line does not look the same as they did last year, even though the players are still the same, the cohesiveness is not. There are issues with the line that need to be ironed out. Apparently Meachem’s toe injury is slowing him down. He does not seem to get the separation that he did last year. Colston has not been as productive as last year, and Henderson has looked lost at times while on the field. The prolific offense of last year looks to be on life support and out of sync. Something has got to give before the downward spiral continues. We scored more points in this game than the other two so far and it resulted in a loss. The Saints have looked sluggish on offense in the passing game, and the running game looks like it in a coma. Not just in this game, but in all three games so far. I think it starts up front with the line. If they can get back to who they were last year, a unit, a team, a family of linemen, then it will provide the receivers to get that extra separation, give Brees time and provide the push we need in the run game.
The defense is not creating the turnovers that they did a year ago. Sharper is out for another 3 weeks, and Jenkins is not really the instinctive ball hawk that he is. The D-Line gave up 202 rushing yards. Ryan had enough time to sit back in the pocket and get rid of the ball at leisure. I am assuming that someone was assigned to Tony Gonzalez, but I am not sure if they were on the field or not because he had over 100 receiving yards. He is a great TE, don’t get me wrong, but I know that TE’s can be covered by our personnel. The LB’s are missing some kind of spark. They aren’t popping the line as they should, and I don’t see anyone getting into the backfield stopping the run or in the QB’s face forcing errant throws. Where was the coverage and/or pressure on the fourth down conversions?
You know where this is going. Hartley missed a game winning field goal. I think he has gotten lazy and sloppy, or maybe the weight of the SB ring is weighing him down on the left side too much. Whatever it is, he better snap out of it now. Last year is over, and there are no entitlements. His head doesn’t even look to be in the game. Is there a bookie out there that he owes? All three of his misses are easy makes for him, and all of a sudden he is shanking them wide left. He needs to get his head on straight, or at least remove it from the dark hiding spot in which it seems he is keeping it.
Sean Payton did a boneheaded thing. In the middle of an OT Drive, with a first down, line up on the right hash mark, he pulled his QB in favor of the kicker. Yes, he had two INT’s, but he was also nearly 79% complete for the game. How about giving it to your FB a couple of times to try to drive the ball into the middle of the field? Why not give it a try? First down, in the redzone, in OT, lined up on the right hash mark. My understanding of football leads me to the conclusion that lining the ball up in the middle of the field for a field goal is a good thing, and with three tries at your disposal, it is a good chance that Heath Evans could be trusted to get the ball into the middle of the field to line Hartley up for a straighter kick. Also, Gregg Williams runs the risk reward smack talking defense. Right now, the swagger meter is running a little empty because the reward has not trumped the risk as of yet. Giving up 417 yards of offense is a tough pill to swallow, so maybe we should try shutting teams down in the process of going for turnovers. Just a thought.
Lance Moore came alive in this game. 149 yards receiving, on 6 catches, with 2 TD’s, is pretty damned impressive. He is a special talent that definitely deserves a little recognition. Jeremy Shockey had a pretty big day as well. He caught 8 passes for 78 yards and a score. When Brees was in trouble, he seemed to be able to locate Shockey and get him the ball. He is definitely a dependable target.
Malcolm Jenkins came out hammering people in this game. He is laying the wood to anyone and everyone that he can, and I have to admit, for a second year player, he has really impressed me. Vilma has been solid all year and was all over the field in this one. Sedrick Ellis and Will Smith both registered sacks in this game and put pressure on Ryan.
Lance Moore did great on the one return that he had; running the ball back 72 yards and nearly scoring a TD. Courtney Roby had a big return and nearly broke it for a TD. Jimmy Graham’s and Jason Kyle’s awareness and hustle proved to be a key factor on the fumble recovery during the muffed punt by the Falcons.
**Areas of Concern**
The inability to run the ball and sustain lengthy drives is still a major area of concern. We had 43 yards against the Falcons, and Chris Ivory, filling in for an injured Reggie Bush, does not appear to be able to handle the big stage. So far this year Thomas is averaging just over 3 YPC, and that is the best on the team. Thomas took an awkward fall in this game and was out for a few plays but returned. Ivory dropped a 4th down conversion that gave the ball back to Falcons. Without establishing a running game, we are looking at mediocrity. We have got to do something with, not only the running game, but with the offensive line as well. Something is missing up front in our protection that is not allowing our running game to establish and also allowing too much pressure to Brees.
We are having difficulty stopping the run. For the most part of the Falcons’ game, we were able to hold them on the line and stuff the run. We gave up a 32 yard run to Turner and without it, we held the Falcons to 3.4 yards per carry. We are getting an OK push up front, but we are not getting the massive push that we should. We also have been unable to consistently pressure opposing QB’s. The coverage hasn’t kep QB’s hanging onto the ball and the defensive line has not gotten the push that it needs to get in the back field for sacks or huge stops in the running game. Henderson’s “stonehandzitis” is starting to flare up again, and Meachem has yet to arrive on the scene in any of the games so far.
As a whole, things are not as bad as they could be. Special teams showed promise in getting downfield to the ball in each of the games so far. Returns have been pretty decent, and the gunners seem to be on target. This area of the team looks solid even with the absence of Reggie Bush. My biggest concern is what will happen when Bush returns. Sure, Moore looks slower than Bush, and less explosive and flashy, but he has been productive. I say we leave Moore on the punt returns, even when Bush is healthy again.
I know that Payton and Williams are masterminds of the trade, but they have got to start working things out. It seems as if Payton is running the offense in a more conservative fashion, and that Williams is hoping for the big turnovers that just aren’t being produced. The tackling has been sloppy in all three games, and the results have not been what I have hoped.
**Players of the Game**
Is there any doubt? Lance Moore is back and he is back with a vengeance. 149 Yards on 6 carries with two TD’s. He kept this game rolling.
I have to give this to Vilma. 8 solo tackles and 3 assists. He was all over the field and in everyone’s face. I give credit where credit is due, and the entire LB corps needs a little recognition. Jo-Lonn Dunbar had 8 solo tackles with 2 assists, and even Shanle was present and accounted for having 4 solo tackles and 7 assists. They were a busy group all night long.
I would have to say this is a tie – Jimmy Graham and Jason Kyle. Both showed a lot of hustle getting downfield on the muffed punt to recover the ball for the Saints.
Surprise Player of the Game:
Lance Moore. Moore not only came up big in the offense, he also had a huge punt return that set up a TD. He worked double duty and it paid off big. I knew Moore was that good, but since he has been unheard of since 2008 due to injury, he really stood out in this game. Hopefully the rest of the receivers start showing up in the games like Moore did against the Falcons.