Tonight the New Orleans Saints take on the San Diego Chargers in Week 5's Sunday night prime time spotlight, and the lightning bolts on the San Diego uniforms won't be the only electricity crackling in the atmosphere at game time.
Johnny Unitas's 52-year old consecutive games with a passing touchdown record is on Drew Brees's chopping block (they currently sit tied at 47 games). Sean Payton, Joe Vitt, and Mickey Loomis have been "ungrounded" by Papa Goodell and may be in attendance at the Dome. Saints RB Darren Sproles is facing his former team for the first time in an opposing uniform, as is Chargers WR Robert Meachem. The Saints need a win to avoid their first 0-5 start since Jim Mora's final (and partial) season with the team in 1996 that eventually finished 3-13. (In unrequested trivia, did you know that 1996 was actually the second straight year the team "jumped out" to an 0-5 start? No wonder Mora had all that diddly-poo coming out of his mouth later in the season right before he quit.)
In a contrastingly positive historical/trivia reference, I'd like to point out here that the last time the Saints opened a season 0-4, in their fifth game (btw, it was a Sunday night tilt with the Seattle Seahawks), they won 28-17, establishing a 21-0 lead that was kick-started when Pierre Thomas picked up the loose ball during an aborted punt attempt (and I swear, that's the exact wording used in the official play-by-play chart from espn.com - citation) by the Seahawks and ran it into the end zone.
So, while no one knows exactly what's going to happen tonight, I know four things that I think the Saints will need to do to come away with a win against the Chargers. Check in with the previews again, if you wish, and then let's get right to them.
** As usual, in this pre-pre-pre-game Open Thread, let us know how you're spending the day leading up to the night's festivities. What are you wearing, what are you cooking/eating/drinking, how will you stay sane in the waiting? **
Even though he was sacked twice last week, the o-line did a much better job of PROTECTING DREW BREES than they had in previous games, and Drew's stat line reflected it with over 400 yards passing, three touchdowns, and especially in the area of 0 interceptions.
What I'd Like To See: Much more of the same. I'm going to continue to ask them to up their game and allow Brees enough time and comfort to go sackless and interceptionless, FTW!!!
Checkdown # 1
Much has been discussed about Brees's pursuit of Unitas's record (see above for the latest), and one thing Sean Payton was good at when he was in charge was keeping these kinds of things in perspective while focusing on the main goal: WINNING (see almost the entire last four games of 2011). Simply put, the Saints coaches and players all need to help Brees BREAK THE RECORD WITHOUT THE RECORD BREAKING HIM.
What I'd Like To See: The record broken early in the first quarter, and in the natural flow of the game (preferably as they cruise to a big first half lead), before it can become more of a distraction than it already is, and end up negatively impacting the game.
Checkdown # 2
An incredibly frustrating trend this season has been the high number of dropped passes the Saints have suffered thus far. Dropped passes are tough on any offense, but when you are an offense like the 2012 New Orleans Saints offense, which cannot consistently run the ball, it is downright fatal. Off the top of my head, I can point to two of them that really hurt the team - the most recent being Sprolesy's third down drop late in the Packers game as the Saints were driving for the winning score, and the other being either Jimmy Graham's or Lance Moore's consecutive goal-line drops against the Panters.
ESPN Stats and Information credits the team with 12 dropped passes, which has them tied for the lead league with the Dallas Cowboys. This is at a rate of three per game, and it has got to stop, and in honor of Fire Safety Month, I'm saying the Saints must STOP THE DROPS AND ROLL.
What I'd Like To See: Working from on average of three drops per game, I'm thinking they just need to do a little better here for a win, so I won't wildly ask for the cold turkey treatment, but allow them just one drop in this game, and that's it.
New Orleans is famous for some sweet blues, but another kind of blues has arisen this year, one that is not so sweet. A blues that is in dire need of medical treatment, in fact, so I'm calling for the Saints to CURE THEIR SECOND QUARTER SCORING BLUES.
A breakdown of the team's points scored vs. points allowed by quarter revealed an interesting pattern. In aggregate, the Saints have outscored their opponents in every quarter but the second...
2012 Points Scored
And it's not a small difference, either. It's 21 freaking points, as opposed to the single digit margins in all the others. ZOINKS, Scooby!! What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on in those second quarters???? I dunno, but I know it needs to change.
What I'd Like To See: The Saints outscoring the Chargers by at least 10 points in the second quarter. A shutout by the D would be nice, but I'll take it any way it comes...17-10, 21-3, 14-4, etc.
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This is going to be the week of the win, folks. Drew Brees will win the record as the Saints go on to win the game, and we'll finally get to enjoy post-game highlights, I can feel it.
What do you think of the Hot Reads?
What do you think of my gold-tinted graph, bitches?
How about that classic Mora video clip?
I'm just going to go ahead and say that I nailed it this week on all counts, and the Review on Wednesday will reveal a perfect score with a sweetly 1-4 Saints team. (Oh cripes, is that really what it's come to in 2012? Yes, it is.)