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The First Pass

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You must be this tall to roll with Santa.
Let me start with the painfully obvious, yet vague cliche: The better team won. That seems pretty clear after the fact, but it bears noting after a game that was billed as a yardstick (or measuring stick) game. And this is the inherent danger of measurement: that one finds themself short. In the end, it was the Colts' defense who exceeded the benchmark, and who deserve the lion's share of the praise. Wherever there is -- methinks it's a metaphysical place, a level of play that allows a team to defeat a champion in hostile territory -- the Saints aren't there. The Colts ... are there. But this isn't a blog for Indianapolis Colts fans.

Thus we begin:

  • I will preface this by saying that there's plenty of blame to go around. There are 53 guys and several coaches who feel pretty rotten today. I'm sure.
  • The offense really struggled as a unit, but the most notable struggles were Jammal Brown and Reggie Bush. Brown was no match for Dwight Freeney's speed rush. In my unofficial game chart, I counted seven plays in which Freeney pressured Drew Brees into throwing early, and I stopped keeping track at some point in the third quarter. There wasn't going to be any throwing downfield, not with Freeney in the backfield on every play. Part of this is just Freeney's unique ability to explode off the line, part was Brown just having a bad day. I'm also willing to give Brown the benefit of the doubt and say that his balky knee, his lack of in-game preparation and a noisy RCA Dome contributed to his troubles. Jammal's got ten days to heal up, and to prepare for rookie pass rusher Gaines Adams, who, while raw, is another athletic freak.
  • Reggie struggled. The dropped third-down pass at the Colts' 16 was a killer. It killed a drive, it killed momentum. The Saints were effectively marching down the field, poised to take the lead, and Bush's third-down drop forced them to settle for a field goal. After that drop, the Saints didn't move the ball effectively until late in the third-quarter, when the team trailed by 14 (which isn't Reggie's fault, not all of it). Drops happen. If they become a pattern, they become a problem. Until then, we move on. More worrisome was Reggie's inability to play under control. Reggie looked like the Reggie of early 2006, when he continually failed to set up his blockers. He fell into some bad habits yesterday, and it limited him on a couple of plays, particularly on a couple of third-downs, a screen pass and a run, when the team gained the objective, but missed an opportunity to gain much more.
  • The receiving corps looked non-existent. Indy's no-name defense shut them down. I don't know if it was the product of injury or scheming, but Colston and Henderson were barely factors.
  • The defense failed to stop the run, but since they were playing their two-deep shell for much of the night, they were conceding some gains. The Colts ran their vaunted stretch play seven-times for 37 yards, which is about what one would expect.
  • If the defense is staying back to stop the run, however, they better stop the pass. Jason David is the story, probably rightfully so, but he wasn't helped by the lack of pressure applied to Manning. Will Smith had inklings of pressure, but nothing consistent, not like Freeney. They never shared the field, but in a matchup of weakside pass rushers, theirs whupped ours.

Everyone I just mentioned is a star player.

The Saints are on a path to there, but their stars must light the way. They didn't last night.

Ugh.