Reggie Bush = entire Saints running game.
Oh no, no, no. That's not what I think. Don't get me wrong. I'm not crazy.
That's what Sean Payton thinks. He's crazy. How else would you explain what he said after the Saints were crushed at the hands of the Panthers.
Payton said the Saints became "one-dimensional" after Bush left the game, which the Panthers won 30-7.
Forgive me if I'm wrong but don't we have Deuce McAllister on this team as well? I understand that Reggie factors greatly into the offensive game plan. The screen passes, the pitch outs and the short passes over the middle. Even when he doesn't have the ball he's a threat. But without him the Saints are still left with a proven, veteran back who still has something left in the tank on top of their already incredible aerial attack; all the makings of a normal, balanced offense.
Of course being down by a lot late in the game will cause a team to become one dimensional. But what's the excuse for the very first series of the second half? Why force three straight passes and go 3 and out when your team is only down by 6? That is certainly not panic time. Deuce ran the ball four times for 22 yards and an average of 5.5 ypc in the first half of the game. In fact, the Saints averaged 5.2 yards per carry for the entire game, their best running performance of the year. Even the offensive line was doing a better job run blocking. Why wouldn't you attempt to run the ball?
When key wide receivers like Colston, Shockey and Patten all missed significant time this season did Payton let it affect his play calling? Absolutely not. Backup receivers were given opportunities and stepped up as the Saints just keep on trucking with its usual gameplan just with new faces. But when injury takes out Reggie Bush for the second half the game and the entire rushing attack is shut down until further notice as the team plays out the remaining game forcing passes that haven't been there all day. There is no confidence. No seamless transition. Only abandonment. What are we to take from all of this? Is it safe to assume that Payton doesn't have confidence in any of our other running backs?
It's even more frustrating because we have been in this situation before. Last year we spent all season struggling with the running game until we realized Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas could fill in successfully and a consistent ground attack could actually helps win games. The problem was solved and an effective model was created. Have we not learned from the past? One can only hope. The Saints are actually in a better position this year than last what with the presence of Deuce. We can only pray that this is a blessing in disguise; that Deuce McAllister, Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker show Payton what a running game is supposed to look like. We should all be worried however. Until we actually see Payton embrace the teams running game, don't be surprised if Payton's stubbornness gets in the way and delays that realization. It might not happen as quickly as we all know it should.
The truth is that Payton is right: this team is one-dimensional. But this offense didn't get that way only after losing Reggie or losing this game. It has always been one-dimensional since week one and it's because of Payton. Not for lack of talent. One-dimensional not for a lack of effort but a lack of opportunity. It's the reason why the Saints haven't had a 100-yard rushing effort by any of it's running backs this season. They simply aren't even given the chance. Yesterday was just the result of what happens to a one-dimensional team when that dimension gets completely shut down. What I did see today was this teams continued lack of commitment to a running game on the day of its best performance of the season.
Coaches are not infallible. We certainly learned that a little over a week ago after Jim Haslett's confession about Jake Delhomme and Aaron Brooks. NFL head coaches are human like you and I and they are certainly capable of making incorrect decisions on crucial matters. What's done is done of course and it's too late to change Haslett's decision but I fear that the Saints are currently suffering from yet another coaches adamant and hardheaded stubbornness. If it doesn't end quickly I am afraid it will continue to be a waste of the teams resources and time.