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Breaking It Down: Saints @ Bengals - The First Half

We've got a lot to get to this morning so let's not waste any time. Below is the first half play by play analysis for your digestion.

I believe he dropped this one.(Getty Images)

Saints Offense First Drive

  • After an average return to the 20 yard line by Skyler Green, the Saints take over. First play is from the I formation and its a play action fake. Nobody picks up the rusher from the right side at the line and Karney has too far to go to get to him in time. Drew makes a sweet sidestep to avoid getting rocked by Robert Geathers (yes, that is Jumpy Geathers nephew) then Brett Favre's it to Karney. Eight yards out of what should have been a costly sack.
  • Brees to Colston's ridiculously long outstretched arms. First down.
  • Brees has plenty o' time to hit Billy Miller over the middle. Protection is great.
  • Bush tries between the tackles and it looks like he has a tiny hole to squeeze through but he gets tripped up while doing it.
  • Another Brees to Colston hookup over the middle for 15 yards. He also had Deuce to check down to.
  • Drew blows a sure touchdown to Patten when he overthrows him in the endzone. Looks like they were supposed to meet in the corner but Drew makes the bad throw.
  • Brees and Colston connect yet again on a a quick curl but the defender is all over Marques, gets a hand on it and the ball falls out of his hands. No catch.
  • On third and 10 the throw is to Colston...again. Drew threads the needle between two defenders and Colston catches then drops it after taking a shot. I believe this was the play in which Colston is injured.
  • Saints settle for a Gramatica field goal.

Review: For the most part the offense looks sharp. This could have easily been 7 points instead of 3. Drew will certainly work out those kinks with his receivers by week one. Colston looks very uncharacteristic with two drops that are normally sure catches for him. It's going to be a long season if Colston starts imitating Devery and comes down with his very own case of the drops. Personally, I wish the Saints wouldn't put Colston in dangerous situations, like going over the middle, during meaningless pre-season games.


Saints Defense First Drive

  • Evidence that this defense plans on turning things around are seen on their first play from scrimmage. Cincinnati starts on their own 31 and kicks things off with an end around to the left side as Tracy Porter breaks free of his blocker and gets a hand on the ball enough to jar it loose. The Bengals recover but its a great sign for the rookie and this unit.
  • The Bengals try running up the middle but there's nothing there. Clancy and Grant on the tackle.
  • After a false start penalty its third and 16. Palmer has good protection and decides to go deep. McKenzie makes a diving leap and appears to make the amazing interception but couldn't trap it as it winds up hitting the turf. It doesn't matter though because Who Dat Nation now knows that MM is here to stay and everything appears okay.
  • Bengals punt away. They have no idea this will be their theme of the night.

Review: Hopefully, in the near future, we will all look back on this one drive and say, "That was the drive that turned it all around." The two positive aspects were the excellent play of rookie Tracy Porter and the healthy return of Mike McKenzie. This unit had not one but two chances to force a turnover. Thank you sir, may I have another.


His big catch.(Al Behrman, AP)

Saints Offense Second Drive

  • Saints take over at their 35. Deuce tries the left side but only gains a yard.
  • After Meachem is called for a false start, his number is called and Brees hits him deep on a 54 yard pass. Meachem needs to come back to the ball and makes the necessary adjustments.
  • From the 15 yard line now and Deuce catches a screen pass for 7 yards.
  • Only a yard for Deuce on the next play.
  • On third and 1, two tight end set. They give the ball to Stecker who looks like he is shot out of a cannon, gets tripped up and tries to stumble over the goal line but he's a yard short. He does get the first down.
  • Next play and there are three TE's out there, Campbell, Miller and Ghent. It's a play fake and a toss to the back of the endzone to an open Ghent.

Review: Saints are just making it look easy. This offense continues to be a well oiled machine. Meachem has the play of the drive with his 54 yard catch. This is a great sign that he is for real and that first pre-season game was not just random luck. Ghent probably won't even make the team so with the eventual addition of Shockey, this team should be even more potent in the red zone.


Saints Defense Second Drive

  • Bengals begin at their 24 yard line and start with a run to the left side. Kendrick Clancy brings him down from behind.
  • Bengals then try the middle and its, guess who, Clancy with the stop.
  • Third down now and the Saints are in Nickel. Bengals have four WR's on the line. Shanle has to pick up the fourth receiver , Utecht, in the slot as Palmer makes a nice throw and finds the TE over the middle. Shanle immediately takes him down.
  • First down now and its a quick swing pass in the flat. Fujita does a great job containing and the Bengals only get 3 yards.
  • Clancy notches another tackle when the Bengals try to run up the middle.
  • Third down and Palmer is working out of the shotgun. Saints bring the blitz, Shanle is the extra man and he shoots right through the middle of the line untouched. Carson barely gets a throw off to no one. More punting.

Review: Another pretty solid looking drive for the defense. Kendrick Clancy was all over the field on this one. He's made this team, no doubt, and he is also a huge help in stopping the run game. Some pretty good play from our linebackers as well. Fujita and Shanle both stepped it up. One of the more important things to note is who I am not talking about, and that is our secondary. Nobody getting burned or caught out of position and on the one complete pass this drive, Shanle was the man in coverage. Much of that improvement is due to good pressure by the front seven. It certainly helps the guys behind them.


Saints Offense Third Drive

  • Reggie Bush returns Cincinnati's punt for 14 yards and appears to hurt himself on the play.
  • From their 23 yard line on first down and Patten catches a seven yard pass on a crossing route.
  • Reggie heads to the left side, cuts it back up the middle and finds only two yards.
  • Stecker gets the call for the dirty work on 3rd and 1 and gains five as he shoots up the middle with lightning quick speed again.
  • Deuce tries the middle on first down and only gets 2 yards.
  • After Brees and Miller can't connect on a ball thrown slightly behind Miller, Brees tries the left side and finds Henderson for 11 yards and the first down. It would be Henderson's only catch. End of the first quarter.
  • More of Deuce up the middle for only 2 yards. Stecker follows that with only a yard.
  • The play stalls after a short pass to Patten fails to get the first down.

Review: This was where the offense started to look poor. Deuce, Reggie and Stecker both had little to work with as the O-line just can't seem to open up holes for them like other teams do. If this continues, it may not matter who the running back is as victory will have to come through the air. I hope Drew's arm can handle it one more year. Right now, Stecker is the most impressive back on the field and he looks so darn quick.


Saints Defense Third Drive

  • Bengals start from their own 14 yard line. Palmer throws a quick swing pass to Antonio Chatman on the left side. Shanle isn't quick enough to contain him but Porter makes a nice tackle by releasing from his blocker and wrapping up Chatman's legs. 9 yards.
  • Pretty much the same play as last only it's to Utecht and to the right side. Pretty much the same result too, as Shanle isn't fast enough to get to him (even farther this time) and McKenzie must leave his man to make the tackle. 11 yards.
  •  Now it's a blitz from the Saints and Kaesviharn runs into the backfield untouched on the left side. Palmer tried to escape but KK catches him from behind. Sack.
  • Palmer dumps it over the middle to Chris Perry for 6 yards.
  • 3rd and 10 for the Bengals and the Saints bring more pressure. Vilma, the late man, breaks through the line and is right in Palmer's face as he barely gets the pass off. Perry is the intended receiver but Roman Harper, with great coverage, is all over. Guess who has to punt.

Review: Some good and some bad on this drive. Once again, the dink and dunk short stuff hurt us in the beginning and their fast receivers were able to take advantage of our not so fast linebackers. Those are the plays that are gaining significant yardage and doing the most damage. Hopefully, opposing coaches do not read this blog. I think it is safe to assume they don't. The defense picks it up however with some good pressure and the Bengals are stalled yet again. This defense is looking fairly impressive.


Saints Offense Fourth Drive

  • Saints take over from their 30. A defensive holding call later and they start from their 36.
  • It's a nice 38 yard pass to a wide open, sure handed Devery Henderson but Jammal Brown is called for holding and it's like the catch never happened.
  • Saints try and start one more time on 1st and 20. Stecker takes the hand off and tries the right side. Still nothing for him to run through. In fairness, the Bengals linebackers did a great job reading the play and zeroing in. Keith Rivers looked very nice on this play taking down Stecker.
  • Brees gets the pass off just in time as the pressure was on and he gets taken down. It's a great throw down the right sideline for Lance Moore. Moore is blanketed but still manages to make the grab. Love this guy. Credit is due both to Lance and Drew.
  • Drew tries the right side again, this time to David Patten. More pressure as Drew has to hurry and Rivers nearly sacks him. Patten is well covered and the pass is not great.
  • Only one yard gained by Stecker on a screen pass to the right side.
  • Saints can't convert on third down as Brees tries for a well covered Billy Miller. It was Johnson, a linebacker, on Miller so the matchup was in the Saints favor but Miller can't come back to the ball in time. Saints punt.

Review: Another stalled drive for the Saints high powered offense. The Bengals stepped up their defensive play on this series and looked pretty good applying pressure. Saints fans got a good look at Keith Rivers who could have very well been the Saints first round draft pick this year and he looks pretty darn good.


Saints Defense Fourth Drive

  • Bengals from their 12 yards line. Chris Perry has nowhere to go up the middle as Clancy makes yet another big stop for the run defense.
  • Next it's Palmer trying the right sideline Holt but McKenzie is right there in great coverage and times his hit perfectly. Holt can't bring it in.
  • Third down now and the line applies some good pressure as Palmer dumps it off over the middle to Perry in wide open space in the flat. Fortunately, Shanle does a great job closing in and the play only goes for 5 yards on what could have been much more. Punt.

Review:  Three and out. Can't beat that. Clancy looked good. McKenzie looked good. Shanle looked good. Period. Still really worried about the short yardage passing over the top and the YAC, but if our linebackers can close in like Shanle did, then we should be okay.



Saints Offense Fifth Drive

  • Saints have it at their 40 and start off with a Brees pass to Lance Moore down the left sideline for 35 yards. Moore has to stretch and reach to make the grab. I honestly think Henderson doesn't make that catch. The announcer again agrees with me by saying, "He just catches everything it seems thrown his way."
  • Deuce tries the right side but only gains one yard. No holes.
  • Brees tries Patten but there is a communication error as Patten turns inside and Brees throws outside. The ball is almost intercepted.
  • Third down now and Brees looks for Henderson right on the goal line. You know what happens. Granted the Bengals had some pretty good coverage, but when he has the ball in his arms and against his chest, he should come down with them.
  • Payton decides to go for it on fourth down needing nine yards. Much like the very first play of the game from scrimmage, Drew shows some great footwork and eludes a untouched blitzer, making him miss, as he shovels it off to Moore for a yard. While it wasn't the needed nine yards, Brees' athleticism stopped it from becoming -9 yards.

Review: This is the third drive in a row that the Saints offense has not looked up to snuff. The running game is still non-existent, Henderson is doing his usual ball dropping and I don't know what was going on with Brees and Patten but they just couldn't seem to get on the same page. The only consistent person on these last couple of drives has been Lance Moore.


Saints Defense Fifth Drive

  • Great pressure from the line on the Bengals first play from the 23 yard line as Antwan Lake gets himself a sack for -8 yards.
  • More good pressure as Shanle comes in off the left side and almost reaches Palmer in time. Instead he gets the short dump pass off to Utecht as Vilma and Porter, who are right there, look very weak in tackling and can't grab him. The play goes for 10 yards.
  • It's 3rd and 8 (it's always 3rd and 8!!!) and Chatman runs an out right on the right sideline. This is the same play we saw the Texans carve Jason David up with last week. This time it's Randall Gay doing a poor job in coverage and the Bengals gain 19 yards for the first down. Ugh! These are the most frustrating.
  • Perry tries the middle and is met by a flying Roman Harper in the hole. Nice hit.
  • Palmer tries deep down the field as Shanle, again, runs into the backfield untouched and almost gets to him. Porter is on the coverage, and unbelievably, draws the offensive pass interference call. Nice coverage.
  • 2nd and 17 now and Palmer throws it underneath on another dump off to Chris Perry that gains eight yards.
  • Palmer throws over the middle for Jerome Simpson but Aaron Glenn is right there for the immediate tackle and only 6 yards. Bengals...punt.

Review: Shanle looks hungry in this game. Twice this drive he was in the backfield quickly, forcing the quick pass and nearly coming away with sacks. Aaron Glenn also looked reliable again. I do hate to see those 3rd and longs get converted, especially when it's our secondary to blame, but they were very few and far between in this half so it's fair to say there is definite improvement. More short underneath passes that turn into significant yardage. Not the best series for the defense but they again manage to force the punt.


Stecker deserves more touches. (Getty Images)

Saints Offense Sixth Drive

  • Saints are deep in their own zone on their eleven yard line. Brees' night is over as Brunell comes in with under two minutes remaining in the half. His first play he takes a sack for -6.
  • Stecker runs twice in a row, both for 7 yards. Three and out.

Review: Well this drive wasn't great at all. Stecker, however, looks so darn good. Again, he is so quick and his feet are always churning. It does look like he has some larger holes to run through than Deuce and Reggie before him, but not by much. Stecker's talent and hard running style are probably equally the reason he is breaking off bigger chunks of yardage.


Saints Defense Sixth Drive

  • Not much time left in the half as the Bengals take over from their 36 yard line. The first play is a short pass underneath to Utecht. Vilma is there but Utecht makes a quick cut inside to get past him. Vilma slaps his hands in frustration.
  • After a spike by Palmer to stop the clock, the Saints bring the pressure on 2nd and 10. Kaesviharn, again untouched, shoots into the backfield from the right side. It is McCray coming in later who puts the finishing shot on Palmer. This was the hit that caused the infamous bloody nose.
  • False start on the Bengals.
  • On third down, Perry gets eight yards on the right side. Not enough for the first as the Saints call timeout and the Bengals are forced to punt one final time this half. The crowd boos as the Bengals walk off the field.

Review: If you have a tight end playing against the Saints this season in fantasy football, make sure he starts. Tight ends have looked pretty good against our defense these last two games. On the positive side, I don't know whether the Saints defensive players just played harder or Gibbs decided to get a little more exotic with the blitzing schemes, but the pressure tonight was vastly improved and it was from all angles.

That does it for the first half. All in all, as stated earlier, I think we have to be happy with this performance. There were some bad plays on both sides of the ball, but that is to be expected every single game. The larger picture is what's important and on Saturday night, the larger picture was a much improved defense. There was a little bending but absolutely no breaking.

Let's hear what you guys think!