You'll have to forgive me for stealing Sheryl Crow's song title as part of the story headline but in this case it is quite apropos. After all, few things are as synonymous with football as a female singer/songwriter approaching her fifties, right? The Saints host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and they'll have an opportunity to go 8-0 for the first time in Saints history. If there was ever a game where I would want the Saints the throw the ball less than 30 times, despite it being what they do best, this game would be it.
Panthers vs Saints coverage
Don't mistake me for saying I want the Saints to change the way they run their offense, or ignore what they do best. The Saints' bread and butter is when Brees runs a play fake and he's looking downfield for his crop of dangerous receivers. What I'm saying is I want the Saints to run the football in this game more than they ever have. That does not equate with don't pass, it equates with pass less and make the passes you do throw hurt more.
Some things to consider when coming up with a gameplan this weekend vs. the Panthers:
1. The Panthers' primary run stopper, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, is on injured reserve and is out for the season.
2. Two other defensive tackles (Louis Leonard and Corvey Irvin) are on injured reserve and out for the season.
3. The Panthers had to resurrect a corpulent 35 year old former Saint with asthma in Hollis Thomas to anchor their run stopping efforts.
4. The Panthers rank #1 in the league against the pass and #24 against the run. The Saints are 4th in the league in rushing (6th in passing).
5. The Saints average 4.5 yards per run, 10th best in the league, and the Panthers yield an average per run of 4.5 (good for 7th worst).
Plain and simple, if the Saints are getting 4.5 a pop per carry and the Panthers are giving up 4.5 per pop - the numbers work out pretty well. That's a first down after two downs of rushing if you're familiar with simple addition. I realize things don't always work out or unfold the way the stats would lead you to believe, but it's still a pretty simple formula. The Panthers can't stop the run and we're very good at it. For the last 3 years the Saints have been labelled as a "finesse team" or "soft", while Panthers football for as long as John Fox has been around has been predicated on running both the football and the clock whilst playing great defense. The beauty of this gameplan is we can give the Panthers a taste of their own medicine and beat them the way they've beat us consistently in recent years.
Oh, and one last thing. I hate Jake Delhomme. There, I said it. I hate that he comes back to Louisiana, hands us our tail, and runs his mouth up and down the sideline being as demonstrative as a buffoon. It's almost like he wants ME to know that he beat the Saints yet again in the Dome (and Tiger Stadium during the Katrina season). In case you didn't know, Jake Delhomme has never lost to the Saints in Louisiana as the QB for the Panthers. Sure, he says it's just another game in the media and seems passive enough... but I see him on the sidelines and I know better. Back when he was in New Orleans, I wanted him subbed in for Aaron Brooks when Brooks was injured. No need to rehash that, but the fact that the previous Saints' regime made an eggregious error and the fact that the current regime is still paying for it makes me sick. It makes me sick more than words can describe. I am sick of losing to Jake Delhomme at home. To be honest, I really don't even care how we do it, just beat Jake Delhomme. And you can believe that if we do, I'll be barking at him from where I'm sitting like a demonstrative buffoon. I'm pretty sure buffoons bark.
So let me ask you guys:
1. Will you be able to forgive me for the Sheryl Crow reference?
2. How effective will the Saints be running the ball against Carolina?