Well, it's that time of the week again. Time to crank up the ole abacus, scratch paper, and various stat sheets to see how I did with my Hot Reads.
Wait, that's what I did last night. All you have to do is make the jump to read on...you're welcome.
Primary Option: Protect Brees
What I'd like to see: The Panthers don't really have a fierce pass rush, and two players - Charles Johnson (4) and Greg Hardy (2) - have accounted for all their sacks thus far. So, the front five plus helpers need to neutralize them and give Brees a pressure-free day that keeps his jersey so clean it doesn't even have to be laundered after the game.
Drew Brees suffered two QB hits, and two sacks (Or do I have this all wrong and the two QB hits actually were the two sacks? Does anyone know how that works? I ran the football stats crew in college, but we didn't do tackles.). Correct me if I'm wrong, but Brees never seemed to get flustered by the pressure, and even late in the game, when it was crunch time on that final drive, he was as calm and collected as I've ever seen him. Plus, his final stat line (32 of 45, 359 yards, 2 Tds, 1 INT, 100.1 rating) does not reflect that of a rattled quarterback.
Here's something else. I keep griping each week about two sacks per game being too many, but you know what I just realized? Heck, if he's going to drop back 45 times a game, maybe two sacks per game isn't all that bad. I still want him to be hit less, but maybe it needs to be brought into perspective by a sacks per pass attempts comparison since 2006.
Great idea, Hans. Why don't you just do it?
OK, I will. (stats from ESPN.com)
11 sacks in 5 games = 2.2 sacks per game
11 sacks in 219 pass attempts = a sack every 19.9 pass attempts
25 sacks in 16 games = 1.6 sacks per game
25 sacks in 658 pass attempts = a sack every 26.3 pass attempts
20 sacks in 16 games = 1.3 sacks per game
20 sacks in 514 pass attempts = a sack every 25.7 pass attempts
13 sacks in 16 games = .8 sacks per game
13 sacks in 635 pass attempts = a sack every 48.8 pass attempts
16 sacks in 16 games = 1 sack per game
16 sacks in 652 pass attempts = a sack every 40.75 pass attempts
18 sacks in 16 games = 1.1 sacks per game
18 sacks in 554 pass attempts = a sack every 30.8 attempts
Well, that clinches it. I'm now officially worried. He's being sacked more often this year than he has in any of his years with the Saints. They need to turn this around, STAT!!
The only saving grace here is that it seems that Brees is holding up well under the pressure, but I fear that the older he gets, the less this will be the case.
Checkdown #1: Turn Newton Into A Newt
What I'd like to see: I don't care whether it's the result of rookie inexperience, or a great defensive scheme implemented very skillfully on the field, but I want to see bad reads, hanging on to the ball too long, poor decisions, interceptions, fumbles, and the like from Cam Newton. Bringing him down to Earth in amphibian style, so he doesn't even know whether he's playing on land or in the water would contribute much to a victory.
Cam had a decent game - not great, but not bad (16 of 31, 224 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 83.3 rating). He was only hit twice and sacked once. Cam also had 7 rushes for 27 yards and a TD.
That's pretty good for a rookie, and definitely better than fellow rookie signal-caller Blaine Gabbert fared against the Saints in Week 4.
He made some mistakes (especially that game-opening INT), but he played well enough to have them in a position to put the game into overtime, but just couldn't do it. Whether this will improve with experience remains to be seen. I fear he is going to keep getting better, and won't always make mistakes like he did Sunday, and it'll either take more offense or better defense to stop him.
Checkdown #2: Going Toe-To-Toe with Mare
What I'd like to see: A graceful Kasay perfectly performing his duties in calm, workman-like fashion as the Saints score many first-half touchdowns, while Mare struggles mightily to keep up with many FG attempts.
Well, I got the many FGs vs. lots of XPs exactly opposite of how it went down in the game. Olindo Mare had only XPs and John Kasay had all the FGs.
But Mare (0 of 0 FGs, 3 of 4 XPs) did perform worse than Kasay (3 of 3 FGs, 3 of 3 XPs), and it made a bit of a difference in the game. At the end, because of the blocked XP, Carolina was playing for a game-tying field goal, when they could have been playing for the game-winning FG.
So the battle of the kickers was won by New Orleans.
Safety Valve: What Will Happen On Third Down?
What I'd like to see: The Saints defense keep the Panthers in third and long situations so that even mad scrambles or decent runs aren't good enough to get the first downs.
The Saints did not keep the Panters in third and longs all day (GAAA!), and didn't even hold them to their average third down conversion percentage (32), but allowed them nearly twice that for the game (7 of 12 for 58%) - double GAAAA! Three of the successful conversions involved runs by Newton or Jonathan Stewart, so I was kinda right that stopping the runs on third down was crucial, as without them, drives would have ended and the score would have been totally different.
Don't even get me started on those third down conversions by penalty...
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Now it's your turn to audit my audit of the Hot Reads. Did I miss any aspect of the game in my analysis? Did I go too far in my assessments? Not far enough?