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Saints 23 @ Jaguars 10: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Lots of details to cover in the Saints 23-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday. I'm just going to skip the introduction today and get straight into my post-game bullet points. Make the jump for the best and worst from yesterday's action.   

The Good

  • The Saints running game was the best we've seen so far this season. Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles combined for 166 total rushing yards and an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Of course some credit has to be given to the offensive line, who were opening up nice running lanes for each of the backs. Would have been nice to see the rushing attack utilized even more, just a little bit.    
  • I'm not sure there's anything more I can say that hasn't already been said about both Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. They have taken over this offense and become its two most critical components. Gotta love these two guys.  
  • I tweeted it during the game and I will mention it again here for emphasis: Jabari Greer is arguably the teams defensive MVP through the first quarter of the season. For the second week in a row Greer was responsible for some key pass breakups and also should/could have had an interception.
  • In more good news for the Saints secondary, Patrick Robinson looked much improved. Robinson nabbed the first interception of his young career which also happened to be the Saints only turnover of the game. He just needs a little work on what to do with the ball after he picks it off. Prior to that, he took down a runner in the backfield for a loss of yardage with a good read and nice tackle. Definitely still hope for the 2010 first round pick.
  • Also need to give props to fullback Jed Collins who scored the first touchdown of his career. Congrats!
  • Great to have Will Smith back from suspension. He was the most effective defensive lineman against the Jaguars, notching two sacks.
  • On the whole the tackling looked better and much more sound. 
  • Time of Possession was dominated by the Saints yesterday 37:05 to 22:55.
  • The Saints managed to escape yesterday's game with no serious injuries. 
  • Fortunately, Blaine Gabbert is an inexperienced quarterback and was unable to capitalize on any defensive mistakes by the Saints. On 3rd and 2 in the 4th quarter, Gabbert has a receiver getting way too much cushion. A quick pass to that receiver will assuredly pick up the first down but Gabbert never even looks in his direction and forces a pass into coverage on the right side instead. Not sure whether to include this as good or bad for the Saints, however, because another opponent with a more experienced quarterback would probably expose this defensive blunder. 

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The Bad

  • What the hell are the Saints going to do if they need a long, 50+ yard field goal late in the game to tie or win? John Kasay is pretty money with the short stuff but anything deep really makes me nervous. 
  • You know I've been a Scott Shanle defender for quite some time but this game definitely makes my job more difficult. Certainly not his finest hour. On a first half 3rd and 20 play he got burned in coverage then grabbed a handful of facemask on the receiver in an attempt to stop the first down for an additional 15 yards. On another 3rd down play later in the game, Shanle was called for a holding penalty after the defense makes the stop and forces 4th down. Instead it's an automatic first down and the Jaguars continue their drive.  
  • Yet again the playcalling by Sean Payton late in the game is a little suspect. I understand the Saints have established their identity as a pass-first team but why call three straight pass plays when you're in the red zone, have a ten point lead and there are only 2:30 minutes remaining? Just eat some clock! Instead the Saints were forced to attempt the field goal, which they subsequently missed, and gave the back to the Jaguars with more than 2:00 minutes left on the clock. In case you're wondering, the Saints final run/pass ratio yesterday was 42%/58%.
  • Like the Houston Texans last week, the Saints were weak in the red zone, going 2/5 and settling for field goals instead of touchdowns.
  • Blaine Gabbert wasn't the only one missing open receivers for potential first down pickups. Check out Drew Brees on 3rd down take a sack after not finding an open receiver instead of hitting a wide open Darren Sproles with plenty of room to run to the first down marker. Saints wound up settling for a field goal on this series.

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The Ugly

  • The turf at EverBank Field was painted incorrectly on one half, with the directional arrows pointed toward midfield, not the nearest end zone. Check out the stupidity.
  • I don't think Michael Vick should be the only one complaining about no-calls on late hits, because Drew Brees seems to get his fair share. Yet another week when it seems the referees fail to protect the Saints quarterback and miss an obvious late hit penalty. Brees was already down on his knees behind the line of scrimmage late in the fourth quarter, but a Jaguar defender comes flying in head first while Drew is trying to stand up. Commentator Chad Pennington thought perhaps the defender didn't hear the whistle and didn't think Brees was called down but even if that were the case, he would need only to touch him, not fly head first toward him.  
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