Week 13 of the 2011 NFL season has now come and gone, and now the time has come to review my Hot Reads from the game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.
If you're ready, make the jump with me to see how it played out...
Lions vs Saints coverage
Lions vs Saints box score
Primary Option: Protect Brees
What I'd Like To See: Keep Brees clean (minimal contact and no sacks) and give him the time and the space to find his guys and move the ball right down the field to many TDs.
I'd have to say they did pretty well. Drew Brees was hit four times and sacked twice for - 4 yards. I'd even argue that one of his sacks was not the line's fault, but due to Brees not taking to the open space out in front of him and running for a short first down. Brees seemed, for the most part, to have a nice pocket and clear throwing lanes. It wasn't as good a performance as the last three sack-less games, but it was definitely good enough for the win, or "FTW!!" as you youngsters type on your texter machines...
Checkdown # 1: Commit to the Run
What I'd Like To See: Use the run consistently throughout the game to good effect - gain those tough short yards on second and third down when you need them, pitch it to Darren Sproles on the edge on first down now and again, run the draw to beat the rushing ends of Detroit, be able to get some good yards on first down on the ground at times, and just leave the Lions really guessing as to whether you'll be throwing or passing. If that adds up to 30+ carries and 200 or more yards, SWEET!, but I don't think that is necessarily required.
The running game was a mixed bag of good/bad performance and an overall lack of attempts. The Saints ran 23 times for 100 yards and a TD, but only four first downs. That breaks down to a first half of 11 carries for 56 and the score, and a second of 12 carries for 44 yards.
Mark Ingram made 16 of the rushes for 54 yards and an early 14-yard TD, while Darren Sproles got four carries, and Pierre Thomas only 2, with the other going to Robert Meachem.
The Saints' first play of the game (Ingram for 13) and of the second half were both runs, as well as the Saints final offensive play of the game. The Saints ran it twice in a row early to successfully turn a 2nd and 3 into a 1st and 10, and then Ingram's TD run came on a 2nd down and 2 play. We all saw the failed 4th and 1 at the end of the game, and then earlier they ran for no gain on 2nd and 4.
Some good, some bad, but they cracked the 100-yard mark, and scored the first TD on the ground, so I'll call it, FTW!!!
Checkdown # 2: Ground the Aerial Aces
What I'd Like To See: The Saints defense hold Johnson and Pettigrew to around 100 yards and a TD between them.
They did even better than I requested: Calvin Johnson (6 catches for 69 yards) and Brandon Pettigrew (2 for 13 yards plus one stupid unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting a ref!) were quite grounded, and the supporting cast had some good and bad plays, but they weren't really even close to doing enough to beat the Saints.
Nate Burleson's 5 catches for 93 yards were tainted by his three offensive pass interference and one unnecessary roughness penalties. Titus Young had 2 receptions for 60 yards and an 11-yard rush, but also an unnecessary roughness and an illegal formation penalty. TE Tony Sheffler snagged two balls for 41 yards. Maurice Morris ran 12 times for 28 yards and had 5 receptions for 47 yards and a TD. Kevin Smith ran 6 times for 34 yards and a TD, and had 6 catches for 46 yards to go with his holding penalty. Keiland Williams (LSU!! LSU!! LSU!!) added 3 touches for 21 yards.
Check and mate - Hot Read achieved, FTW, of course!!
Safety Valve: Take It Away
What I'd Like To See: Get multiple INTs or sack/fumbles off Stafford early and turn them into points that put the Saints out in front quickly. Then the inexperienced Stafford will try to make something happen and it will snowball into more takeways or three and outs for the Saints defense as they increase the lead.
The Saints defense still has much work to do in regard to becoming actual "Pass-Catching M-Fers" (Malcolm Jenkins and Jonathan Vilma, I'm looking right at your stone hands), but on this night, Tracy Porter recorded the lone takeaway of the game with a 4th Quarter interception of Matthew Stafford as the Saints inch ever-closer to an overall positive takeaway/giveaway differential.
So, even though they did not quite get the multiple takeaways I requested, they get credit for getting the one and only in the game, and I get credited FTW with calling another achieved Hot Read.
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This time, the four achieved Hot Reads added up to a 14-point win in the national spotlight, carrying the Saints to a 9-3 record heading into the final turn of the season. Here's to more good Hot Reading in the next four games and beyond!!