Something's gotta give today. Since Week 11 was in the books, the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost all their games.
One team is going to walk off the Superdome field today with their collective head held high as their three-game losing streak comes to an end. Here's hoping it's the Saints, and here are the four things that I think need to happen for that to happen.
**Since this is our pre-pre-pre-game open thread, as usual, let's discuss our gameday gear, food, beverage, and viewing plans. We can also share our various states of mind - have you thrown in the towel and quit expecting anything? Are you hopeful, but not optimistic? Do you have any clue what to expect from them today? What would you like to see?**
Buccaneers vs Saints coverage
As the old saying goes, ONE GOOD TURN(OVER) DESERVES ANOTHER. After 13 games, the Saints have 19 good turnovers (takeaways) and 23 bad turnovers (giveaways), for a -4 turnover differential, with nine of these bad turnovers coming in the last two games (YIPES!).
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, are much gooder than the Saints at this, and have a +14 turnover differential (24 good turnovers and 10 bad turnovers).
What I'd Like To See: Surely this bad turnover trend can't continue, right? With the Saints coughing it up at a rate of almost two per game on the year, I'm just asking them to stay ahead of the curve and win the turnover differential stat category.
Checkdown # 1
Plenty of folks are ordering and/or mailing gifts to family and friends around the country and world even, so it's only fitting that we need a SPECIAL DELIVERY BY THE SPECIAL TEAMS to swamp the Bucs. A special delivery of decent kickoff coverage, that is.
In last week's game, the Saints kicked off six times, and four of the returns went for more than 46 yards, with one going 97 yards for a touchdown. This has to be taken care of so that I don't have to cover my eyes after every Saints score today.
What I'd Like To See: First of all, Thomas Morstead needs to kick it deep into the end zone (only one of his kicks last week reached the end zone, and it just went two yards past the stripe) and then not have to make any tackles to save touchdowns. The coverage dudes must maintain lane integrity to not give returners anywhere to go, and then make the freaking tackle. It's going to take a yards-per-return average of 30 or less to get this done.
Checkdown # 2
Despite the need to be good citizens and obey traffic laws, I think the Saints need to RUN ALL THE RED LIGHTS IN THE RED ZONE today.
This season, the Saints are scoring touchdowns 68% of the time when they get inside the opponents' 20-yard line, good enough for second in the league. But in the last three games (all losses, by the way) they have hit this at the rate of only 60%, and last week only 50% (turning 1st and 10 at the NY 18- and 15-yard lines into FGs, costing the team 8 points when the game was still theirs to win in the first half). I don't like this trend at all. Not one bit.
To make matters worse, Tampa Bay leads the league in red zone touchdown percentage at 69, and they've hit it at 77% in the last three games.
What I'd Like To See: The Saints get into the red zone four times, and score at least three touchdowns out of it, while the Bucs go one for four.
The worst part of last week's game was seeing a microcosm of the out-of-synch Saints of the 2012 season within those four quarters. When the defense was making stops or getting a takeaway, the offense couldn't seal the deal and either gave the ball away themselves, or stalled in the red zone. Then once the offense got rolling in the second half, the defense was unable to stop the Giants anymore. And special teams? Well, they just stunk on ice while pooping the bed and driving the Saints over a cliff at the same time the whole game. It's time to COME TOGETHER, RIGHT NOW, OVER ME. (no toe jam football)
What I'd Like To See: Some of that complementary, in-synch, clicking Saints team I've come to know and love these last three years. Let's build a two- or three-score lead by scoring on offense (WHAM), holding them on defense (BAM), and then scoring again (THANK YOU, MA'AM) - to absolutely put the Buccaneers away with a WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA'AM, 'and please turn out the lights when you leave' performance.
Remember that time when Malcolm Jenkins ran down Vincent Jackson with a touchdown-saving tackle and then the Saints stopped them on fourth down and then the offense drove it 95 yards for a touchdown? Yeah, that was awesome. More, please.
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What do you think of these Hot Reads? What do you think it'll take for a Saints win today?