What's up Who Dats! I'm filling in for JR this week in the 5 Big Things series - wish me luck! The New Orleans Saints faced the Detroit Lions in the Mercedes-Benz SuperDome on Monday. With little more than pride on the line, the Saints fell behind early and played catch-up all night. The Lions ran the ball and passed with little resistance from a defense that continues to look confused on near every play. Here are some thoughts from Monday night...
1) Drew Brees is a wizard, but his sorcery is fading
There was a time in recent history when no matter the deficit, Saints fans felt confident that Brees could lead the team to victory. The confidence was so high that in 2012, even without Head Coach Sean Payton, many felt that the team would overcome the odds and succeed. Even in failure, Brees put up big numbers and gave hope week after week. 2013 marked a return to good Saints football, led by the Breesus himself. Then the bottom fell out! No matter what Brees has done to try to will the team to win, without a decent defense, it just wasn't enough and the team fell to the bottom of the division. Fast forward to Monday night, I can say with confidence that down when the Saints went down 14-3, you we all knew there would be no comeback. Brees was unable to manufacture enough offense to get over the inept play of a young and woeful defense. His magic just wasn't enough and the Saints fell short again. It's time to face the music that Brees needs a decent defense to help him succeed.
2) Brandon Browner made history on Monday Night
With a commanding lead over all other defenders in the league, Browner needed just one penalty to become the most penalized player in NFL history. With eight minutes remaining in the first quarter, Browner launched himself at wide receiver Calvin Johnson and drew a personal foul penalty, his 23rd flag this season. Browner further extended his lead in the second quarter with his 24th penalty of the year. Browner has solidified his inclusion on the list of worst free agent acquisitions in league history. Besides playing enough snaps to 'earn' the bonuses in his contract, Browner has hurt the hurt the team week after week. With two games left on the schedule, Browner will can put the record out of reach and add another Saints entry into the record books in the 'stats you don't want for your team' category.
3) The Defense is Still Bad
In three of the last four years, no matter the coordinator, the Saints have fielded bad defenses. The unit allowed 341 yards passing and 3 TDs with no interceptions from Matthew Stafford. They were also gashed for 148 yards combined from Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah to go along with 2 TDs. Watching the defense give up easy pass completions hurt to the core. It makes you take a long look at the personnel and think that either the young players will eventually get it or maybe the scheme in place is just horrible and confusing. There were wide receivers running free on nearly every play. This might be easier to digest if there appeared to be a commitment to the run, but that was not the case, the RBs were running free as well. We can all take solace in the fact that there are only two more weeks in the season and maybe next year the team will acquire better players to mix in with the young guns.
4) Playing for Pride and Jobs?
Coming into the game, already eliminated from the playoff picture, you would assume the Saints would be playing for pride jobs next season. But watching the poor display of football gave me the feeling that neither of these things mattered to the Black & Gold. Some of the first year and rookie players seemed to still hustle and try hard, but the veteran, complacent players were just going through the motions. Some might note the effort in the second half to make the score a bit closer, but it should also be noted that the Lions had pulled of the gas by then. The outcome was hardly in doubt! With no post season on the line, there are still jobs at stake and it appeared to me that some of the players didn't care. Secure in their wage and contracts, some guys just went through the motions. This makes me worry about the next two weeks...what will we see from this team going forward?
5) Brandin Cooks Had a Very Good Game
Cooks produced his best performance of the season and his career with 10 catches for 124 yards and a TD. He is now just 7 yards shy of 1,000 yards on the season sitting at 74 catches for 993 yards and 8 TDs. Cooks hasn't exactly been what Saints fans expected from the former Biletnikoff Award winner, but he is a good WR. His solid production has been over-shadowed by the surprising success of Willie Snead, but it should not be overlooked that Cooks is a very good pass-catcher. On Monday night, he got open and made some good grabs and had a good night. After playing only 10 games in 2014, Cooks has shown that he is a valuable asset in 2015 and has room to be a go-to guy as the team moves forward. The future is bright but we must be patient with Cooks and celebrate his career night against the Lions!