When the Saints’ 2017 season schedule came out, my first reaction was similar to Jim Carrey’s pep talk to Jennifer Tilly in the movie Liar Liar. “Hit me again Ike, and this time, put some stank on it!” I mean, what evil computer gave the Saints one home game in the month of September?
First, the Saints had to go on the road on a Monday night against a fierce Vikings defensive line and the best ever single serving version of Sam Bradford. Then, after only five days of rest, the Black and Gold played their only September home game against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Patriots, who basically had a bye week after playing Thursday night 12 days before.
In weeks three and four, the Saints also had road games scheduled. The first was against a tough division rival with a smothering defense that had only allowed two field goals in their two previous games. Then the Saints must travel the farthest distance possible in the NFL to play against the Dolphins in London, England.
If you asked me three weeks ago, I would have said the Saints would be lucky to exit the month of September with two wins. Following the Patriots’ demolition of the Saints in their home opener, many fans believed another 0-4 start was in the cards. So, when the Saints showed out in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers, their effort and execution hit the reset button at the most critical time in their young schedule.
A 2-2 start is absolutely possible now. The Dolphins may be the home team in London, but they have to travel just as far with the same amount of rest as their opponent. And unlike the Dolphins, the Saints are coming off a spirited win against a division rival, while Miami is licking their wounds following a 20-6 thumping by their lowly division rival, the New York Jets.
In fact, the Dolphins may have just suffered their worst loss since Week 6, last year, against the Tennessee Titans. Following that clunker, head coach Adam Gase made some serious personnel moves, which included cutting two starting offensive linemen. When asked if similar changes were coming this week, Gase replied, that’s “possible.”
Quarterback Jay Cutler took several hits and three sacks on his way to a poor showing characterized by hurried, inaccurate throws. If the Saints pass rush can rattle Cutler and shorten his throwing window, that’s a certain recipe for success. But the Saints shouldn’t expect the same iteration of the Dolphin O-line on Sunday.
Gase is apparently super pissed at his team’s most recent effort and appears ready to do something about it. “I’m upset about the way our offense played. I’m tired of watching for two years this garbage…We’ll make the proper adjustments, probably make some changes. We’ll figure out what we’ve got to do and get that thing rolling. I’ve been watching it for two years and it hasn’t worked.”
Another interesting storyline will be how former Saints’ first round pick Stephone Anthony impacts his new team’s defense. Usually I worry about facing former Saints players as they can share intimate knowledge about their former team’s strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies.
But if Anthony was as inept at reading offenses as Sean Payton has alluded to, I’m not too worried about him sliding the Dolphins some covert information from his past three weeks of riding the bench.
The one thing the Dolphins do have going for them, however, is a renewed sense of urgency. If the Saints can match that sense of urgency and avoid the dreaded 1-3 losing record heading into their bye week, the rest of the schedule will get much more manageable going forward.
Let the positive juju flow like Bass Ale and a good pub Tikka Masala. The Saints have put themselves in a good position to right their season. Now they just have to execute.