Sloppy Saints Have A Lot Of Cleaning Up To Do
By Greg Barber
The New Orleans Saints' 16-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a very exciting game but much too hard on the hearts of fans for each team. Saints fans nearly dropped dead from stress and there are probably 60,000 Buccaneers fans who needed resuscitation after their team's near upset.
The Tampa Bay defense played tough and stout against the Saints, but there is still the lingering feeling that quite a few points were left out on the field. While some of New Orleans' failures can be attributed to the opposing defense, other missed opportunities resulted from sketchy play calling.
Starting with the first possession for the Saints on offense, the drive started off pretty well until they got inside the 20 yard line, where the drive fell apart when QB Drew Brees was sacked. On that play, OG Ben Grubbs pulled to the right in an attempt to fake a running play and C Brian de la Puente was supposed to block Bucs DT Gerald McCoy. Instead, de la Puente missed the block and McCoy had Brees for lunch. After the sack, Brees overthrew RB Darren Sproles on a screen play, and the offense had to settle for a field goal.
The first sack on Brees was both a terrible blocking scheme and the wrong call against that defense. As a matter of fact, all four of the sacks on Brees were just blown assignments by the offensive line as opposed to coverage sacks. The sacks were without a doubt drive killers and were instrumental in preventing the Saints from putting more points on the board, but the goal line failure before halftime could have sealed the game right then and there.
There was nothing wrong with Saints coach Sean Payton going for the touchdown on fourth down with the offense so close to the goal line. These four plays are prime examples of the sketchy play calling which made this game closer than it should have been.
Starting with the first play, a play action pass, only two receivers were out in a pattern and both were blanketed by defenders. Brees had no choice but to throw the pass away, which was a wasted down. TE Benjamin Watson was put in motion to help sell the run play instead of being another receiving option for Brees. The extra receiver would have helped the other receivers possibly get open.
The second play was a pitiful attempt at a run by RB Mark Ingram. There were a few things wrong with this run. Ingram carried the ball in his right hand instead of his left, which eliminated the ability to use a stiff arm to get past safety Dashon Goldson. He also could have stretched the play out instead of dancing around. If Ingram is going to try to go through the defender, common sense should have told him to get low and drive the defender back instead of letting the defender stand him up and push him back.
The third play was a run by RB Pierre Thomas, which was stopped short of the goal line. I had no problem with Thomas' run other than the fact that the offensive line just did not block well enough for him to score.
As I said earlier, I had no problem with Payton going for the touchdown instead of the sure field goal - my problem was his choice to go with Ingram to complete the task. After the last time Ingram ran the ball, there is no way in the world he would be on the field much less counted on to score if I were calling the plays. That was a terrible coaching decision on Payton's part because the play would have worked had he used Thomas instead.
Problems with the running game stem from lack of execution and sketchy play calling. Also, it is time to put the Ingram experiment on the back burner. I am not saying to trade him right away - that is, unless someone is in desperate need of a running back. Earlier this summer, I predicted that Mark Ingram would run for 1,000 yards - at this point, I am not sure if he will make it 1,000 feet. Whatever the disconnect is between Ingram and this offense, the time has come to bring it to an end and focus on putting people on the field who can work within themselves and the offense.