Losers of three straight..
Their once potent offense has only scored 44 points the last three weeks after averaging nearly 40 a game..
The defense gave up over 100 yards rushing again this weekend..
No team that has lost their last three games of the season has made it to the Super Bowl.
Sounds like trouble in Who Dat nation? Or is it?
Saints Coach Sean Payton has gotten a lot of criticism the last few days after deciding to rest key players against Carolina this weekend. Sure, it was a lackluster performance for the most part..It’s not the way you want to be entering the playoffs, especially as the number one seed.
Most of the starters spent the second half watching the game on the bench. Drew Brees’ only time on the field was for the pre-game coin toss. Jeremy Shockey, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sharper, and Dave Thomas also sat out this weekend while recovering from injuries. Of course, all these guys are key contributors to the Saints’ success. And of course, you want your best players healthy heading into your first playoff game.
Any coach will tell you that time to rest and recover is good for your injured players, especially if it’s in the middle of the season. The Saints came away with a victory Sunday with no major injuries occurring during the game. Imagine the uproar if the Saints lost Marques Colston or Robert Meachem for the playoffs, like New England lost Wes Welker. The Saints played hard all season and earned the opportunity to rest their players for a playoff run.
The return of several key players allows the Saints to go back to what they do best. On defense, Gregg Williams had to alter his defense in order to make up for key injured players. For example, S Darren Sharper was dependent to be more of a cover safety with the injuries to CBs Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter. Before the injuries, Sharper had more space and leeway to be a ball hawk..to read and dissect the defense and then decide how to attack the play or maybe take a risk and intercept the ball, which is what Sharper does best.
Jabari Greer’s shutdown capabilities allowed Sharper this freedom as well. Greer consistently shut down some of the best receivers one on one in the league during the first half of the season before his injury. Having a corner like that frees up an extra player to blitz in the Saints rush happy defense. A healthy Sedrick Ellis, Bobby McCray, Jonathan Vilma, and Scott Fujita adding to the pass rush will only make the Saints that much more dangerous on defense.
The offense will benefit from a healthy Jeremy Shockey and Dave Thomas. Both tight ends present match up problems for opposing defenses. Both players are exceptional receivers who can also block just as well in the running or passing game. In the last few weeks, OT Jermon Bushrod has been exposed as the weak link on the Saints offensive line, especially without a Shockey to help him out in protection.
The Saints will need healthy tight ends to slow down the 3-4 defense featured in most NFC playoff teams. Having Pierre Thomas and the running game back to full health will be key for breaking down a 3-4 attack. The Saints averaged the fifth best rushing yards per carry (4.5) in the league during the regular season and need to continue that effort in the playoffs.
Expect the Saints to use the next couple of weeks to get back to the fundamentals..blocking, footwork, and tackling. The Saints have not been as crisp lately in all three area as they had been at the start of the season. This next couple of weeks of practice will have a training camp feel to them.
Remember Saints camp this preseason..Drew Brees and Gregg Williams staring each other down after every play, the high intensity on both sides of the ball, guys competing for playing time, and the focus on improving as an individual for the good of the team. Maybe a week of practicing for themselves is what the Saints need to find that fire and intensity the started the season with. And a wrinkle or two in the offensive or defensive scheme wouldn’t hurt either.
The Saints are no longer the favorites to win the NFC, according to the “experts” who follow the league. But maybe that’s where the Saints want to be..the underdog. They played some of their best football of the season in the underdog role. How many experts gave the Saints a chance against the Giants or the Patriots? The Saints responded with two of their best games of the season. The Saints are a group of stragglers and castaways from other teams who would like nothing more to prove they are worthy of being the best in the NFL. Sean Payton will have this group of veterans on alert and motivated for the playoffs.
Three straight losses..
All that is out the door come playoff time. The Saints will be rested, healthy and ready for their first playoff game in a couple of weeks.
Buckle up your chin strap! It’s gonna be a fun playoff ride.