The hours following the Saints 30-24 loss have been somber in Who Dat Nation. Some fans are even referring to this postgame period as “mournful” and to themselves as “mourners”. Even though the Saints aren’t technically in any worse shape today than they were at the start of games yesterday (thanks to losses by NY Giants and Tampa Bay), many don’t feel like celebrating or looking on the bright side.
Fingers are being pointed, as certainly there’s plenty of blame to go around for the disappointing loss. But I’ve noticed that a lot of that blame is displaced. You wouldn’t believe the fans who want to put all of this at the feet of Reggie Bush. Come on, people! Let’s be real. Bush couldn’t have done any more to affect the outcome of that game than you or I could have. In fact, if Bush, Thomas, and Jones had been utilized more, I do believe the outcome would’ve been very different.
For whatever reason, Coach Payton decided that it would be best to have Drew Brees drop back to pass down, after down, after down. Did no one pay attention to the tough, positive yardage Pierre Thomas picked up the few times he was allowed to touch the ball? Some blame the absence of Ivory for the decision to vacate the run, but Thomas was getting it done. Even the drive that eventually led to the tying touchdown, Payton used a mix of screens and passes to move the ball, making the attempt look almost effortless. Up until that game yesterday, the Saints had been very good in 3rd down conversions. But the three-and-outs ruled the day against the Ravens. Why? Because there was no offensive balance. In the majority of games where the Saints have not even tried to run the ball, they’ve come up short. It wasn’t as though every time they tried to run it, they were stuffed. The run simply wasn’t even given a chance to see if things could take off.
Don’t get me wrong; Baltimore’s defense played extremely well, while New Orleans’ struggled mightily. But even with all the Saints’ defensive shortcomings, they still kept the Ravens out of the endzone on their last three scoring drives. While their inability to even slow Ray Rice down hurt the Saints’ chances of winning their seventh straight, it was not their undoing. To the defense’s credit, they kept the game from becoming a blowout and gave their offense a chance to win it. And they didn’t get it done.
In spite of it all, the Saints are still very much in the playoff hunt, even though they have virtually no chance of winning the division. They are still a very good football team. But unless all of the offensive weapons are used to their full potential, the Saints will continue to be at a disadvantage. The thing about the run game is that it takes pressure off the quarterback and allows some things to open up vertically. Not every rush is going to result in positive yardage just as every productive drive won’t end in a touchdown. But, when defenses have to respect the run, the passing game gets a boost. And with all the talented receivers the Saints have, that gives them the upper hand every time.
If I could offer any advice, I’d preach balance, balance, balance. We have some excellent backs on the roster; let’s use them in every way possible. If rushing from scrimmage is a no go, try the screen to Thomas because he’s the best at it. Toss to Reggie Bush out in space because he’s likely the fastest guy on the field. And you still have the luxury of handing off to Ivory and Jones who’ve both proven that they can run hard. As for the defense, it is what it is. There aren’t many surprises there for me because they’ve been middle of the pack against the run all season long. And though it might not seem like it, they’ve really stiffened up when it counted.
To the fans I say, stop loathing certain players. They are all apart of a great team. They win as a team, they lose as a team. And it doesn’t help when we start singling out players when things don’t go the way we want them to. Believe me, we don’t want them to win nearly as bad as they want to win. It’s hurtful and unnecessary, so please stop it. We are their supporters and they depend on us to help them find a bright spot after a dark hour. So let’s keep it positive going forward. Sometimes, what you say matters a whole lot whether you believe it or not.