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Recap: The Big Easy...wasn't. Patriots fall to the Saints

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton has talked about the respect he has for Bill Belichick.  In particular, he mentions the '06 Pro Bowl when the 2 had a chance to spend time "kicking it old skool" on a fishing trip:

"Anytime you get to spend a week and really just try to get someone else’s thoughts and opinions, someone who has been as successful as Bill has been…" Payton said. "For me, as a young coach after my first year, there might just be three or four different scheduling questions or things that you might want to get a better grasp on. He’s a guy that I have a ton of respect for and I really enjoyed the time we had a chance to spend just that week."

Seems like Bill may have giving up a little too much info to the up and coming coach.

Let me get this out of the way: the New Orleans Saints are, more than likely, the best all around team in the NFL right now.  They are not great at any one thing.  However, and even more damaging to opponents, they are very good at everything.  As Belichick is fond of saying, "all three phases of the game".  I have no doubt that barring an epic failure during the NFCCG, the Saints will destroy whoever the AFCCG winner is.

I've been thinking about our 2 toughest road games, the Colts and the Saints (both in domes, btw.  Coincedence?  Hmm...).  We were dominating the Colts for 2 quarters (nothing happened in the third quarter) and simply couldn't do anything against an Indy team who got super hot in the fourth quarter.  We nearly pulled that game out.  Against the Saints, there was no nearly pulling out anything.  They put the pedal to the floor and never let up.  If not for the fact that it was against my team, it was some darn good football to watch.

I will not take away anything from the talent of that team, but there were some serious "Fails" on the Patriots that need to be talked about:

  • Offensive Line - Sean Payton decided to give us the run; he knew it wasn't that damaging so he figured let's hand them whatever meager ground game they can muster and watch out for the aerial assault.  3 and 4 man rushes were hammering away at the O line which meant Payton didn't have to put any safeties in the box.  Keeping the DB's in the backfield helped to neutralize the passing attack.
  • Tom Brady - Brady is not back.  His accuracy, to put it mildly, sucked.  Overthrowing receivers and 2 critical picks are not championship caliber quarterbacking.  Tom, I'm your biggest fan but when you're tanking, I gotta read you the riot act.  He looked confused at times and out of rhythm with his 2 biggest targets, which leads me to the next topic...
  • Receivers - Not enough of them.  The Saints effectively neutralized Wes Welker (6 for 32) and Randy Moss (3 for 67) while number 3 guy, Sam Aiken amassed the most with 7 for 90.  There's not enough guys to make defenses nervous; neutralize the first 2 and it makes Brady jumpy.  More weapons.
  • Defensive Backfield - Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees may claim that youth wasn't the problem, but could you picture Rodney Harrison falling for the pump fakes and misdirection looks Drew Brees threw at our current backfield?  They got torched on a number of occasions because they fell for Brees' trickery.  The second issue is not realizing something Sean Payton did: the officiating crew was "letting the teams play" and were allowing all kinds of crap on receivers.  Consequently, New Orleans' DB's beat the daylights out of our receivers and got away with it.  Why didn't we do that?  Instead, we played them too soft with too much of a cushion.

Structurally, we have a few glaring issues to resolve:

  • The absolute gaffs on Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis really put us in a world of hurt.  We didn't realize it at the time, but not having more targets for Brady has turned what could've been an F35 aerial assault into a strafing run by a glider.  You can't expect Wes Welker and Randy Moss to do it all.  Shut those 2 guys down and trouble is a brewin'.
  • I've been complaining about this since the draft: we DO NOT have an effective pass rush.  OLB Adalius Thomas is not the guy.  Derrick Burgess, crowned as the guy, is not the guy.  Generating consistent pressure on a quarterback is a key element in a strong and effective defense.  Pressure a quarterback, ANY quarterback, and they have less time to do what they need to do.

I overestimated the Patriots' ability to win a big road game against an opponent they knew little about and underestimated an undefeated opponent based on their statistics.  Sean Payton has said he modeled his team after the championship Patriots teams.  Maybe we could learn a thing or 2 by peeking into the history books.