A Date With Destinee

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destinee

Everyone can point to games that are best forgotten. Nothing to learn from it; just deny that was ever you, hope everyone buys it, and move on. Thing is, those games are usually defeats.

 

Meet Destinee. “She” likes to haunt the Quarter, trolling for the unwary. A few beers too many and you could get a weird kind of lucky, playing the home version of The Crying Game.

They say a tie is like kissing your sister. If that’s true, then going 2-0 with a road win against a division rival is like getting laid on the first date. And winning the way the Saints did yesterday was like a date with Destinee. The good news is, you got laid. The bad news is, everything about it.

Please don’t misunderstand: I hate being disappointed in the Saints, and I don’t like to rag on them just because they fell a bit below my stringent standards. (After all, if I were in charge things would be even worse.) But every once in awhile (Cleveland, 2010; St. Louis, 2011; 2012) something happens that blisters the retinas and you just have to scream: “It’s a dude! It’s a dude! DON’T TOUCH IT!” And this is one of those times. We love you all, but…please Saints, don’t do this again. Just friggin lose if you have to, but do it with grace.

But hey…a win is a win, right? Especially a division win! On the road! That’s how some feel about it, including Jeff Duncan. Jeff took his daily dunc all over Nola.com this morning: “The Saints won ugly, as the saying goes. But few victories in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era have been more satisfying.” Well Jeff…no, not even I am going to go there. You and Destinee have fun, okay? Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

But see, Jeff is most definitely not a fan, and so he doesn’t get it that this was not the kind of win you want to introduce to your friends. And no: a win isn’t all that matters. Fans (Jeff just wouldn’t understand this) want to feel good about their team, and that means more than just the integer in the win column. An ugly win is ugly, and it’s possible for a win to be just wrong. Just wrong. Yesterday left me feeling dirty and questioning myself.

So even though it’s painful, an incident like this requires some level of self-analysis. Yet where to begin? Everything was Bizarro World about this one, beginning with the first drive and score, which I didn’t get to see because the fucking Panthers game went long, but at least I got to see them lose on a last-minute drive by the Bills so it was good anyway. Then the hour-long rain delay as the Almost Perfect Storm Except For The Last Minute moved in. And then the appearance of Bizarro Sean and Bizarro Drew and Bizarro typical Mark. The “commitment” to the running game that netted 75 yards. The lack of a screen presence in the face of a fierce pass rush. The gritty, grinding long drives that ended in…nothing. But we did win time of possession by more than five minutes, so there’s that. Thank God one of those minutes was still available at the end, or we would have been toast.

Anyway, let’s go through this bit by bit.

The Stand

Seriously: was that Sean Payton on the sidelines? Or was he kidnapped during the rain delay and replaced with a lookalike? Some of the playcalling was seriously dubious, and we came within a hair of losing because of a boneheaded decision that would have done Andy Reid proud: taking points off the board at the end of the half in order to try one last time something that hadn’t worked—hadn’t come close to working—the past two downs. And, of course, it didn’t work again. I’m talking about trying to cram the ball across the goal line against a stout, physical, and pumped-up defense, and doing so with slow-developing plays that bounce to the outside.

As soon as Drew threw the ball away on first down, I began to get a bad feeling. “We’re not going to score, and he’s going to go for it, and it won’t work.” When Mark Ingram lost yards on the next play, I felt sure of it. Being able to push the ball a yard across the goal line has been a problem for us ever since we lost Deuce, and it’s still not fixed. But one thing you can do about it is acknowledge the problem and try something else. Like, kick the field goal and take the effing points.

Misery

Seriously: was that Drew on the field? I could have sworn it was a smaller, whiter Josh Freeman. Drew had a passer rating for the day of 67.5; without Jimmy Graham, who was the lone beast in black and gold, it would have been 23.2. Maybe Sean and Drew got hit by lightning and switched bodies, and that was Drew making the decisions and Payton throwing the passes. And sure enough, Payton’s passer rating at Chicago was 27.3—close enough. Okay, we’ve got that straightened out. Now: how to get them hit by lightning again before the Arizona game? This could be a wacky comedy by some first-rank director like Dennis Dugan, and I’m giving this idea away absolutely free to anyone who can also think of a way to straighten out Payton and Drew by next Sunday.

The Dead Zone

I think this game officially ended the Mark Ingram era. This is what “commitment to the run” gets you when Ingram is in the game: 8 rushes for 20 yards. That’s a 2.5 ypc, which improves Mark’s 2013 average all the way up to 1.8. Seriously: 17 attempts for 31 yards in two games. This is the “breakout season” everyone was hoping for.

Meanwhile, all the league’s most undervalued running back, Pierre Thomas, was doing was 5 carries for 29 yards—a 5.8 average, and not a bullshit average either, since without his longest run it drops down only to 4.5. Pierre, whose career average is 4.8, now boasts a 5.1 over the course of two games. That’s on only 14 attempts, which means he’s getting the ball less than Ingram. I think the time has come for somebody to slap Payton upside the head and say, “Drew! Ingram’s not working! Move on!

Different Seasons

This is not the 2012 defense. Yes, we gave up a shitload of yards on the ground, but that came against a pretty good running back and a stout offensive line. The secondary, for the most part, held up well.

And so far this year, the defense has only given up 24 points. That’s good enough to put us THIRD in the NFL. Adding Drew’s pick-6 to the total—which wasn’t on the defense—shoves us down all the way to…sixth.

And going by total yards, the Saints are now a top 10 defense…just as I predicted we’d soon be (at least in the early going). So even on a day when the offense looked like something out of Cleveland, the defense did their part. In the lead-up to this season, NOBODY predicted that the defense would be bailing us out of games. If the offense ever does get its act together (and you probably understand how much it stings to phrase it that way), this will be one very dangerous team.

We just need to do something about the girlfriend problem.


And now, if you will indulge me, I will tell you the true story of the Saints’ victory.

First, I have to confess to doing something almost unforgivable: I paid to watch a Saints game. I did so knowing full well that, since they moved to the Superdome, they have never won a game that I paid to see. Never. As in, not once. Well, yeah, I pay for cable, but that’s not what I mean: TV’s free. Not really, but really. I’m talking about anything from buying a stadium ticket, to draining your wallet in order to claim a table at a sports bar for three hours. That’s what we did yesterday.

The one, lone, solitary exception to this trend was Miami 2009, when we left before halftime, the pain being too great. Of course, you know what happened, and of course I claimed my share of the credit. Last night, though, I wasn’t willing to concede that it was my fault, even when Herself started asking if we should leave at the start of the fourth quarter. No, I wanted to watch. I wanted to see the Saints end yet another promising long drive without a score. Though this one did end with a score…only it was the one that put Tampa ahead seemingly for good.

Finally, with Tampa driving for the clinching field goal, Herself had had enough. She turned away from the monitor, and watched the reflection of the television in the window. She was watching the game in reverse! Brilliant! Within minutes, Ryan Lindell had missed his kick and the Saints had the ball back with 1:06 to play and no timeouts. They needed a miracle—or, they needed to look like something that we hadn’t seen yet that day: the New Orleans Saints.

Boom. (Shotgun) D.Brees pass short middle to J.Graham to TB 48 for 15 yards (D.Goldson)

Boom. (Shotgun) D.Brees pass short left to D.Sproles to TB 40 for 8 yards (J.Banks).

Boom. (Shotgun) D.Brees pass deep middle to M.Colston to TB 9 for 31 yards (L.Johnson).

Spike.

First down on the 9. Five seconds left. Garrett Harley kicks the game winner, and Herself whirls around with her finger stabbing at my chest.

“You tell them why this happened! You tell them!

So I’m telling you. Maybe you thought it was your St. Expedite medal, but now you know differently.

Posted by Himself in Game Day, Panic | 13 comments

13 Comments

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  • Saint ChristopherSeptember 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm

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    First things first:

    You’ve done a nice job with the place. Swanky.

    Secondly, you are exactly right. About everything.

    My wife and I live in Indianapolis. Moved here about 4 years ago from NOLA. Hey, we all have our regrets…

    Anyway, the Colts dropped a nice steamer yesterday, and so the wife (born and raised in Indianapolis, ardent Colts fan) thought it was rather poor-form for ME to be the one moaning and groaning and drinking in lament last night.

    And I had the exact same conversation with her:

    This was a victory only in the most technical sense. Our QB–the 100 million dollar man, the best statistical QB in the NFL since 2006–handed TAMPA BAY, the team that couldn’t score on the WORST DEFENSE IN HISTORY one year ago–ALL of their points. ALL OF THEIR POINTS.

    Meanwhile, how many times were we in the red zone? And sixteen measly points is all we have to show for it?

    So, yeah, I’m lamenting. I’m lamenting the fact that our QB and our wide receivers look out of sync. I’m lamenting the fact that our commitment to the running game feels a bit like that kid who, in junior high, STILL insists that there’s a Santa Clause. I’m lamenting the fact that our perennial pro-bowl O-Line got paid off to ensure that Brees doesn’t make it to October.

    All the things we’ve taken for granted over the last six years suddenly are shaky–liabilities even. I mean, when Drew threw that second pick, WHO EXACTLY was he targeting? To my eyes, he had a WIDE OPEN Pierre Thomas in the middle of the field–already very nearly in first down position. Even worse, we got that harrowing shot of Brees and Payton on the sidelines where Mr. Money-Bags looks like the proverbial step-child trying to negotiate his way out of a spanking.

    Yeah, I’m bitter. I mean, I’m spoiled too, and I realize this–a Saints fan whose forgotten his heritage. But I think that’s the point. I used to be content to just watch a New Orleans football team on television. If we scored a touchdown, it was a novelty–lagniappe. If we won a game, hell, break out the bubbly.

    But now, Payton, Brees, and Co. have ruined football for me with that glorious Lombardi Trophy. I have to get my fix, and nothing short of dominance will do it for me. Now even a VICTORY leaves me feeling hollow. (Granted, this one was a bit of a Pyrrhic victory, what with the trail of emotional devastation coupled with the slew of defensive injuries left in its wake…)

    Sigh. I need something strong.

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    • HimselfSeptember 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

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      I think, considering both the weird nature of that game and the theme of this post, that only the Green Fairy will do:

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      • PhilistineSeptember 16, 2013 at 3:43 pm

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        Needs a 151 chaser.

        The Saints O-line hasn’t jelled yet – meaning that it’s the consistency of jello that failed to set. The running game has been a problem for awhile now, but Drew being able to do the lead in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (the original, headless horseman version) is a new thing. That worries me greatly.

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  • FriarBobSeptember 16, 2013 at 5:57 pm

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    I didn’t watch the game. So I can’t claim any credit (or lack-thereof) in causing/allowing the Saints to finally win at the end.

    But I do have one thing to say. I was NEVER a fan of drafting Ingram. I wasn’t in Ingramania mode at all. I was HAPPY when we didn’t draft him… and then annoyed when we did after all. I felt exactly like I felt this season when I was glad that we did NOT draft Jarvis Jones or some other “stud” pass rusher. We don’t exactly have superstars there (and we are now badly injury riddled) but we needed a superstar — or heck even just a single competent player — in the secondary about a thousand times more than we needed another OLB. Same story back when Ingram was drafted. We needed a few defensive stars about 1000 times more than we needed a fourth or fifth running back. And thanks to PayLoo’s stupidity with Ingram plus Adolf Goodell and his BountyFarce horsecrap, not only did we legitimately lose our 2012 first round pick but also have now lost two second round picks that could have been very useful in rebuilding our defense.

    But even with all that said, I really think Mark Ingram doesn’t actually suck. He’s not AP and he’s never going to be, but he doesn’t really outright suck. The way they are using him is what sucks. He’s a reasonably talented back who is just being horribly misused. He is the type of back who needs to be on the field every single play, who pass blocks one play and catches something out of the backfield the next and then runs five plays later. When the defense sees him on the field, they know exactly what is coming, every time. Run up the middle. Or they know they can clog that up, force him to try to bounce outside, and make him look even worse. Ingram needs to be cut (or traded, if we can swindle some sucker out of a conditional 7th round pick… in 2025) and needs to go to a team that will put him on the field for every single play… at least until he gets tired and needs a 10 play breather… then puts him back on the field for another 10 plays. Either that, or he needs to run behind the next incarnation of the Hogs.

    Ingram will never be worth jack squat in a rotation scheme like Payton’s offense. It just won’t happen. But he might actually be useful to several other teams, if either Payton can find the guts to admit he was wrong and just get rid of him or swindle some other team out of a low-round draft pick to save some face over it.

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    • HimselfSeptember 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm

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      I was in favor of drafting Ingram, but I admit a lot of it was pure sentiment. Ingram wanted to come to New Orleans. We were his choice! Fantastic! Come on home, Mark!

      But I also thought he would do some good, and I’ve lost patience with him now because he seems to completely lack any body awareness at all. What other running back trips over his own feet so much? Or goes down when he gets bumped from the side, or someone grabs at his ankle? Not Pierre. Not Sproles.

      I’d be willing to try one more experiment with him, and frankly I’m surprised that Payton hasn’t done it: since our backs supposedly have similar skill sets, platoon them by possession, or by quarter. Very quickly, defenses would learn that you can’t key on Ingram, because now he’s playing in the regular New Orleans offense that is over half passes. If they persist in trying, that’s when Jimmy Graham will be wide open deep. And that should open running lanes for Ingram.

      But having said that: he gets the same chances as Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, and the same as Chris Ivory last season. And he’s been consistently worse, and is getting worse still. I want to see what Khiry Robinson can do.

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      • FriarBobSeptember 16, 2013 at 7:52 pm

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        More or less my point. He needs to be either:

        A) on the field for MUCH more than mere runs up the middle… pass plays, screens, AND runs left, runs right, runs middle, play action… etc…

        OR

        B) on the bench and/or off the team

        If he keeps being played as nothing but a short-yardage back, he’s going to go down as the worst draft-trade-blunder since Ditka’s wedding.

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        • HimselfSeptember 16, 2013 at 8:05 pm

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          Payton’s thing is putting together packages that take advantage of particular skills, in order to create mismatches with the defense. He doesn’t seem to get it that defenses can adjust to that strategy, or that some of his packages can be read. “Put Ingram in, it’s gonna be a run.” The simple solution is to change the play-by-play platooning to a possession-by-possesion platoon system. Everyone still gets the same “pitch count,” but it happens in a way that is impossible for the defense to read. That’s what I meant: don’t give Ingram more carries, just more plays bunched together. Your “every single play” translated into a drive, rather than a game.

          Everyone seems to believe the solution is to give him more carries–a lot more–and see what happens, or to bench him. There’s a third alternative.

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          • FriarBobSeptember 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm

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            Hmm… I’m not sure I was trying to say give him more carries per se. I do believe my exact words were “put him on the field for every single play… at least until he gets tired and needs a 10 play breather… then puts him back on the field for another 10 plays”. Which sure sounds a heck of a lot like what you just said to me.

            But at least we can pat each other on the back for being such brilliant geniuses and wondering why Sean doesn’t see it.

            Except that Sean is smarter than we are in almost every way… at least about football. There must be a reason he’s not doing this. It could just be his famous stubbornness… which he ALSO has more of than we do (probably). Or maybe he’s under pressure from some other source to keep giving him “one more chance”. Or maybe just trying to leave the RB in and sub the other guys would mess up his playbook too much for him to be willing to try it… yet. Or maybe Ingram really isn’t actually still injured but can’t seem to knock the rust off and they’re hoping a few more tries will do the trick. Or maybe there’s another reason we just can’t see yet.

            Whatever, I’m about 95% sure there is a reason. It may not be a GOOD reason. But there’s a reason. I just hope that in the VERY near future, either:
            A) Sean is proven right after all, or
            B) they cut that chump.

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            • HimselfSeptember 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm

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              I’m pretty sure Chip Kelly and Greg Schiano both have forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know. Yet I know enough that I wouldn’t have made the mistakes they made at the end of their games last week.

              Even intelligent coaches make mistakes; and sometimes it’s the fans who see things first. I think Payton is married to his system; he knows it works, he’s proven it works, and he’s going to stick to it. But I don’t think it’s been proven to him yet that he can’t run his system with just anybody. By any rational standards, compared to other NFL running backs, Ingram is just anybody (and actually a little less).

              In hindsight, I think I would never draft any running back who came from a program with All-America linemen.

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      • FriarBobSeptember 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm

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        Just thought of something else… in his rookie year, he LOOKED like he had SOME speed to the outside. Now he apparently doesn’t. Maybe did he just never fully recover from his foot injury that ended his rookie year?

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  • Doc BoudinSeptember 16, 2013 at 9:34 pm

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    Wow, you’ve really classed up the place!

    Wait, is this going to be like one of those warehouse district crap holes, where you start seeing individuals of the “thin, neat and single” persuasion, then suddenly, it’s all appletinis, cosmos, and, “Hey, you can’t piss on that wall”? Its a slippery slope to respectability, my friend. Sooner or later, you won’t even be able to wear a vomit-covered shirt in here.

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    • HimselfSeptember 17, 2013 at 7:38 am

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      What? You need an appletini? Couldn’t hear you, the fern was in the way.

      I needed something to put in my design portfolio, so I figured there was one client who wasn’t going to interfere with my art direction. As you can tell from the image at the top, the joint still actually looks the same.

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  • sagehawkjhSeptember 17, 2013 at 9:53 am

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    I’m sort of on the same page with the win – in the end, I’ll take it. I just won’t ever talk about it. (2-0, when did we play a 2nd game?) But I’m definately on board with Ingram. Being from PA, I have to go out to watch the game (or sell my soul to directTv). Luckily the local bar is a cool place, and we are tight with the bartender. But all of the guys there are “football fans”. I’m a “Saints fan”. While they are constantly checking their fantasy totals, I’m focused in on one game. And in the end, they don’t get why I didn’t go home smiling at the win.

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