Well, Sunday’s game was, all in all, an unpleasant experience. Kind of like getting a root canal and an enema at the same time, and the technicians keep getting confused.
But you know what? Upon reflection, it gets worse.
The Redskins loss was the second-worst game Drew Brees has played for the Saints, in terms of completion percentage—46.15. Only in the win against the Giants in 2006 did he post a worse mark (40.6%). And yeah, I know there were a lot of drops, even by Redskins. Still. When you pay a man that much money, you expect a little more for your investment. But if it’s not Drew’s fault, then the problem is magnified: it’s systemic, and it’s not limited to players but extends to coaches as well.
Which brings up the next point: the imbalance between running and passing. I’ve always come down on the side of “you do what gets you the win.” Time of possession is an artifact of victory, and not a cause, and it doesn’t bother me that the Redskins dominated in that category. Had Jimmy Graham caught Drew’s last pass, had we made the two-point conversion, and had we scored first in overtime (a lot of “had’s,” I grant you), TOP would, again, not have mattered.
But the playcalling was still lopsided, and it wasn’t, as Aaron Kromer suggested afterwards, a reaction to the state of affairs on the field. The Saints came out throwing: their first three plays (a three-and-out) were all incomplete passes. Not the way to start a game. And when you’re down only 10-7 in the opening quarter, there’s no justification for claiming that you had to pass to catch up. This is the Saints: we can catch up from 24-3 quite handily. Abandoning the run in response to an early three-point deficit is panic.
But not only that: I thought, amateur as I am, that you run to set up the pass, and conversely pass to set up the run. It works both ways. The Saints are notoriously the best passing team in the league; people expect them to pass, and they game plan to stop the pass above all things. That should make rushing all the easier; and indeed, the Saints were sixth in the league last season. This is a pretty good rushing team, playing against opponents who need extra-absorbent Depends to cope with our passing game. So why wouldn’t the run game work? Why didn’t we even try it?
But not only that: these are old objections. Every year it seems, we have one of these games where we step all over our own dicks, fail to achieve even a rough semblance of balance in playcalling, and lose. Why is it still happening? Is it because we have Drew? Well, we have the Nimitz, too; but we don’t try to send the Nimitz into Tora Bora. Drew is just one weapon; but more importantly, he’s just one kind of weapon. We have more weapons, and we should use all of them.
Now: on to defense. Pro Football Focus graded out the Saints’ performance, and the little darlings tried their best to put on a smiley face for us. But it’s no use: from start to finish, our defense gave up a consistent 10 points per quarter. The Saints seemed to make no adjustments at all, and the Redskins scored as though they were keeping to a schedule. The secondary, especially, was shaky; after Johnny Patrick left, we were without what may be our two best cornerbacks (Jabari Greer was inactive).
But the biggest problem came at—you guessed it—safety.
The safety position, manned by Roman Harper (-3.3) and Malcolm Jenkins (-2.4), continues to be a problem for the Saints, even under a new defensive coordinator. Neither player recorded a pass defense, while both were often late getting up field on Griffin’s quick throws. Harper, who last season led all safeties in sacks and was a staple in Gregg Williams’ blitzes, rushed fewer times than Jenkins against Washington. Harper was lined up at the deep safety spot three times more than the SS position where he has excelled. He’s looking more and more out of place by the game.
So…wait, excuse me. Something I don’t understand here. So, Roman Harper is our best blitzer, but a liability in coverage, and knowing that you put Roman Harper in coverage and blitz Jenkins? I’m sorry, but this is the equivalent of running the ball only ten times in the whole game. Or sending the Nimitz to Tora Bora.
All in all, according to PFF, the Saints blitzed on 40% of their defensive snaps. I thought those days were over. I thought we weren’t going to leave our safeties on islands anymore. I thought there was no way in hell Pierre Garcon breaks a slant pattern for 88 yards because there’s no one there because Malcolm Jenkins was blitzing (and getting to Magic Ghost 3.0 late).
Obviously, that’s what I get for thinking.
Like I said: every year, something like this happens. Against the Bucs, against the Browns, against the Rams. Maybe it’s a good thing that we got it out of our systems early. Maybe 18-1 ain’t such a bad idea after all. But maybe, just maybe, the yo-yo Saints are yoing again, and the best we could have expected—no matter who was serving as head coach—was a 10-6 season and maybe a playoff berth. And that sucks, so I don’t believe it.
On the Jukebox
Yesterday, Philistine offered a juicy Ray Charles number as his jukebox selection. And it was so juicy…well, we needed more.