Posted on: October 21, 2009 11:57 am
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Let's Give Our Team a Name

It's a time-honored tradition for teams or units of teams to get a special nickname when they play exceptionally well, or, sometimes, exceptionally bad.  Steel Curtain, Dome Patrol, and 'Aints come to mind right away for me.  This year's Saints are looking like a Saints teams for the ages, and I don't think it's too early to at least play around with a few names.  We've had some decent and promising teams in the past, some even with winning records, but those teams always left the result of any game in doubt until the final gun, and we would be let down more times than not.  This year, there's no suspense, which is not a bad thing in my book, having not only won every game so far by at least two touchdowns but also not trailed at any moment this season.  There's no "Cardiac Cajuns" anything about them thus far.  So here are some offerings for your enjoyment.  I tried to give every name a New Orleans flavor, by the way.


Krewe of Drew (offense/whole team)

Yes, thats K-R-E-W-E, for those unfamiliar with the rituals of Mardi Gras.  Those parades that you see are put on by "krewes", and they throw a nice gala every year to pick a king.  In this case, the king is obviously Drew Brees, riding the float built by our better-than-expected offensive line despite injuries.  Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief have filled in admirably for Pro-Bowler left tackle Jammal Brown, who was placed on IR, in protecting Brees' blind side, letting him pass goodies out to the crowd when he hears, "Throw me something, mister".  And they don't even have to flash their chest protectors.  ("TMS,M" is also an iconic/cliche Mardi Gras line, by the way).

Note:  I had originally thought about Katrina Krewe, cause they wreck you like a hurricane, but, too soon?  They've certainly wrecked the rankings and perceptions of the Eagles, Jets, and Giants.  All the defenses went into the game as the #1 ranked defense and were expected to slow down the Saints,  but we put up 48 points on both the Eagles and Giants.  The Jets put up a fight, but eventually wore down and gave up two rushing touchdowns late.  Mark Sanchez, also previously known as "San-chize", got exposed as a rookie by the Saints defense, and it doesn't look like he's recovered yet.


Cajun Catch Corps (receivers)

Individually, the receivers might not get much acclaim, but as a group, they are dominant and a vital part of the Sean Payton's offense.  Last year, when Drew Brees got ever so close to the the yardage record but still threw for over 5000 yards, he did not have even one receiver over 1000 yards.  Most teams depend on one or two star receivers, the so-called #1 wide receiver.  There's no such role on the Saints.  Just look at the Giants game.  Four touchdown passes, four different receivers, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, and Jeremy Shockey.  And there's still Devery Henderson and the backfield to consider as targets.  We know Reggie Bush can come out of the backfield, catch a screen, and turn it into 6 points, but so can Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas, and Heath Evans.  If any of you trawled (notice I used a shrimping word) the opponents boards after a game, you can hear them bellyaching about the lack of pressure on Brees (Jets and Giants, especially, who thought they had good defenses).  But, with so many people to cover, there's no one left to rush.

Note:  I also liked Canal Street Flying Circus, but the reference to Canal Street might have been too local.


Gregg's Gumbo Squad (defense)

Just like gumbo, you don't know what they put in the pot, but it sure tastes great.  Gregg Williams play-calling is like gumbo in that respect, leaving opponent defense unsure of what's going into the pot, but us fans are eating it right up.  What a difference a year and a new defensive coordinator can make.  Other than Darren Sharper, there are a lot of familiar names on the squad, but the results have been much different.  Last year's group let the #1 ranked offense down by allowing opponents to stay in the game, making each game a shootout.  Whenever the gun ran out of bullets or some sort of freak event happened or some untimely penalty negated a bullseye shot, all too often it seemed, the result was another 'L'.  This year, even when the offense leaves their gun at home this year, the defense has picked up the slack, keeping us in the lead all year long.


Bayou Brain Trust (coaching staff)

Sean Payton has shown throughout his tenure that he's got the offensive side down, but the defense has always been suspect.  Gregg Williams fixed that quickly, all without a "rebuilding" period.  Throwing in $250,000 towards Williams' contract was probably the best quarter million Sean Payton's ever spent, especially if it ends up in a February victory in Miami.  And, like mentioned in Gregg's Gumbo Squad, he did it mostly with existing personnel.  But the offense and defense feed off each other.  Sharper can't intercept passes if the other team is running the ball, but when they're down by 14, they have to go to the air.  And think about the "misfits" and "washouts" that Sean Payton has taken a chance on, like Brees, Jonathan Vilma, Bell, and Sharper.  Some would liken it to hitting on 20 in blackjack, but somehow, Riverboat Gambler Payton has drawn an 'Ace' more often than not.  (It doesn't always pay off.  Jason David was a 'Jack').

Well, I hope you enjoyed this exercise.  If you have any suggestions of your own, leave them in the comments.  I don't think many people will read this, but I had fun with it.  And if something gets used enough, it just might stick.

 

Stupid Saying I Made Up (or at least thought I did)
It doesn't matter that you score 28 points per game if you give up 29 points per game.

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 15, 2009 1:47 pm
 

I'm Glad I'm Not In St. Louis

It's over.

Rush Limbaugh has been "asked" to leave the bidding group led by Dave Checketts for the St. Louis Rams, ending the controversy over his participation in the ownership of an NFL franchise.  After statements from James Irsay, the CEO of the Colts, and Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, it was clear that his presence in the group was harmful to its bid.

It got me thinking, "What if he had wanted to buy my team?", "my" indicating the team I'm passionate about and not as an tangible asset holder.  But isn't that the point?  All the fans of any team have a sense of ownership, when they spend good, hard-earned money to buy tickets, jerseys, coffee mugs, and television rights (like "NFL Sunday Ticket").  Fans invest a part of themselves in a team they root for, and using "my" is as genuine a sentiment for the fan as when the team's financial owner says "my".

First of all, I will let you know that I do not like Rush Limbaugh and what he stands for.  Not only do I not agree with most of what he says, I believe that he is actually bad for America.  Why?  His success is built on splitting things in half, and hoping that his half is bigger.  He profits from either being loved or hated, with nothing in between, and he's not against making things up in order to make the in-between space as far large as possible.  There's no middle ground for him, no gray area, that is a part of everyday reality, not the utopian right-wing playground of talk radio that he exists in.  Even if he had a point that I was inclined to agree with, he expresses it as caustically and with as much vitriol as possible, and that is probably the reason for his success.  His bluntness is mistaken for bravery, as a professor of ideas that are "too terrible" to be expressed in a polite aka "politically correct" society.  In my experience, few people are totally "right-wing" or totally "left-wing"; there is a middle ground.

But enought of politics.  What if it was my team, the New Orleans Saints?  I wondered if I could sever my emotional ties to the Saints if someone like Limbaugh had a piece of them.  After all, a piece of every dollar I spent on Saints merchandise, every game I watched (in terms of ratings), would go towards someone who I truly believe is abhorrent.  That train of thought led me to ask myself, "Would I still be a fan of the San Antonio/Los Angeles/not-New Orleans Saints?"

New Orleans is a wonderful place.  The free-wheeling spirit lives on there, somewhere, all day long.  The ethos and character of the city is something unique and not found anywhere else.  If the Saints had moved, and I'm so glad that it is not anything that will happen in the near future, I would have gotten over them.  After all, the Saints to me were just an extension of the city.  The fact that they stunk for so long was almost metaphoric for a city that many will visit but would never understand.  Ask the old Baltimore Colts fans; after they left, leaving a lot of bad blood behind, they ended up embracing the Ravens, when they finally came.

But if the Saints were in still in New Orleans but under the ownership of someone as despicable to me like Rush, it would have been a much harder thing to resolve.  I believe that while I would still support them in my heart, I would wage a personal boycott of them in terms of how I viewed football or in what merchandise I was willing to buy.  I'm sure that Tom Benson and I don't see eye-to-eye on many things, but I don't doubt his support of the city, despite the challanges it and the Saints have faced, especially since Katrina blew through and changed everything.  It would be hard on me to not support the Saints, but some things are still more important that football.

While I didn't oppose the idea of Rush in an NFL ownership role, I didn't necessarily like it.  I was glad to see some players, the NFLPA, Irsay, and Goodell take a stand.  I don't believe he would have been good for the Rams or the NFL as a whole, and he is reaping the consequences of the divide that has sought to create in America, to his enrichment.  The Rams would have moved from "indifferent" to "despised" in my team lists.  In the end, other people's money spoke louder than his, and if he was the roadblock in keeping some rich people from getting richer, he was out the door.  And I'm really glad that he's nowhere near the Saints, keeping me from having to make an agonizing decision.

Anyways, next time we'll be back on lighter things, like looking back on what is turning out to be the most important game of the season against the Giants.  There are implications now and down the road in the playoffs for whatever team wins this matchup of NFL Titans, and I don't mean Tennessee.  I hope that I'll be talking about how great Drew Brees did in that game, and how the defense was able to dominate Eli Manning...

GEAUX SAINTS!


Stupid Saying I Made Up (or thought I did)
Analysis is just speculation - that's why we bother to watch and they bother to play.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 28, 2009 5:18 pm
 

It's Time to Believe, Saints Nation

For the Saints v. Bills game in week 3, I can say with certainty that almost everybody expected a different type of game.  Although the final score could be called a "blowout", given a nearly three touchdown margin of victory, anyone who actually watched the game knew how close it really was.

The stage was all set for a shootout;  coming into the game, the Saints were an offensive and scoring juggernaut, ranked #1 overall in offense and averaging 46.5 points per game, but the defense was poorly ranked since the Saints had given up over 21 points per game.  The Bills had shown an ability to move the ball effectively with their no-huddle offense by nearly beating the Patriots in Week 1 and crushing the Buccaneers last week, although their defense faltered against New England, blowing a two-score lead in the last 5 minutes of the game.

Even though the Saints came out swinging by scoring a touchdown on their opening drive (for the third week in a row, might I add), the offense got bogged down, at least compared to the way we were used to seeing so far in this young season, from then on all the way into the fourth quarter.  Receivers were falling down before completing their routes and Brees' didn't seem as sharp as he had been, which I partly attribute to the Buffalo weather contributing to field and game conditions.  The other part is that Buffalo successfully pressured Drew Brees, for 2 sacks, while keeping coverage tight downfield.  Buffalo tied the game in the second quarter on a beautiful FG fake that created a wide-open Ryan Denney, who took it to the house.  The rest of the way was characterized by a defensive battle, until Pierre Thomas broke out two long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter.

The way the Saints offense was stymied for most of the game reminded me of the Saints vs. Panthers game in Week 7 last year.  The Saints entered that game 3-3, fighting to finally break .500, while the Panthers were 4-2 at the top of the NFC South.  Up to that point, Brees and the offense had been posting huge numbers as well, although the defense and special teams (current events note:  Olindo Mare missed two FG's for the Seahawks this week...sound familiar?) had let down the team big time, and the wins had come by virtue of shootout.  The Panthers managed to shut down the high-flying passing offense while also exploiting the weak Saints defense, winning the game by the embarassing score of 30-7.  Towards the end of that game, the Saints could only pass, ineffectively, in a desperate attempt to catch back up.

Here is a quick comparison of the statistics for that game, along with this years' Bills game.

                        2008 Game 7 @ Carolina                     2009 Game 3 @ Buffalo

                           Saints           Carolina                           Saints              Bills
Passing
   Comp                  21                 14                                     16                   21
   Att                        39                  22                                     29                  36
   Yds                    231                195                                  172                181
   TD                          0                     2                                       0                   1
   INT                         1                     0                                       0                   1
Rushing
   Att                        22                    37                                    38                 21
   Yds                    115                 143                                  222                 89
   TD                          1                      1                                      3                   0
Offense
   1st Downs            17                   18                                   21                  13
   3rd Eff              5/12 41%        7/15 46%                      5/15 33%         2/14 14%
   FG                           0                      3                                      2                    0
   Time of Poss.     26:59              33:01                             33:34            26:26
Defense
   Sack                       1                     1                                       4                    2
   INT                         0                     1                                        1                    0

Final Score                7                  30                                     27                   7


The Bills defense, with heavy pressure and tight downfield coverage, put the Saints passing offense in a similar situation to the Carolina game, holding the completion percentage to just over 50%.  But the Saints defense did the job this time by stuffing the Bills on the ground and by clamping down on third down, something the defense couldn't do against the Panthers, keeping the Saints in the lead for most of the game.  There was noticeably more pressure called by Gregg Williams' than in either the Lions or Eagles game, racking up 4 sacks on Trent Edwards.  Even though the offense was unable to produce the eye-popping numbers that we had gotten used to, it wasn't forced to air it out on a day where the passing game wasn't working that well, and the ground game finally caught hold and blew the game wide open in the fourth quarter.

There's also no cause to fret about the passing game either.  The weather was poor and the winds were swirling (if you noticed the distance of Thomas Morstead's kicks and punts, it seemed to consistently go an extra 5 or 10 yards depending on which direction he was kicking), affecting what throws Brees felt comfortable throwing.  Even though we want the Saints to go to and win the Superbowl more than anything else, getting the records of yards and/or TD's in a season would be a super-sweet exclamation point for what is so far promising to be a special season.  After decades of futility, rooting for those langiappes is alright in my book.  Besides, despite the horrid showing in last year's Carolina game, he was only one reception and 16 yards away from the yardage record.

The Saints didn't make a lot of highlight reels with this game.  After, strong defensive play without dramatic or spectacular plays, like an interception returned for a touchdown, doesn't lend itself for television very well.  But, as Drew Brees said, "This is a game that in the past would not have gone our way.  It's the attitude. Once we got in the fourth quarter, offensively our attitude was every time we touch the ball we're getting points", and the defense had a lot to do with letting the offense keep this attitude from a position of strength instead of desperation.  It may not have been exciting football, but it's winning football, and I think we can expect the Saints to bring more winning ways to Saints Nation in the weeks to come.


Stupid Saying I Made Up (or at least thought I did)
Defense may win Championships, but Offense pays the bills.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 22, 2009 5:06 am
 

Two Weeks In - We Can't Keep This Up, Can We?

Before anyone takes issue with any of my analyses, let me get one thing straight.  I'm a fan, a Saints' fan to be specific.  And because of that, I've been through enough promising-until-it-actually-began seasons to be an expert at finding the bright side of doggie doo (hey, the name of this blog!).  But, I also try to inject some sense of logic (some would call it rationalizing) and statistics to back up things I say, while trying to stay entertaining in a defensive mechanism sort of way.  Like I mentioned, I'm an expert.  Now, onward, brave Saints' legions!


Through two weeks and two games, the New Orleans Saints have amassed a total of 93 points, scoring at least 45 in each game.  One opponent was the defensively-challenged Lions, but the Eagles had a highly-regarded defense, especially after their methodical destruction of the Panthers in Week 1, and previously ranked #1 as their fans also previously liked to point out.  Drew Brees has thrown 9 touchdowns in those games, the running game has had 2 TDs, and the defense 1 TD.  The field goal unit has made three (only) of four field goals, which indicates to me that we are finishing a good number of our drives with 7 instead of 3.

The offense is absolutely dominating under the helm of Drew Brees because of all the guns he has around him.  You can't really single out anybody else and they're all doing very well, although there are still plenty of Reggie Bush doubters.  (Give him time; I think he'll have a very respectable season).  This is a good thing, because opposing defenses can't just key in on a franchise player.  The large number of players also gives our offense longevity.  Just think, what happened in the Eagles game when Lance Moore, last year's leading reciever, and Mike Bell, this year's bargain bin find, went out with a sore hammy and knee injury, respectively?  Absolutely nothing - the offense just kept steamrolling along.  There is also an effective balance of run and pass that we haven't seen for years.  These factors will give opposing defensive coordinators fits all season long.  The wide array of targets also keeps pressure off of Brees, giving him ample time, due to his quick release, to pick out the open guy and 1-on-1 mismatches.  They're going to destroy the rankings of many a defense this season.

The defense is at the very least average this year.  I think Sean Payton finally found the formula for defensive success - get really far ahead as quickly as you can, putting the opposition in a position where they can't afford to run the ball.  If you know that they have to throw, it's a lot easier to call defensive plays.  I'll call them average, for now, becase they still have the dubious ability to give up big pass plays, like the hookup from Kevin Kolb to DeSean Jackson in the first offensive series for the Eagles.


A torrid (and very entertaining) offensive pace, over 40 points per game so far, for sure, but how long can we keep scoring that many points?  I think that it can last for a while.  Let's take a quick look at the next four opponents and how they've performed so far, the Bills, Jets, Giants, and Dolphins, in that order with a bye week between the Jets and Giants.

The Bills (1-1) squandered a good lead against the Patriots, and cleaned up offensively against the Buccaneers, with deep passes, of all things baneful to the Saints, while giving up 20 to a confused TB offense.  They've adopted a no-huddle offense to try to keep defenses off-balance.  We could be looking at another shootout here, and we may need 40+ points to win this one if the "new" defense is as "good" as it ever was.  But a win, nevertheless.

The Jets (2-0), possibly a bigger surprise than the Saints, have done it on defense.  They have allowed a combined 16 points against the Texans and the Patriots, while scoring 40 points behind rookie QB Mark Sanchez in the process.  They play the Titans and old man Kerry Collins in Week 3, so I expect that their defense will still have allowed very few points by the time we see them in Week 4.  Luckily, Houston is, well, Houston, and Tom Brady has seemed very tentative so far.  I don't believe he is still the offensive threat he once was, before his injury, and certainly nowhere near Brees' caliber.  Still, we should still be concerned about this game.  A confident Jets defense could play beyond their par abilities.  Maybe they'll be overconfident...but don't bet the farm on 30, much less 40, points this game.  A close game, if their defense plays as well as their stats, but still a win.

The Giants (2-0) have won their games by barely outscoring opponents, giving up 48 points so far this season (24 ppg) while scoring 56 (26 ppg).  They also have a cupcake schedule before facing us, with road games against the Buccaneers and the Chiefs, and a home game against the Raiders.  Great, more opportunities to build confidence.  Another shootout in the making, with 40+ points looking very possible.  And shootouts favor the Saints, hands down.

As for the Dolphins (0-2), I thought they had a decent defense, but after losing to Atlanta 7-19 and Indianapolis 23-27, they may actually be suceptible.  They gave up a lot of big plays to TE Dallas Clark this past Monday, so look for Jeremy Shockey to have a big game if they don't fix their issues.  Unfortunately for them, their issue is that they don't have enough defensive stars to cover all that many offensive targets, which is difficult to fix and a fatal flaw against the Saints.  Their offense seems to be based on ball control, and even though they had a gigantic advantage on time-of-possession against the Colts, 45:07 v. 14:53, they still gave up 27 points in a loss.  If we score 40, it will be a blowout, not a shootout.

After the Dolphins game, we start our NFC South matchups in earnest.  Hopefully, we'll be 6-0 by then.  It certainly seems possible, especially since it seems that most of the teams we'll face just will not be able to hold up against the onslaught known as The Saints' Offense.  Based on the limited data of only 2 games from our 4 next opponents, it seems as if only the Jets game would be unlikely to produce a 40-point game.  The other three seem like a good bet.  If I had to bet, and I don't bet on sports under any circumstances, at least one of the remaining three games will produce a 40-point game with at least a 30 points per game.  If Vegas still insists on setting the over/under at around 46 points, as they have for the first 2 games, then bet OVER, for Pete's sake.

In the NFC South, it seems like our only real competition will be the Atlanta Falcons.  The Panthers look both clawless and toothless, and the Bucs look like they're embarassed because we just found out that they actually still have an eye under their eyepatch - they only wore it to get chicks.  But we won't look too far ahead (more defense mechanism), since I expect almost all the teams in the NFL to improve themselves by then.

So, thanks for getting this far in my first blog entry ever, and GEAUX SAINTS!


A Stupid Saying I Made Up:
If someone roots for a good game between two teams, then they don't give a shib (yes, its a 'B' - you will know this word if you frequent the Times-Picayune game chats regularly) about either team.

Note:  It's a stupid signoff I just stupidly thought about.  Please feedback if you like it or not.  I'll stupidly come up with more if you guys do like it, stupidly enough.

Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
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