Green Bay Packers Randall Cobb returns a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the third quarter at Lambeau Field on Thursday, September 8, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin(Photo Credit: Zuma Press/Icon SMI)
Saints fans didn’t have much to smile about after the 42-34 loss Thursday night against the Packers. On the surface, the eight-point loss seemed to paint a prettier picture, suggesting a game that was much closer than it really was. For many, it was a reminder of the defensive struggles that have been the Achilles heel for the franchise dating back to 2006. That said, we were in that game until the end, and there is something to be said for that, but The Packers made it look easy and we made it as hard as we could have.
But, let’s break it down…
Defense - This game had some scary parallels to post-season loss to the Seahawks – a game so embarrassing to the team and fans, that it seemed impossible that it would happen again. The difference is that we played a respectable opponent Thursday…..The Super Bowl Champions! That said, the defense has to come up with more stops than they did. The Packers looked like they were playing pitch and catch against a defense that wasn’t physical or aggressive. As I mentioned in the post “Cutting Room Floor”, we appear to be thin in the secondary. Patrick Robinson was getting picked on – reminiscent of Jason David. Roman Harper played great coverage, but seemed so focused on not getting burned, that he missed opportunities to strip the ball or pick off a pass. We played man to man and that didn’t work. Then we played a zone…kind of a soft zone and they picked that apart. When they needed first downs in the 4th quarter, they got them. We forced two punts and the rest of their offensive series resulted in touchdowns. There was ONE BIG HIT…ONE…where’s the “wood” that we brought in 2009?
Where was the aggression? Where was the raw predatory animal instinct Greg Williams bred in 2009? Where was the swagger? Our soft defense cannot force our offense to play perfect football. Prediction: Darren Sharper will be signed by the home opener against the Bears.
Offense - Drew Brees played nearly flawlessly. He showed command and leadership on the field as he orchestrated the near comeback. There were a few errant passes, and while he was sacked three times, they were smart sacks. He didn’t try to force it, despite playing from behind the entire game. As one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, I believe that he has learned that it’s his job to run the offense, not BE the offense.
Darren Sproles was ON FIRE. He was electric – strong and agile. He’s like a freakin’ lightning bolt on the field. I’m not sure if he’s actually faster than everyone else, but he sure does look like it. As a whole, the core of running backs has shown that, as the season goes on, there will be great things to come.
Coaching - I don’t disagree with going for it on 4th down in the third quarter. In fact, it was classic Sean Payton. Be aggressive. We were down by at least two scores – even if we had made the field goal, we wouldn’t have won the game. I love the “go for it” call, but not the play that was called. That is the time to play power football…in the third quarter, when a touchdown, not the game, is on the line. Give your rookie a shot when there’s time to recover. Ingram MIGHT have been able to run downhill when the defense has a 15-point cushion. Pierre Thomas, in only the way that he can, could have squirted through an obscure hole. Sproles could have bounced to the outside. Conversely, I think the decision to try and run Ingram in, with zero ticks on the clock and the game on the line, might have been too much for him to handle. THAT’S where you want your Pro-Bowl, Super Bowl MVP Quarterback to be able to make a play. Naturally, everything is in hindsight…what the hell do I know…I was nervously eating Jambalaya and pacing with a baseball bat around the room.
As deflated as I was after the game, I woke up this morning reinvigorated and encouraged. The Packers got worried when there was five minutes left and the offense fluidly moved the ball into the end zone. We can score a lot of points and they know that - they got conservative and nervous in the waning minutes of the game. The SAINTS have become THAT team that you never count out. If you leave a little time on the clock, or maybe even none, you stand a good chance of losing.
As my father-in-law said, “they will never play any better all year, and we will get better and better”. I hope to see The Packers in The Dome in January.
There are 15 more games……I’m feeling good about all of them!
That’s something to smile about. Now, say “cheese”.