No the New Orleans Saints did not bring their "A game" Sunday afternoon in the opening week loss at home to the Washington Redskins. But a close review of the film shows that had the team made one or two additional plays, and/or eliminated one or two mistakes, they would have escaped the Redskins' scare with a win.
If I may, I would like to go back on a comment I made on Sunday in grading each player's performance. I gave quarterback Drew Brees a "B" for his ability to keep plays alive and the like. After careful film review, I was wrong. His accuracy and decision-making were atrocious by his standards.
A "C" grade seems more fair, since the reality is that he still made some incredible throws and escaped pressure better than most quarterbacks would be able to against such a strong, quick and fierce pass rush.
But the late interception he threw in Lance Moore's direction on the post route is illuminated on film as a great decision (unlike many of the throws he made Sunday) that was not executed. Despite having an over/under defensive combo, Moore had separation. Brees only needed to fit the ball into the hole.
Instead Brees felt some pressure nearing him and did not fully step into his throw, which caused the ball to sail on him. If he had fully stepped into the throw he would have been able to keep the ball down where Moore could catch it, and then who knows what the result of the game would have been.
But Sunday's loss cannot be completely blamed on Brees. The offensive line was outstanding in the running game, but the Saints were unable to run the football with any kind of regularity due to their being behind really all game.
When the Saints did run the football with either Pierre Thomas or Mark Ingram, they were quite impressive. Both runners ran with conviction, quickness and burst. Each showed they can be effective this season between the tackles. Of course the Saints must be in a position to run the football for any of that to matter.
Defensively, though the team gave up 40 points, things weren't quite as bad as they seemed either. Adjustments were made much quicker under Steve Spagnuolo than they ever were with Gregg Williams. The Saints pretty much shut down the Redskins' game plan by the second quarter. Unfortunately, it didn't matter because RG3 was in some super human zone Sunday.
That said, on a key second down play with a little over two minutes remaining, RG3 and the Redskins went play-action and tossed it quickly up the seam to backup tight end Logan Paulsen. While watching the game I simply assumed the Saints went all out to stop the run and were simply beat by a great play call.
The film tells a different story. Roman Harper was assigned to cover Paulsen down the field. But the veteran safety got caught with his eyes in the backfield. He allowed Paulsen to get behind him, the Redskins were able to chew up more clock and the Saints only had a desperation last second attempt to tie the game, rather than potentially a minute-plus to comeback.
The two plays featured here show two mistakes that had the Saints eliminated, the outcome could have been different.
-Cameron Jordan and Will Smith are beasts. Each player clogs up space and makes it very difficult for the offense to gain chunks of yardage on the ground. Unfortunately, many of the other Saints did not do their job.
-For once a Saints defensive coordinator is using Malcolm Jenkins properly. Jenkins was used in every possible way Sunday. He was used to blitz, play the run as an in-the-box defender, used one-on-one in man coverage and used in deep zone coverage. It's refreshing to see a coach know how to use such an incredibly talented player.
-More on Drew Brees: I continue to worry he's going to kill either Jimmy Graham or Marques Colston. Several times Sunday he threw the ball down the seam into double or triple coverage when he had a man open on the outside on the four verticals route. He trusts those two a little too much.
-The Redskins' pass rushers (Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan especially) are amazing. The Saints will only face one or two other teams the entire year who can pressure Brees the way the Redskins did Sunday. Hopefully that's good news.
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