New Orleans Week 3: Keys to Victory over Kansas City Chiefs
The New Orleans Saints had an endless amount of distractions heading into the 2012 season, whether it was Bounty-Gate and the suspensions of head coach Sean Payton and defensive captain Jonathan Vilma for the entire season or the contractual tug-of-war that went on between quarterback Drew Brees and the organization heading into training camp.
But eventually, Brees reported to camp with a new contract and the team figured out replacements to fulfill the roles Payton and Vilma played for the team ever since their arrivals in 2006.
While the team tried to do and say all the right things heading into the 2012 season to avoid carrying their offseason baggage into the regular season, starting off the season 0-2 is a terrible way to go about eliminating offseason baggage.
Now those training camp whispers of how the loss of Payton and Vilma and the overall distraction caused by the entire spectacle may have a dramatic effect on the team have turned into legitimate outcries and, even though we're only two games into the season, it seems as if the Saints are a team on the brink.
Of the 68 teams that started the season 0-2 since 2000, only six made it to the playoffs. And that number becomes even more bleak for teams that start 0-3.
So now the New Orleans Saints are a team that head into Sunday in desperate need of a win. The bright side for the Saints is that they face off with a team that has begun the season with an 0-2 record of their own, the Kansas City Chiefs.
On this slide show, I will show what it will take for the Saints to win the game on Sunday and possibly turn their season around.
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First and foremost, the New Orleans Saints will never be able to reach the heights they set for themselves on a yearly basis if their record-breaking quarterback isn't able to live up to the standard he has set ever since the first time he put on a Saints jersey.
Drew Brees has carried this franchise on his shoulders ever since 2006, and he carries more weight on his shoulder pads now than ever before. Brees understood what was on his plate heading into this season, though, and that was part of the reason why he stood his ground so firmly in offseason negotiations with the Saints for a new contract.
Now that Brees has all of that behind him, it is time for him to be the guy that he has always been for this Saints offense. And frankly, he just hasn't been that guy in the first two games of this season.
Thus far, Brees has accumulated 664 yards with a 54.5 completion percentage—a drastic drop from his career average of 65.7 percent—with four touchdowns and four interceptions. This is nowhere near the numbers we're accustomed to seeing Brees put up, particularly after his record-breaking performance from last season.
The bottom line for this team is if Brees isn't the best player on the field and a dominant figure throughout the majority of Saints games, his team simply won't win.
The good news for the Saints is that Brees is facing off with a defense that has given up a combined 75 points in their first two games of the season, so it is very much in the realm of possibility that Brees comes out and has a huge game that puts the Saints back on track.
Chiefs Running Game
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Other than Drew Brees' uncharacteristic sloppy play, the most disappointing aspect of the Saints 0-2 start so far this season has been the defense.
In particular, the Saints run defense has been especially putrid. Through two games, the Saints defense has already allowed 372 rushing yards (worst in the NFL).
While the Chiefs won't be bringing a dual-threat quarterback to town of the same mold as Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton, the Chiefs still possess a two-headed monster at running back in Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles that is more than capable of controlling the game and pounding a defense.
If the Saints don't figure out a way to slow down the running attack of the Chiefs it may be a long day in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday.
Containing Dwayne Bowe
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Pass defense has been a major issue for the Saints during the first two games of this season, and frankly, over the past few years. In particular, the Saints have not been able to contain the top receiving options on either the Carolina Panthers or the Washington Redskins in the first two games of this season.
In Week 1, the Saints gave up four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown to Redskins top pass-catching option Pierre Garcon. In Week 2, Panthers receiver Steve Smith caught three passes for 104 yards.
Garcon and Smith are guys that are known for their speed and ability to make big plays for large chunks of yards (Garcon 88-yard touchdown catch in Week 1 and Smith 66-yard catch in Week 2), but Bowe is a 220-pound receiver that the Chiefs like to get involved in their offense early and often.
Bowe has already amassed 11 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games of the season and has to be looking forward to facing this Saints secondary in Week 3.
New Orleans must find a way to keep Bowe from taking over the game and making life easy on Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell.
If the Saints are able to do that, the Chiefs don't have many other options to look to in their passing game, and maybe the New Orleans defense can find a way to force Cassell into making some mistakes.
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Another major issue the Saints haven't been able to overcome in their two losses thus far this season are the number of turnovers they have given up.
Through two games, the Saints are already a minus-4 in turnover differential (30th in the NFL).
The worst thing a team can do when it has a struggling defense is continually put them on the field over and over again. The Saints must figure out a way to win the turnover battle on Sunday and try to not put their defense in precarious positions where their backs are against the wall.
Or even worse, put points on the board for the other team, as Brees did when he threw an interception against the Panthers that was returned for a touchdown.
On the other hand, the best way for a defense to turn around their misfortunes and gain a little confidence in themselves as a unit is to force a few turnovers. Maybe forcing a few turnovers against an average Chiefs offense is what it will take for the Saints defense to pick up their play going forward.
Either way, winning the turnover battle on Sunday is a surefire way for the Saints to put themselves in a position for success.
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When teams with average offensive units such as the Chiefs face off against teams like the Saints, they must look for other means to advance the ball up the field and give their offense the opportunity to get points. One way of doing this is through turnovers, as was discussed in the last slide, and another way to do this is through special teams play.
Over the past few years, the Chiefs have developed a reputation for having a very good special teams unit, in particular with their return specialists Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas.
If the Chiefs offense begins to sputter throughout the course of Sunday's game, the Chiefs will be looking to their return men to give them a boost and put their offense in a better position for success.
If the Saints are able to contain McCluster and Arenas and force the Chiefs offense to move the ball on a consistent basis, New Orleans will be putting their defense in a much better position to succeed.