Surveying the Home Stretch: What Must Saints Do to Earn Playoff Berth?

Jonathan PeraltaContributor IIINovember 4, 2012

Oct 28, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) calls out instructions in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field.  Mandatory Credit: Byron Hetzler-US PRESSWIRE
Byron Hetzler-US PRESSWIRE

There are a variety of issues exposed in the New Orleans Saints' first seven games.

With New Orleans limping along at 2-5, it's hard to think that a playoff berth is plausible for this team. They would have to win eight of their last nine games to have any shot at making it to the postseason.

Does Who Dat Nation believe in miracles?

With some incredible luck and some serious soul searching, against all odds, the Saints can make the playoffs.

Is it impossible to win the eight out of the last nine games? More inexplicable things have happened, so, no, it's not impossible. Nothing is.

Here are what the Saints must do in order to earn a playoff berth:


Defensive line has to execute and be more consistent

The New Orleans Saints' major problem definitely starts with the team's historically awful defense.

This unit has to be more fundamentally sound, as they have been missing too many tackles. The defense is giving opposing quarterbacks too much time to pick their secondary apart. On paper, the defensive unit has so much potential. With defensive linemen like Junior Galette, Martez Wilson, Cameron Jordan, Brodrick Bunkley and Akiem Hicks, the Saints should be putting more pressure and getting more sacks on opposing quarterbacks than they have been getting.

Yes, they are under a new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who showcases a different look that Gregg Williams' man-coverage scheme. Without all the blitzing the defense used to under Williams, the D-line now has to be relied on to create the majority of the pressure.


Running backs have to produce

How do the Saints go from having one of the top running games last season to having the worst in 2012?

It could be the play-calling, or it could be poor execution from the offensive line. The Saints are ranked 32nd overall in rushing yards, averaging about 72 yards per game, obviously, something needs to change. The Saints can't rely on their air attack all the time. Look what happened against the Denver Broncos when the passing game is shut down.

After a forgettable preseason that demoted him to bench, Chris Ivory finally gets his chance to do something now that Darren Sproles will be out for a few weeks. Maybe he can spark a nonexistent Saints run game.


Secondary has to step up

The Saints' secondary gets torched week in and week out and the pass defense is ranked 30th in the league in yards allowed. Patrick Robinson has taken some steps back in recent weeks; he has not shown solid coverage and seems to have forgotten how to tackle.

But Robinson's not the only one. What happened to the Jabari Greer of 2009? Greer has been playing awful football, taking bad angles and getting burned. He struggles to stay healthy, so maybe it's time for coaches to look elsewhere on the roster for a replacement for Greer.


Coaching has to get better

Aaron Kromer stepped down and now this will be interim head coach Joe Vitt's second game back from suspension, but the play-calling, time management and in-game adjustments have been abysmal.

In four out of the five Saints losses, the outcomes have been decided by a combined 20 points. They have been close—especially against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers—and if it weren't for some bad play calling or incompetent clock management, maybe the Saints wouldn't be in this predicament.

But there's no sense in getting into what ifs.


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