Drew Brees, Saints Too Inconsistent As Falcons Take Win in New Orleans
New Orleans was supposed to be the team to force turnovers. They were supposed to be the team that protected the ball in key situations.
Instead, the Saints' own turnovers and up and down play did them in.
Brees, whose overall stats once again looked good (365 yards, three touchdowns, 79 percent completion), couldn't overcome his own mistakes.
He's been inconsistent all year. You can blame it on whatever you want (poor weather, teams game planning for him better, etc).
The truth of the matter is he got away with it against two teams who aren't very good (combined 1-5 with the lone win against the Lions), and it came back to bite him and his team in their collective rears against a very solid Atlanta team.
Take a look at each interception.
The first one came on a flea-flicker intended for Devery Henderson in the first quarter.
Did that play look familiar? Because it should have.
The Saints ran that play in the playoffs against the Cardinals with Henderson to the left of the formation instead of to the right like they did Sunday against the Falcons.
The corner covering Henderson on that play did not buy into him slow-playing as if it were a run, and the Falcons were in great position to intercept Brees' under-thrown ball.
Memo to Sean Payton: The Falcons watch film, too.
On the second interception, Brees channeled his inner Brett Favre.
After escaping a sack and then nearly stumbling to the ground, Brees rolled to his right and flipped a sidearm pass towards tight end Jimmy Graham.
Interception by Thomas McCoud.
I shook my head at several coaching decisions as well.
The Saints got the ball to start the third quarter and drove down to the Atlanta 32-yard line.
Fourth down. One yard to go.
I have no problem with the Saints going for it. They had a good drive and a field goal from this range may have been a little dicey.
A run up the middle makes sense.
But handing the ball to Chris Ivory doesn't.
Sure he had a good preseason. But this would be his fourth career carry in a game that actually meant something.
Why not give it to Pierre Thomas, or nine-year veteran Ladell Betts, or fullback Heath Evans?
To give the ball to the rookie in this situation just seemed too risky and it proved to be true.
Ivory fumbled the ball and all of the positives the Saints had on that drive were erased.
I don't understand why the Saints weren't patient with the running game.
It's not like they had to play catch-up as they were never down by more than three points for the entire game.
Sure, the Saints weren't all that successful running it early, but most of the time rushing yards come late in the game after you've worn a defense down.
Take the Atlanta Falcons.
Star back Michael Turner only averaged 3.8 yards per carry and the team as a whole only got four yards per rush, but they amassed 202 yards on the ground and ate the clock for lunch.
It wasn't the prettiest offense, but it was effective in moving the chains and keeping the ball out of Brees' hands.
Atlanta had four drives that lasted longer than four and half minutes, including a game-defining 19-play drive that ended in a touchdown and took 10 minutes and 39 seconds off the clock.
New Orleans had just one drive that lasted even half as long.
The defense worse.
The lone takeaway came on a fortunate recovery after an Atlanta player mistakenly touched a punt.
The problem with the "bend but don't break" defense is that the defense can only bend so far. It only works if you force turnovers, and eventually get the other team off the field.
Gregg Williams has said in the past that he knows that his main job is to get Drew Brees the ball back.
Atlanta had 82 offensive snaps, earned 25 first downs, and chewed 45 minutes off the clock.
Two bright spots for the Saints.
We now know that Reggie Bush's touches are going to go to the dependable Lance Moore. Moore had huge punt return to set up the Saints' first touchdown and scored on an 80-yard bomb later in the game.
Tight end Jeremy Shockey proved that he's not washed up yet as he caught eight passes for 78 yards and touchdown. His eighth reception came on a critical fourth down play before Garrett Hartley's fourth quarter field goal.
All is not lost for the Saints who are 2-1. But they'd better get some things straightened up soon or Atlanta may have the division wrapped up by the time the Saints visit in Week 16.
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