The Saints appeared to hit rock bottom last week.
They were dominated and embarrassed at home against the Cleveland Browns.
Brees threw costly interceptions, two to David Bowens for touchdowns.
The running game was non-existent.
The crowd was dead.
The Saints turned it on last night against the Pittsburgh Steelers in what felt like a must win game for the Saints. Against one of the top defenses in the league, Brees completed 34 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns. The Captain took the team on his back and let them to victory.
What do the Saints need to do to get back to the Super Bowl?
The Saints have had arguably the best home crowd in all of sports during the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era.
Ever since Hurricane Katrina, the city rallied behind their team who gave them hope each and every week culminating in last year’s Super Bowl.
As evident last night on Halloween, the raucous fans will do whatever it takes to try to rattle the opposing teams.
The Saints feed off the intensity of their home crowd. The fans’ strong belief in the team powers the Saints to summon all they have inside of them throughout each game.
Arguably the second most important player on the team after Drew Brees.
Reggie Bush’s versatility on offense gives the Saints one of the deadliest weapons in the entire NFL. Bush should return in Week 11 after suffering a broken leg earlier in the season. His ability to line up anywhere on the field and act as a security blanket for Drew Brees will do wonders for this offense.
To open the season, Bush ran with more power and determination than at any other point during his career. He was hitting holes quicker and running up the middle with authority.
Almost as important is Bush’s return ability on special teams. He is a game changing threat each time he touches the ball. Defenses must account for Bush on each and every play because of his speed, agility and elusiveness.
Expect Bush to be involved heavily once he returns healthy.
A key to the Saints’ success is the run game. By running the football into opposing defenses, the Drew Brees’ passing attack opens up. The balance of the Saints offense drove their Super Bowl run.
The Saints have been hit harder than any other team at the running back position. With Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas out over the past few weeks with injuries, Sean Payton had to turn to rookie Christopher Ivory and two castaway free agents in Ladell Betts and Julius Jones.
The inconsistency and ineffectiveness of the Saints running game over the past few weeks allowed opposing defenses to strictly game plan for Drew Brees due to the lack of balance.
As soon as the running game gets going again, the Saints offense will be on fire just like last season.
The Saints are so effective on offense that if they are able to protect the football, they are almost unbeatable. When it comes to a high powered offense, they can beat themselves at times.
This is exactly what happened against the Browns. Their turnovers led to scores. It was too difficult to come back from when the opposing team kills the clock.
The Saints were lucky that they were able to force the same amount of turnovers as the Steelers. The Saints defense stepped up big for the offense. After Brees fumbled in the fourth, the Saints forced a Heath Miller turnover of their own.
The Saints defense had a huge goal line stand in the game.
By tying the turnover battle, the Saints have too much on offense for most defenses to stop.
Still, their turnovers over the past two weeks cost them one game and could have cost them the game against Pittsburgh. They need to cut these turnovers down immediately if they hope to return to the Super Bowl.
It always comes down to the turnover ratio.
Whichever team forces more turnovers to end the game usually wins.
Last season, the Saints did a terrific job forcing turnovers. Darren Sharper was a ball hawk all season long.
By forcing turnovers, the defense remains fresh throughout the game. Most importantly, the offense has more opportunities to score and usually has better field position for the most.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been a great coach to his mix of young and veteran players. As displayed against the Steelers, the Saints focus on putting a hat to the ball of the carrier to force turnovers. This execution will lead to plenty of turnovers and more opportunities for Drew Brees to dissect his opponent.
After Drew Brees and arguably Reggie Bush, Marques Colston is the most important offensive skill player on the team.
Colston is the biggest target with good speed and hands. He is a reliable target and a beastly force inside the red zone.
Colston has had back to back quality games, racking in 16 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
Brees needs to find Colston early and often. This will allow the offense to open up as defenses shift their attention to Colston and forget about the host of other receivers Brees has to work with.
With such a vital offensive threat, Colston needs to be more involved going forward.
Gregg Williams proved last season he is one of the best defensive coaches in the league. His team was ready and well prepared throughout the season. It was highly evident during the Super Bowl when Tracy Porter picked off Peyton Manning to seal the game.
The Saints are slowly getting healthier and will be able to do more on defense with their best players on the field. They have been hampered by injuries all season. When the secondary is healthy, they will finally be able to better blitz the quarterback.
Sean Payton is arguably the best offensive minded coach in the league. Like the Saints’ defense, the offense has battled injuries at the running back position all season.
When healthy, Sean Payton can draw a lot of creative plays for the team. Riddled with injuries they don’t have the balance or creativity. Payton needs to find a way to bring that explosiveness back to the Saints offense and present a threat to defenses they have never seen before.
The Week 10 bye should give Payton ample time to come up with new plays to exploit defenses for the stretch run.
Last year’s defensive MVP for the Saints once again made an impact for the Saints last night in just his second game back from injury.
In the right place at the right time, Sharper caught a Heath Miller fumble in the fourth quarter after the Saints had just turned the ball over themselves.
The Saints took possession and scored on a Drew Brees to Lance Moore touchdown.
Last year, Sharper had nine interceptions and three touchdowns. If the Saints can get anywhere near this production for the rest of the season, Sharper will put them in great position to defend their Championship.
The catalyst of the Saints is and will always be Drew Brees.
As evident last night, when Drew Brees is rolling, the Saints are extremely difficult to beat. With the amount of talent at his disposal, Brees can tactically pick apart a defense like no other.
As long as Brees isn’t getting rattled behind the line and forced to make poor, quick throws like he did against Cleveland, the Saints will march down the field and have one of the highest probabilities in the league to score.
The team feeds off the leadership and intensity of Brees who has taken this team on his shoulders since arriving in 2006.
Always overlooked when evaluating teams. The Saints have all of the tools necessary to win, they just need to execute. These past two weeks were a prime example of the Saints’ up and down season. They failed to execute properly against the Browns and it turned in to arguably the most embarrassing loss of the Brees and Sean Payton era.
This week against the Steelers, they were effective and efficient. Yes, they were turnovers. However, they also forced turnovers. They were able to protect Brees well against the ferocious defense and Brees was able to complete his throws all over the field.
The Saints are currently 5-3 and travel to Carolina for a favorable match up. The Panthers came close to beating the Saints but it is difficult to believe the Saints won’t carry their momentum in to Carolina.
After the Week 10 bye, the Saints have a favorable schedule. The meetings they have to worry about are the two road games against Baltimore Week 15 and Atlanta Week 16. Other than that, the Saints should go 6-2 to finish the season with a chance to defend their Championship.