My boys obviously read my open letter from last week and took it to heart, because they played with good focus today. Granted, this was a game they should have won…but we all know the Saints’ record in those kind of games. Focus is good. Let’s hope they keep it for the rest of the year.
It feels good to win one so (apparently) easily. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t sweating myself dry in the fourth quarter. I was downright blasé, today. But there are still a few issues that urgently need to be cleared up.
1. Kicker. This is the least urgent. Mehlhaff is a rookie, and obviously he was nervous early. A missed field goal and a kickoff out of bounds did not help his cause; but he settled down, added two field goals and four extra points, and even got a touchback. I’m inclined to give the kid a pass on his early struggles.
2. Takeaways. We finally broke our string of consecutive games with a turnover–that’s good. We had an interception and a fumble recovery–that’s good. But the secondary also let four possible interceptions pass through their fingers. That’s not so good. That falls into the same wide category of “failing to close the deal” that did New Orleans fatal damage in three games this year. When you have the chance to take the ball away from the competition, you have to do it.
3. The running game. (Sigh) This one is just getting monotonous. Deuce McAllister rushed for 5 yards a carry. Reggie Bush rushed for 1.9. Guess who got more carries?
This is so wrong on so many counts. It’s been argued that Bush would not be so effective as a pass catcher coming out of the backfield if he didn’t have enough runs to keep the defense honest. Excuse me? Does Marcus Colston have a lot of runs? Reggie Bush covered by a linebacker is still a mismatch, whether or not the defensive line has bought into the idea of a pass. Besides which, the very same line that blocks for Deuce, blocks for Reggie. Obviously, his far greater average would make Deuce a more effective receiving threat, right? Know how many receptions he had? Two. For seven yards. Bush had three for 40. When is someone going to realize these two guys have different talents and abilities?
For that matter, why don’t we use them more in what is obviously the most effective manner–together? Here are the possibilities:
- Reggie alone: big receiving threat, negligible rushing threat
- Deuce alone: big rushing threat, negligible receiving threat
- Reggie and Deuce in tandem: big receiving threat, big rushing threat
Hmmm…not quite sure which of those would be more effective, but let’s imagine this: Deuce had Reggie’s 14 carries and Reggie had Deuce’s 2 receptions. If their averages (5 ypc, 13 ypr) pan out, that means an extra 96 yards of offense. Let’s be conservative and say instead that it’s only an extra 50 yards. That’s the difference between nothing and a field goal, or between a field goal and a touchdown. In three games this year, that would have been the deciding factor.
And that’s what makes this the most disturbing issue: why does Payton insist upon giving Bush the bulk of the carries? I don’t believe it has anything at all to do with Deuce’s health–there have been no reports of knee swelling, no missed practices because it needed to be drained, nothing (that I’ve heard of). He hasn’t apparently been hampered in any way while on the field. Yet Bush continues to get the bulk of the carries.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not anti-Bush. He’s one of the most effect weapons in the NFL, if he’s used in the right way. I thought, though, that that was established in 2006. Maybe Payton needs to write a memo to Payton: “Dude! Weren’t you paying attention?”
Anyway, here we are at 3-3. One game better than last year, but the attitude is light years ahead. Drew is playing like the quarterback messiah. And we don’t even have our best playmakers back! This year could still turn out to meet expectations. If the Saints just tighten up, keep everything together, and continue to follow my advice, everything will be cool.
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