Friday, November 4, 2011

Chain Gang: Horrors in St. Louis Edition

Each week here at Hakim we bring together a group of Saints bloggers to discuss all things Saints during the week. Here is their email chain. This week we had Grandmaster Wang from moosedenied, Dave Cariello , Andrew Juge and Hansdat from Canal Street Chronicles, and Ralph Malbrough from Oh and the boss man Kevin Held. This week the guys discuss the horrors in St. Louis, the offensive line garbage and why Andrew and Ralph are breaking up with Sedrick Ellis and Charles Brown. Also are the Saints too predictable on offense?

Ralph Malbrough:

I was listening to Sean Payton on Sirius radio driving to work and holy shit the man managed to almost put me in full scale panic.

Payton explained Carl Nicks yelling at offensive line coach Aaron Kroemer by saying He told Kroemer to yell at the lineman to not walk off the field late in the game. Kroemer does what he's told and Nicks yells back. I know Nicks apologized after the game but doesn't that sum up the whole Payton in the booth issue; He has to relay most game day messages through someone else. That scares the crap out of me going forward. The Boss has to be the boss and can't lead through others on gameday. I hate to say it but to me the Saints offensive line is like Mike Martz and the Bears; you DO NOT TRUST THEM ON THE ROAD UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Andrew, I'll be very interested in your grades. The tackles got worked but I thought De Puente fell back to earth but I can't be sure until i re-watch.

Wang, I'm done with Sedrick Ellis. He's just a guy. He's never coming around, making the leap , whatever. And could they give Pierre Thomas all the carries? I'm not asking for more running plays because we know that's not likely to happen but Thomas to me is clearly better than Sproles/Ivory running inside.

This team feels like 10-6/11-5 with a home playoff game and then an ass whipping road loss in Green Bay/San Fran. And that's the best they could do. Worst would be 8 or 9 wins. They are the classic good at home bad on the road team. As Saints fans we've never really seen this in a long time because Sean Payton's teams have traditionaly been very good on the road and mediocre to ok at home. Hell, Haslett sucked at home and was good on the road usually. In 2000 they were 7-1 on the road. I know they are 2-3 on the road which isn't awful but the two wins were a so so win in Jacksonville and a Drew Brees comeback in Carolina. No world beaters those two. Tampa Bay always was a must win because they can't lose twice to division opponent.

Grandmaster Wang:

I think Jeff Duncan nailed it and it'll be the subject of my post tomorrow. To me it's real simple, this team needs to sack the fuck up already. It's all between the ears, and quite frankly it always has been, and it starts at the top with Sean Payton and Drew Brees who are as guilty as anybody. They know all the right things to SAY, and so do most of the other guys on the team. Being humble, not taking any opponent lightly, maintaining focus, all that good shit. Guess what? It's just words. Talk is cheap, and performances like that make it obvious that they don't practice what they preach.

It's becoming more and more apparent that 2009 was the exception, it was the year where they managed to come out on top despite themselves. They had scares against bad teams that year too, for all the same reasons, yet in 2009 the ball was bouncing their way and they came out on top anyway. But that was the exception, and 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011 are the rule. Every year this team throws away 2 or 3 games for no apparent reason. They strut into a stadium thinking the opponent is gonna shit their pants just because "Oh shit, it's the SAINTS!!!" and invariably they end up getting their asses handed to them.

These guys do read their own press clippings and buy into their own hype, that much is obvious at this point. They can deny it all they want, but it's true. The evidence is on the field. And that's what's holding them back as much as anything else. Until they figure that out (or I should say unless, because I'm not convinced that they ever will) they'll continue to be an underachieving pseudo-contender.

Testicular fortitude. This team doesn't have it. They barely even TRIED in the second half. They wait until midway through the 3rd quarter down by 24 to start running the ball? When it's already too late? On what planet does that make sense? Punting with 6:00 left in the game down 10? Huddling, lining up in a fuckin I formation, dink and dunk 3-yard dumpoff passes. YOU'RE THE GODDAMN SAINTS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! They weren't even trying to push the ball downfield. And I know that the o-line was getting abused and trying to get yards in chunks might have made it even worse. But fucking TRY! It was like they had already accepted the loss, and just wanted to throw a few garbage points on the board to make it look better. That's some pussified shit, and it was absolutely disgusting.

People will point to the last 2 minutes of the first half when all hell broke loose and scream FLUKE! But it was the second half that was truly disturbing. Zero fight. It was like they were just waiting for the Rams to remember that they're the Rams and lay down.

I said it last week, the whole thing about Sean Payton all of a sudden figuring out that the Saints weren't playing to their full potential and giving a "Hey, play better!" speech and everybody being so proud of "how well it worked" was seriously disturbing. Big time red flag that these guys are satisfied half-assing it and think it ought to be good enough. Yesterday just cemented that. Again. In retrospect, it's what we should have expected, because it's what they are. It's what they've been for 6 years now. And that includes Sean Payton and Drew Brees.

Ralph Malbrough:

You make them sound like the underachieving San Diego 'fucking' Chargers. They do have three playoff appearances, 4 playoff wins, and A Super Bowl. The Brees Payton era has two mediocre years, three good ones, and 2011 is undecided. I still say the complete meltdown in Atlanta 2008 is the worst performance in the Sean Payton. They got housed,had Shockey Brees scream fest, and had more on the line. Yesterday was second.

I do think they were flat as shit yesterday and if they don't score that defensive TD I really think they might have got shut out. I love Brees but that INT before half was BRUTAL. He can't make that shitty a decision when Rams have all the momentum.

Wang, I just think at this point they are a 6 or 7 win team at home plus 4-4 if they are lucky on the road. They fucked up letting Goodwin walk and those tackles won't hold up in raucous away environment.

Andrew Juge:

Yeah I said I'd be in panic mode if the Saints weren't 6-2, so true to my word I'm panicking. The o-line was atrocious. Top to bottom. I actually thought de la Puente was the best of the bunch and that's REALLY not saying much. The tackle play was atrocious. Bushrod and Brown killed the Saints. The tackles on this team are a complete liability and it doesn't help that Graham blows as a blocking tight end. Hopefully Strief comes back and we get a mediocre performance out of right tackle (as oppose to alarmingly horrendous). Did you guys see how the Rams came out? This was their Super Bowl. And the Saints sleepwalked. They should it was a gimme. And you know what, it should have been.

The Saints' defense is just not good enough to win a game for this team when the offense plays poorly. It's either light up the score board, or lose. Brees has no flexibility in playing "marginal". It's either lights out, or it's a loss. I'm starting to doubt the NFC South crown pretty seriously. At this point that's all we can hope for. The Saints aren't going to catch the Packers. Catching the 49ers is feasible but I don't think we can look that far. At this point the goal has to be the NFC South. Next week is the most important game of the season. MUST WIN.

Kevin Held:

At what point should we have started telling Sproles, "stop running out the end zone"? And when should the Saints have decided to give up the screen pass? And it seemed like they didn't get Jimmy Graham involved nearly enough. Maybe the Rams were covering him really well? But couldn't they have found Colston? Or Moore? We have 1,439 weapons, but that shit don't matter if the opponent pulls his six-shooter out faster and puts one between your eyes first.


Kevin, I was at the game, and I was SCREAMING IT to him after the second one, but he must not have heard me.

And do you know what the deal is with the "St. Louis Fucking Missouri" t-shirts they were selling downtown?

Grandmaster Wang:

Thanks a lot for declining the opportunity to punch stooj in his stooj face, Hans.


You're welcome.

I liked last Halloween's game a LOT better. Beating the Steelers on SNF to go 5-3 and feeling like the Saints were ready to roll through the next five games - good times...but not so much this year. Goal-line stands, timely turnovers, crucial catches, will the NOLA kids and families get to trick-or-treat or will they get to watch the game? The drama lived up to its hype, and it was fun because they played like they wanted to win, and they did.

This 2011 5-3, although it has losses eerily similar to the ones in the 2010 5-3, feels completely different.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying or overgeneralizing, but look at this...2010's 5-3 included: 2 WTF? how did we lose this game? losses (Arizona, Cleveland) and one close-fought one we could have won (Atlanta).

2011's 5-3 includes: 2 WTF? how did we lose this game? losses (Tampa Bay, St. Louis) and one close-fought one we could have won (Green Bay).

But this year, we're not looking up at Atlanta, and we might still be able to salvage one playoff game at Ralph or Kevin or someone already pointed out. But they might also continue to stink on ice every other week, and they're looking at 9-7, 8-8, and watching the playoffs from home.

Ralph Malbrough:

Andrew your grades were just depressing to read. Maybe you should start grading the offensive tackles on the turnstile scale

1 turnstile: Good game QB only knocked senseless one and increase the turnstiles the more Brees gets a beating.

Charles Brown had a 45 turnstile rating Sunday

Andrew Juge:

I'm done with Charles Brown. I'm officially convinced he doesn't have the head makeup to cut it.

Ralph Malbrough:

Yeah, I think he is one of those guys Scouts and coaches love because if you built a tackle from scratch he would look like Brown and so coaches are like, "I know he screws up on film and makes mental errors BUT I CA COACH HIM UP!"

Andrew,you break down the film and since the Saints can't get new lineman in the middle of the season what is best case scenario for this line?

Andrew Juge:

Best case scenario is Zach Strief comes back healthy and plays the rest of the year and there are no more injuries. Best case also includes David Thomas coming back healthy and adding much needed technique and ability off the edge because Jimmy Graham is KILLING the Saints' running game. Best case scenario is Bushrod plays at the level he's been playing at prior to the Rams game, Nicks improves to last year's level, Evans maintains level, De La Puente maintains level, and Strief holds down RT best he can. It's not a very good line. The two guards are as good as you can get but the rest is shaky. Any injury kills them and makes it even worse.

I think a big part of the problem is how predictable the Saints gave gotten in their sub packages. Lance Moore in the game? Pass. John Gilmore in the game? Run. Jed Collins, or an extra tackle off the edge? Run? Chris Ivory/Mark Ingram in the game? Run. Pierre Thomas in the game? Screen pass or delay.

The Rams clearly did their homework. You know the Bucs will too, and they always seem to play well against Brees. I don't feel good about this game. I think the offense will struggle again.

Ralph Malbrough:

I just read an article on ESPN Insider and it nearly made me pee my pants in fear, I'll quote it

"the Rams were able to exploit a weakness in the Saints' defense. The Saints are giving up 124.1 rushing yards per game, 23rd in the league, but the biggest reason they rank even that high is because their offense usually scores so many points that opponents must pass to try to catch up. The Saints have faced only 22.7 runs per game, the sixth-lowest number in the NFL. New Orleans is last in yards allowed per carry and also last in Football Outsiders' second-level yards (5 to 10 yards past the line of scrimmage) and open-field yards (more than 10 yards downfield) given up per rush. The Rams' defense stopped the Saints from building a big lead, and that gave Steven Jackson a chance to bust loose. He ran 25 times in Week 8 -- the first runner this year to get 20 carries in a game against New Orleans -- and ripped off six 10-yard runs, none bigger than a 32-yarder on fourth-and-2 in the third quarter."

So basically the run defense is horrible and it would be even worse but teams haven't run the ball a lot on the Saints.

One last quote that cheered me up a little

"To beat the Saints, then, a team must generate pass rush without blitzing, cover screen passes and tight ends, and it helps if it can break a couple long runs. The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the two teams sitting a half-game behind New Orleans in the division, can't do many of those things. Tampa Bay is in the bottom 10 in all four categories, including last in covering screen passes. Atlanta at least has the home run threat of Michael Turner and has had a little success against tight ends, but it's still in the bottom five in sacks and screen pass defense."

Tampa will attempt to grind them into the dirt with Blount but I expect the Saints offense to bet better than it was in Tampa.

I'm not feeling good about this at all.

Andrew Juge:

I'm just really not sure what to expect. The Bucs game was a surprise and the Rams game was a shock. The run defense is definitely poor but there are elements that can be successful against it: Dunbar, Ellis, Franklin. Those three have to step up. More than anything the drop off of this defense to me is all about the drop off of Jonathan Vilma. When the heart of our unit isn't beating it's hard to excel. He has missed so many tackles due to being one step slow to the play this season, plays he made in his sleep 2-3 years ago. He's getting clean paths to these runners sideline to sideline and he's just not getting his hands on them. It's not that Vilma is awful, he's just not elite anymore. I tell you what terrifies me after watching the Saints attempt to stop Jackson: the Atlanta Falcons. Michael Turner is a very similar runner. He's a load, he's pretty fast for his size and he's impossible to tackle... historically he's always been tough against the Saints but that is a nightmare matchup if the game stays close. I do think LaGarrette Blount will be rusty this weekend so him playing is almost to the Saints' advantage. Few players come back from being out 2-3 weeks and play that well right away traditionally.

I'm going to stay optimistic here though and say that I think we'll get a great performance out of the Saints Sunday. They are pissed, embarrassed, and this is the biggest game of the season... at home. No excuses, they have to win this one. I'm going to be shocked if they don't come out looking for blood. If they can't respond and win this game with stakes like this you can pretty much write off the season. I know the Rams game is fresh on the mind but this is still the same team that beat the Colts 62-7. We all know what the offense is capable of when firing on all cylinders.

Ralph Malbrough:

Wang, I'm liked your last column but I just don't think it's as simple as the Saints being flat or focused or whatever. I really think it's a case of them not being elite any more and they are a 10-6 team. Maybe 11 wins if it breaks right.

All the Saints emotion/fire/ass kicking comes from their offense. They were flat as shit against St. Louis because the offense was stuck in park and I think it's going to be that way on the road alot the rest of 2011.

Mediocre offense on the road because of the shitty o-line is the new normal.

Also Juge I gave you a serious shout out in my column on Loved your sub package stuff and figured the people needed to hear it.

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