Saints Avoid Disaster; Notch Second Victory with 37-31 Win Over Buccaneers

Khiry Robinson sealed the win for the Saints with his 18 yard touchdown run in overtime.

It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the New Orleans Saints found a way to pull off a come from behind victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In a rare occurrence, the Saints won the game, despite losing the turnover battle. Drew Brees’ three picks were matched by Patrick Robinson’s interception, the first and only for the New Orleans Defense. The win gets the Saints to 2-3, tied for 2nd in the NFC South and just a game behind the 3-2 Carolina Panthers.

Despite showing great resolve, the Saints were able to pull of the comeback win in large part due to a penalty riddled game from the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay was penalized 15 times for 113 yards, with many of them giving New Orleans a free first down. The most notable penalty of the day was an illegal hands to the face on Buccaneer cornerback Johnathan Banks, which came on the opposite side of the field on third down in overtime that was going to force the Saints to punt.

Along with the penalties, the story of the game was large momentum swings and scoring runs. After scoring the first 13 points of the game, New Orleans allowed Tampa Bay to score 24 unanswered points, which was part of a 31-7 run for the Buccaneers. The Saints then responded with 17 straight points of their own, including a safety that closed the deficit to three, a field goal that sent the game to overtime, and the game winning touchdown run from Khiry Robinson on the first possession in overtime.  Continue reading

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Week 5 Preview: Saints Defense vs. Buccaneers Offense

Rafael Bush will have all eyes on him as he fills in at safety in the wake of Jairus Byrd’s season ending injury.

The hits just keep coming. I briefly discussed it yesterday, but as you all know by now, Jairus Byrd is out for the year. The high-priced free safety tore his lateral meniscus on Thursday and was put on injured reserve on Friday, ending his season. You’ve heard the term “adding insult to injury” before, well, this is sort of the other way around. Injury to insult. The New Orleans Saints were already coming off of a 38-17 throttling at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys on national television last Sunday night, then Byrd goes down. I know, I’ve started this preview with some negativity. The reason? Because I’d like to get it out of the way, so we can then move forward and try to stop looking at the past. With that being said, it’s been a rough start, but three quarters of the season still remain and the Saints are only a game out of first place in the division. Not to mention, both Atlanta and Carolina are dealing with a slew of injuries on their side, as well. Keep faith, Who Dat Nation, this is far from over.

New Orleans comes in to Week 5 with the 29th ranked defense in the NFL, allowing 396 yards per game. They are tied for 27th in scoring defense, giving up 27.5 points per contest. The performance from this unit has been a far cry from what we saw last season. There has been little to no pressure on the quarterback, poor tackling, and blown assignments in coverage. It’s tough to blame Rob Ryan or any single player as the reason for the decline, as everyone is collectively to blame. Can they turn it around? Sure. I don’t see them getting back inside the top-5, or even top-10 for that matter, but there’s no reason to believe that a home game against a struggling offense followed by a bye week doesn’t present at least some opportunity to get better for the rest of the season. Honestly, they don’t have any other option then to pull it together. Starting 1-3 and now losing one of the best three players on the defense has the Saints with their back against the wall, so to make anything of this season, things must change and they must change fast.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a nightmare first three games of the season on offense, but finally got things going last week in their win at Pittsburgh. Free agent signing Josh McCown was struggling to do much of anything, then injured his hand in the team’s Week 3 blowout loss at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. Mike Glennon has since taken his place and started for the Buccaneers last week, invigorating their passing attack and leading them to a come from behind victory. Despite the good performance, Tampa Bay enters Week 5 with the 30th ranked offense, gaining just 290.8 yards per game. They’re 29th in scoring, putting up 18.0 points per contest. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a drastic climb in the ranks with Glennon under center, but this offense is almost definitely better than what those numbers suggest with him in the game.  Continue reading

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Week 5 Preview: Saints Offense vs. Buccaneers Defense

Kenny Stills caught a long touchdown against Tampa Bay last year. Can he do it again on Sunday?

It hasn’t quite been rock bottom, but the start to this season has been pretty darn close. Despite this being the offensive preview, I still have to mention the horrible news from today. Prized free agent Jairus Byrd tore his lateral meniscus in a non-contact play yesterday and was put on injured reserve, ending his season. The free agent played just four games of his first season in black and gold, with his injury simply piling on the abundant amount of heartbreak that fans have endured through the first quarter of the season. With that being said, let’s get this preview moving in a positive direction. I’ll discuss more of what to expect in Byrd’s absence in tomorrow’s defensive preview.

The New Orleans Saints head in to their second divisional game of the season with the 3rd ranked offense in the NFL, averaging 425.8 yards per game. While their yardage is where it normally is, the scoring is not. The Saints are tied for 15th in the league scoring 23.8 points per contest. A lot of why they aren’t ranked as high as usual is turnover margin. Whether it’s the offense giving up opportunities with the ball or the defense failing to get the ball back in Drew Brees’ hand, it causes the team to make the most of the rest of their possessions. To no surprise given the way they’ve played, the Saints are tied for last in the NFL with a -5 turnover margin.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have, too, had a rough start to their season. They also sit at 1-3, but have not quite garnered the same amount of criticism as the Saints, though. Why not? It’s simple. Expectations. Coming off of a bad season in 2013, the Buccaneers fired their general manager and head coach immediately after the year ended. Out went Greg Schiano and in came Lovie Smith. Tampa Bay made a flurry of moves in free agency and drafted wide receiver Mike Evans with the #7 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Sure, with all of the moves they made, there was a lot of optimism, but not many could honestly expect the turnaround to be immediate. It became apparent that a quick turnaround was not in the cards for this season, when the Buccaneers were victim to a 56-14 shellacking at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons on national television two Thursdays ago. Impressively, they recovered from the bad loss and notched their first victory of the season last Sunday with a last second touchdown on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It’s tough to say who’s been more to blame for the 1-3 start for Tampa Bay, the offense or the defense. They are most likely both equally at fault, but the defense has suffered through a lot of injuries early on this year, which I’ll detail more in a little bit. The Buccaneer defense ranks 25th in the NFL, allowing 387.8 yards per game. Thanks in large part to their Week 3 blowout, they are second to last in scoring defense, giving up 29.8 points per game.  Continue reading

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Grading the Saints and Sinners: Week 4 vs. Dallas

DeMarco Murray ran all over the Saints, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns to lead the Cowboys to a huge victory.

“I just don’t get it.”

That was my reaction on Sunday night and that’s still how I feel. I just simply do not understand why this team is performing like this. Yes, I know the reasons that they are getting beat, but why are those things happening? How can Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan seemingly forget how to get to the quarterback? How can Akiem Hicks turn in to a ghost after improving on a weekly basis? How can Kenny Vaccaro forget how to tackle when he missed just three tackles though his entire rookie season? How can Marques Colston go from the most reliable pass catcher since 2006 to someone who can’t hold on to the ball? The questions go on and on. Thankfully, the New Orleans Saints’ next two weeks consist of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, then their bye week. Also, if you’re looking for any positive out of this 1-3 start, it’s the fact that the NFC South looks very weak. The Saints are still only a game out of first place in the division and everyone else seems to be reeling, as well. We’ll get to that a little more later on, but for now, let’s go ahead and get to the debacle on Sunday night.

Really quick, due to time, I’m going to skip the post-game article, because after not being able to put it together after traveling home from Dallas on Monday, who even really wants a recap of that sad excuse of a game, right? We all on the same page? Good. Let’s move on and dig deeper in to what went wrong.  Continue reading

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Week 4 Preview: Saints Defense vs. Cowboys Offense

The key battle and possible deciding factor will be DeMarco Murray against the Saints run defense.

Not only was Week 3 a “get right” game for the New Orleans Saints as a team, but it was arguably more important particularly for the defense. Despite some miscues in the first two weeks of the season, the offense hadn’t played bad. The defense, on the other hand, looked nothing like the top-5 unit from a year ago. Little pass rush, lack of takeaways, and failing to step up at crucial times was the story for Rob Ryan’s defense in the two opening losses to the season. Just as they did as a team, the unit righted the ship against an under-manned opponent in Week 3. Facing a Minnesota Vikings squad who was missing Adrian Peterson, then lost starting quarterback Matt Cassel in the 2nd quarter, the defense was able to get on track. Still, their play was not as good as a year ago, though. They did record two sacks and hold Minnesota to three crucial field goals, but for the second straight game they failed to force a turnover. Despite playing very well last year, that was the number one thing that Coach Sean Payton and Rob Ryan wanted to improve upon and they’ve yet to do it. The one takeaway they have came in Week 1 from the 56 million dollar man that was brought in for that particular reason. Last week’s performance helped the Saints improve from second to last in the league in total defense to 24th this week, giving up an average of 379.7 yards per game. They are tied for 20th in scoring defense with opponents putting up 24.0 points per contest.

The Dallas Cowboy offense gives their team a chance to play with anyone when they are clicking. Yes, Tony Romo has a knack for crucial turnovers, but he’s a talented quarterback in a good system with good playmakers. A supporting cast of DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Terrance Williams can help any quarterback succeed. They’ve had this type of talent for the past few years, but the problem for them has mostly been on the other side of the ball. With the defense playing pretty well in 2014, it appears as if the two units are playing more complimentary football, which has been absent for this squad in years past. The Cowboys offense comes in to this week ranked 12th overall in total offense, gaining 363.3 yards per game. They are even higher in scoring offense, ranking 8th in the NFL with 25.7 points per game.  Continue reading

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Week 4 Preview: Saints Offense vs. Cowboys Defense

Coach Sean Payton has had great success against the team that led him to his first head coaching position in all of his coaching career.

Well, the early season monkey of 2014 is off of their back. The New Orleans Saints are finally in the win column three weeks in to the season. It may not have been as pretty as what we’re used to seeing when they play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but hey, a win is a win and that was a big one. Now sitting at 1-2, the Saints travel to face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys are 2-1, coming off of a huge come from behind win in St. Louis. This match-up always has more meaning for Coach Sean Payton, considering he spent three years as the Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator in Dallas from 2003-2005, putting him on the map for his first head coaching position. New Orleans has played Dallas five times under Coach Payton, with the only loss coming as their first loss of the season in the magical 2009 Super Bowl Run. The two teams last played less than a year ago on Sunday Night Football in the Superdome with it being a Saints blowout by the score of 49-17.

Despite earning their first victory of the year, the Saints are coming off of their worst statistical performance through the first three games, albeit just by one yard. Still, though, half of their drives ended with a punt after not gaining much yardage. Thankfully, they made the most of their other four drives, cashing three in for touchdowns and making the last one a seven minute drive to close out the game. Heading in to Week 4, New Orleans is ranked 4th in the NFL in total offense, averaging 421.7 yards per game, while scoring the 7th most points per game with 26.0.

Coming in to the year, most believed that not only were the Cowboys going to have the worst defense in the league, but they had the potential to break the Saints’ record for yards allowed in 2012. They were already bad last year and they were now going to be without DeMarcus Ware who was a cap-casualty and Sean Lee, who is out for the year after tearing his ACL in the Cowboys’ first OTA practice. Surprisingly, though, they’ve played much better than anticipated. They rank 21st in total defense, giving up 360.3 yards per game. They sit tied for 18th in scoring, allowing 23.0 points per contest. Those numbers are not too bad, though it looked as if the defense everyone expected had arrived in their Week 3 game at St. Louis. The Rams jumped out to a 21-0 lead, but the Cowboys buckled down and fought back to prevail 34-31.  Continue reading

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Saints Get First Win; Down Vikings 20-9

Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater gave a respectable performance in his first NFL action, but couldn’t overcome the Saints in the Superdome.

Well, it didn’t end up being as easy as it looked it would be after the first quarter, but the New Orleans Saints finally got their first win. The Minnesota Vikings put up more of a fight than many people, including myself, thought they would. The Saints pulled away in the 4th quarter, sealing a 20-9 victory to improve to 1-2. On the flip side, the Vikings fell to 1-2 with their second consecutive loss.

New Orleans opened up the game red hot, taking the opening drive 80 yards on 11 plays, capped off with a 1 yard touchdown run from Pierre Thomas, his first score of the year. The Saints then held the Vikings to a quick three-and-out, allowing just two yards and forcing a punt. Taking over at his own 18 yard line, Drew Brees led his offense on a quick 7 play, 82 yard drive with the big play coming on a 34 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Josh Hill. Brees used a beautiful pump fake to bait free safety Harrison Smith to one side of the field, leaving Hill all alone for the catch and run for the score. Shayne Graham’s extra point was blocked, keeping the score 13-0.

After the two opening drives, things slowed way down for the Saints. Minnesota answered with a 13 play, 71 yard drive that was capped off with a 25 yard field goal from Blair Walsh to make it 13-3. On the 3rd down stop that forced the field goal, starting quarterback Matt Cassel injured his toe when scrambling, causing him to exit the game for good. The Saints went three and out on their ensuing drive, punting the ball back to the Vikings for rookie Teddy Bridgewater to take over for his first NFL snaps. Starting with good field position at his own 37 yard line, Bridgewater led Minnesota on a 10 play, 51 yard drive that would be capped off with Walsh’s second field goal to make it 13-6.  Continue reading

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Week 3 Preview: Saints Defense vs. Vikings Offense

Look to see more of this on Sunday, as Junior Galette and Cam Jordan get back to their 2013 ways.

Well, the carryover for the defense from the 2013 season hasn’t quite happened. Not yet, at least. It’s been a disastrous start to the year for Rob Ryan and his defensive unit, surrendering not only a high amount of yardage, but allowing some of the most inopportune conversions you can imagine. Just as the story was in Week 1 against Atlanta, the defense just couldn’t find a way to get the opposing offense off the field when it mattered most in Cleveland. On the Browns’ final drive alone, they allowed two 3rd down and one 4th down conversions to let Cleveland extend their game-winning drive.

Through the first two games, the New Orleans Saints rank 30th in the league in total defense, allowing a whopping 446 yards per game. If you recall from my offensive preview, I mentioned that despite being 0-2, the Saints are the 2nd highest scoring team in the NFL with 29 points per game. You’d think it would be really tough to rank that high in scoring, yet still be winless, right? Well, when you’re the 31st ranked team in defensive scoring, allowing 31.5 points per game, it makes more sense. The good news? It’s still very early.

While the Minnesota Vikings defense has played pretty well thus far, their offense can’t say the same. Led by Matt Cassel, the Vikings rank 29th in total offense, gaining 286 yards per game through their first two contests. Averaging 20.5 points per game, Minnesota is 24th in the league in scoring. Their team took a huge hit last week, as news broke on Friday that Adrian Peterson had been indicted on counts of child abuse. The team deactived him for Sunday’s game against New England, then reinstated him on Monday with plans to play him against the Saints this week. Well, once news started spreading that Peterson had been accused of child abuse for a separate child some time ago, along with big sponsors threatening to pull their sponsorships away from the Vikings, Minnesota smartly made the move to put him on the Commissioner’s exempt list, which keeps him away from all team activity. Now, the bottom line is that Peterson will not be playing against the Saints on Sunday. I’m going to leave this matter at that, because I’m not here to talk about anything but the matchup. Moving on!  Continue reading

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Week 3 Preview: Saints Offense vs. Vikings Defense

Saints fans will forever be ingrained with this image, bringing up great memories any time these two teams square off.

On to Week 3. After two heart-breaking losses to open the season, the 0-2 New Orleans Saints are heading home for their first regular season game of the 2014 season in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. They opened the season on the road at Atlanta, then at Cleveland, losing both games on last second field goals. While offense was not to blame in Week 1, they didn’t look quite as good last week. Still, though, the Saints come in to the third week of the season ranked 3rd in the NFL in total offense, gaining an average of 434.5 yards through their first two games. Despite being 0-2, they come in as the 2nd best team in terms of scoring offense, averaging 29 points per game in the losses. How are they win-less, you ask? Key turnovers and defense is your answer. We’ll talk more about the latter in the next preview, but today we’ll discuss why the Saints have to cut down on the giveaways.

The Minnesota Vikings will be traveling to New Orleans coming off of a dismal performance in their home opener last week, losing to the New England Patriots by the score of 30-7. The Vikings are 1-1, winning their season opener on the road against the St. Louis Rams. Minnesota’s defense has played pretty well, while it’s been their offense that has struggled. They rank 7th in the league in total defense, giving up 305 yards per game. They are also top-10 in scoring defense, sitting tied for 8th, allowing 18 points per game. Minnesota has a lot of young talent on their defensive unit, which is made up of five former 1st round picks. All of them were drafted by Minnesota, with four of them (Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Shariff Floyd, and Anthony Barr) all coming from the past three NFL drafts. Chad Greenway is the fifth former 1st round pick, coming from the 2006 draft class.

The Saints and Vikings are fairly familiar with each other during the Sean Payton era. Coach Payton has faced off with Minnesota four times, with one of them being the second most important game he’s ever coached in his life. As you can recall, the Saints welcomed the then Brett Favre-led Vikings to the Superdome in January of 2010 for the NFC Championship game. Without letting the excitement of that game get me rambling too much, Garrett Hartley helped the team make history, kicking a 40 yard field goal in overtime to send the Saints to their first Superbowl. New Orleans has won their last three match-ups with Minnesota, that game being one of them, with the last meeting being a 42-20 Saints victory in the now retired Metrodome. Despite the recent string of success, the Saints trail the Vikings 20-10 in the all-time series.  Continue reading

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Grading the Saints and Sinners; Week 2 vs. Browns

For the second week in a row to start the season, a last-second field goal sent the Saints home with a loss.


Passing: C

It was a tough day for the New Orleans Saints passing attack and it all started up front. Drew Brees was sacked twice, while being rushed on throws throughout the game. Along with Cleveland Browns pass rush, the crowd also played a factor. Brees had to burn two timeouts in the first half because he could not get his pre-snap checks made in time due to his teammates not being able to hear him. The Cleveland crowd certainly did their part.

Brees simply looked uncomfortable throughout the day. He had only one completion over 20 yards, with the rest being short throws or check downs. Brees’ stat line doesn’t indicate that he played bad, but it was apparent when watching the game that Cleveland was bothering him. He finished 237 yards on 68% passing, while throwing two touchdowns and one costly interception which was returned for a touchdown.

Aside from Jimmy Graham, no one could really get anything going on the other end of Brees’ throws. Graham finished with 10 receptions, 118 yards and two touchdowns, while no other receiver had more than three receptions or 37 yards. Robert Meachem, Kenny Stills, Mark Ingram, Brandin Cooks, and Pierre Thomas each had three receptions, meanwhile Marques Colston didn’t even record a target. Many asked if he was even on the field. He played on 41 of the 70 offensive snaps for the Saints, second most behind Cooks’ 55.  Continue reading

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