Saints a long way from displaying championship form
Was the 31-21 loss to the Rams the worst of Sean Payton’s career? The answer is yes, of course.
Can the Saints bounce back quickly? The answer is yes, of course.
Are the Saints still a prime contender to reach the Super Bowl? The answer is probably no.
It is a head coach’s job in the NFL to turn the page, especially after a humbling defeat. The Tampa Bay Bucs did exactly that two weeks ago. After getting routed 48-3 at San Francisco, the Bucs returned home to beat the Saints 26-20 and grab a tie of the NFC South lead.
Back to elaborate on question No. 1.
For the Saints not only to lose but to get manhandled by the Rams is embarrassing. It was no secret the Rams, without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, were going to hand the football to Steven Jackson. They did. Jackson ran the football 25 times for 159 yards – 6.4 yards per carry – and two touchdowns.
Saints right tackle Charles Brown had an awful performance against defensive end Chris Long, who recorded three sacks. What was puzzling was the Saints didn’t appear to give Brown any help, by chipping Long with a tight end or a running back in pass protection.
When you look at the 2011 Saints, you see more of what you saw in 2008 (8-8), than you saw in 2009 (16-3, Super Bowl Champions).
In ’09, the Saints were an outstanding running team. And on defense they pressured the quarterback and produced a slew of turnovers. In 2011, the Saints are not winning the battle up front. All you had to do was watch Jackson run on Sunday and watch the Rams sack, hit and pressure Drew Brees.
The Saints have also not done something that was characteristic of their Super Bowl championship team, and the of the 2006 team that reached the NFC Championship Game. They have not been a good team on the road.
In 2006, the Saints were 6-2 on the road. In 2009, they were 7-1. And, that one road loss was in the season finale at Carolina. Brees did not play because the Saints already had clinched the top seed in the NFC playoffs.
This season, the Saints have already lost three road games. And, in the two games they won, at Jacksonville and at Carolina, they did not play well.
Saints head coach Sean Payton became one of the highest-paid coaches in the NFL because of his successes. But, all outstanding head coaches have another common trait. It is the ability to get their teams to bounce back after humiliating defeats.
The Saints’ next two games, this Sunday against Tampa Bay (well-rested after a bye week) and at Atlanta, will provide a more than ample test.