And Now, For the Irrational Up-Past-Midnight Portion of the Previous Post
When the Saints were busy kicking the Patriots up and down the field, most notably when they went up 31-17 in the third, I was angry. Then, I was distraught. Finally, I just realized that the Saints were the better team that night, and are probably the best team in the NFL after that signature home win. It wasn’t anything to be mad about: two teams played hard, but one team played sixty minutes of fantastic football, and it wasn’t the Brady Bunch this time.
Still, there’s some part of me that feels robbed. The Pats played decently when they had the ball, but when the Saints were in possession the Patriots went into “tackling optional” mode. Every time I looked at the screen I would happen across watching a defender (usually CB Jonathan Wilhite) bounce off of RB Pierre Thomas or WR Devery Henderson because of poor tackling. The coverage was there, but you need more than proximity to defend against the lightning bolts that Brees slings all over the yard.
And then there was the second Brees touchdown. Henderson runs a deep route, safeties get confused, nobody watches him. Before you know it he’s running down the field, ball in hand, with no white jerseys within 20 yards of him. Most of the Saints’ scoring was due to completely broken coverage or missed tackles that allowed guys like Henderson and WR Marques Colston to rack up huge YAC totals. It’s this kind of mind-boggling coverage error that Belichick is infamous for exploiting, not courting; it’s a glaring flaw in the Patriots’ puzzle. If they don’t figure that out, I can think of a whole host of playoff quarterbacks that will run this team ragged in January.
The loss puts the freakin’ Dolphins back in the running for the division championship again. A win would have put them three games back. Luckily, a win next week against them will achieve the same end.
Sadly, it also means we’re now behind the Chargers and Bengals jockeying for position behind Indianapolis. I know that the Pats are better than either of those two teams. Luckily, they play each other before the season ends, so one of them will lose at least one more game. I can’t think of any Pats games coming up that I don’t feel confident about, so 12-4 remains a goal to strive for.
Still, I think there were some bright spots:
- Laurence Maroney punched the ball in for 12 of the Patriots’ 17 points and recorded his seventh consecutive game with a touchdown, tying the franchise record. He finished the game with 64 yards on 15 carries. It isn’t much, but when you consider that Patriots’ fans have been calling for his ouster since Super Bowl XLII, it’s a small victory. The Saints’ run defense isn’t great or even good, but Maroney did his part.
- Despite the big discrepancy on the scoreboard, New England racked up plenty of yardage against the depleted Saints secondary and actually out-rushed the Saints, 122-113. They might not be the best offense in football after this game, but they’re still pretty darn good, and seeing the running game succeed is key. Again, above disclaimer about New Orleans’ awful run D is relevant.
- New England went for it on fourth down three times, and converted twice. The last fourth-down attempt was a Brady pass deflected by CB Mike McKenzie. The confidence is still there, and Bill Belichick’s aggressive form of play-calling is readily apparent.
I think that’s it for me tonight. I’ll be rooting (however futilely) for the Titans next week, because I don’t think Peyton “Laser-Rocket Arm” Manning deserves to share the record for consecutive regular season wins (held, of course, by the 2006-08 Patriots). QB Vince Young has definitely been impressive in the last five games, and I can’t imagine a more fitting way for him to cap his zero-to-hero ascension than by bringing the Colts to 11-1. Good night!