By Darren Lucy
Another week, another sub-par showing from our Boys in black and gold. In a game filled with ups and downs, however, it was the Saints who finished on the upswing with an overtime win at home for our first division win of the season. As unimpressive as it was, a win is a win, and I will never complain about that outcome. But there is definitely concern on both sides of the ball for New Orleans. Let’s look at a few things to work on as the season progresses.
Our defense has to preserve a lead. Our offense cannot be forced to score 35+ points a game in order to win each week, which is what they had to do this week. Albeit, they should have had well over 40 after settling for a few early chipshot field goals, that detail is erroneous. No 1-3 team should come into New Orleans and hang 31 points on this team in that building. In two division games this season, our defense has surrendered a double-digit lead. If we want to put a string of wins together, we cannot keep allowing offenses to march the ball up and down the field.
Our offense needs to finish drives in the end zone, not through the uprights. While it’s promising to see Shayne Graham getting back to his old accurate self, I’d rather not see him kick as many three-pointers, and prefer him knocking through PATs. Our first two drives of the game were incredibly efficient – until we got into the red zone. Coming into Week 5, the Saints led the league in third-down conversion percentage at 57%. Against the Buccaneers, they were 6 of 13 on 3rd down, an 11-point drop off. While it didn’t prove to be deadly, it must turn around so that we can control the ball in crunch time.
We have to take better care of the football. Drew Brees needs to make better decisions under pressure. While our offensive line didn’t allow a sack this week, I almost wish they would have allowed two, as two of Brees’ interceptions came when he was trying to make a play while under duress. Marques Colston, normally sure-handed, failed to secure a first down reception in the two-minute drill while driving for a potential game winning score at the end of the game, and Jimmy Graham dropped a sure first down on the opening drive that caused us to settle for three. These are plays our guys usually make, so we need to take the bye week to tighten up the screws on ball security.
All things considered, the Saints hung over 500 yards of total offense, Brees led his 35th career game winning drive in the 4th quarter or overtime, and the Saints are heading into the bye on a high note. They need to take this time to get healthy, learn from the early-season miscues, and come out in full throttle against Detroit in week 7. Being only one game out of first place in the division at this point means that even with the stumble out of the gate this season, there is still plenty of time to build momentum to go take the NFC South.