by Bert Bartlett
In the second quarter Sunday in Baltimore, the Saints were in trouble. It wasn’t a good sign for them when active linebacker Jonathan Vilma didn’t appear to make a tackle until late in the first half. Did anyone notice Raven center Matt Birk? He is listed at 6-4, 310 lbs., but appeared to be an even 7’ and 400. He wouldn’t need much make-up to star in Frankenstein. The Ravens offensive line was manhandling New Orleans, to the surprise of the Saints, too. It looked like the game could turn into a blowout, and the defense may get too sore to sit down in seats for the plane ride home.
In a mild reminiscence of the Super Bowl, the Saints withstood the surge and put together a first class scoring drive before the break, to pull back in contention. There was no magical wand onsides kick this time, yet the defense held things together to put Brees in business twice around midfield, from which the offense could only come up with 3 points. That may have been when the outcome was decided.
Clearly, to stop the Ravens, the burden of output should be put on quarterback Joe Flacco. Baltimore running back Ray Rice accounted for almost two and a half football fields in total yards. His strength and quickness cast him as one of these Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside type of backs that can do all sorts of damage, as feared on this page a week ago. And he did. The completeness of Rice’s game behooves his nickname to be Car Wash.
In the second half, when Car Wash drove off for a long gainer, he eluded the grasp of seemingly every white shirt on the field, from the sidelines too (thankfully, no assistant coach stepped out on the field and tried to knee him). As a Soul comically remarked in a coffee shop, Rice resembled a grease pig in a rodeo. Another Soul astutely remarked that to tackle a low center of gravity like that, a back needs to be hit low, not high, or lunged at with arms. And that the Saints simply forgot this on Sunday. Gregg Williams’ unit has now been formally reminded. Get scrubbing Saints. Better now than in the playoffs.
Bizarre plays really have become part of the Saints repertoire. When Lance Moore hauled in a tipped ball in the corner of the end zone, on a wing and a prayer third and goal throw, the marvelous concentration on his feet treated Saints fans to a holiday snippet of The Nutcracker Suite.
Unfortunately, TV analyst Brian Billick was accurate in his assessment of Reggie Bush, saying he looked fit out there, but lacked his unique burst. He was parodied on the internet as Mr. Backwards. He is a quandary at the moment for Sean Payton, who no doubt still believes in him (as the Soul always has), but how many touches does an opportunity cost represent? If the goal is to get #25 the ball in space, as it should be, it is curious here, why he does not return kickoffs, giving his engines an unencumbered start. The injury risk/reward does not seem applicable, as Pierre Thomas does it. Here on the Soul, we will continue to oppose Scrooge on this matter, contending Reg-gie can still make an impact for the 2010-11 Saints.
Comparatively speaking, the Saints lost a game, but the New York Giants and their fans may have lost their minds on Sunday, the team blowing a 21 point lead with seven minutes left to play, and letting go a punt return for the winning score on the last play of the game. Had the Jets not held on in Pittsburgh, the NYPD may have had to close all bridges into Manhattan, not for a terrorist alert, but to alleviate the mental health community.
The loss was disappointing for New Orleans, if only because we have come to expect the Saints to win every game, because they can. Nothing has changed in the pecking order of the conference standings. The Falcons had the NFC South sewed up anyway. What matters is that ‘dem Saints secure the top Wild Card seed, to earn the privilege of pillow fighting with the Rams, Seahawks, or 49’ers, in the first round of the playoffs. That won’t be a home game, but it’s close. Those three teams are such damaged goods that Commissioner Roger Goodell may have to call FEMA to help determine the “winner” of the NFC West.
Monday night’s contest in Atlanta has dubious distinctions. ESPN will have you believe it is a showdown, but that’s carnival barking. We don’t want New Orleans acting out a facsimile of a Civil War surrender, but they need to win. And there is the matter of quite possibly seeing the Dirty Birds again in January, so how many of their hands should the Saints show? If they lose, next week, computers will be whirring with tiebreaker scenarios for playoff seeding. More so than most, the true tone of this game won’t be set until they play it, if ‘dat makes any sense. Falcon wide receiver Roddy White has his set for it, trash talking the Saints by calling them one hit wonders. Perfect! A Set-up.
Souls Of The Saints Wishes You & Yours A Merry Christmas…