by Bert Bartlett
As the NFL’s work stoppage dragged on over the spring and summer, many wondered what effect the lack of off season routine would have on this season’s play. It’s obvious offenses have had no problems clicking, and defenses have not yet found their stones. This is unlike most seasons, where defenses typically are sturdier early on and loosen up as the year goes along, due to general fatigue and injury. Points are rampant in the league right now (Buffalo 34, New England 31?), and the Saints are no exception, having scored over 30 in each game thus far, putting up 40 to win in a shootout over the Houston Texans last Sunday.
It is unlikely they will need anywhere near that many when they travel to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars this week. The Jags are starting a rookie quarterback, and are woeful. Running back Maurice Jones – Drew is their only real threat. The Jags have traditionally played respectable no name defense and are doing it again under head coach Coach Jack Del Rio, but that isn’t anywhere enough in this scoring boon. The Del Rios lived in the Garden District when they were here, and were liked, his wife taking to renovating older homes.
Jacksonville is one of the few franchises in the league having trouble putting enough people in the stands. Late in the summer, they released veteran quarterback David Garrard, and inexplicably he has not been picked up by other teams who desperately need a quarterback, such as the Colts. Garrard took the Jags deep in the playoffs in 2007 before losing to New England when the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl. That now seems like a very long time ago, and the Jags have disentigrated and are as listless as any team in the league. Rebuilding is the best catch all phrase that can apply to them.
The Jags and Saints have no playing tradition to speak of, other than a peculiar play that spliced them onto NFL Films Greatest Plays Ever. Late in the 2003 season, the Saints were in Jacksonville, trailing by seven. On the last play of the game, the Saints pulled off a sandlot gem, a random, multi-lateral pitch and catch by several players for 75 yards that resulted in a touchdown. Deuce McAlister looked like a quarterback! The River City Relay ! Reliable kicker John Carney trotted onto the field to kick the extra point, to send it into overtime – but promptly and inexplicably – missed it! After one of the most miraculous plays in NFL history, the Saints found an unlikely way to lose, albeit in style, a historical hallmark of the franchise.
The Saints shouldn’t need a miracle to win this Sunday. 20 or so points on offense may be plenty. The problem with games like this is generating enough motivation to play it in earnest. Lousy opponents are hard to get up for. It could be sluggish and get sloppy, but the main thing is for the Saints do just enough to win and get out of there, hopefully without anymore significant injuries, like those just suffered by offensive linemen Zack Strief and Olin Kreutz. Ouch….
This game could be a yawner. Unless the Saints unexpectedly keep it close, which they have been known to do.
The River City Relay