by Bert Bartlett
After Sunday night’s 49-24 drubbing of New York on Monday Night Football, two things are obvious. One, the Saints are on fire on offense. Secondly, the Giants do not match up well with the Saints. The Giants are a respectable team that tries to lull their opponents to sleep, wait for them to make mistakes, and take advantage. The Saints were not sleepy, they were electric, and were a tempo mismatch for their guests, with the result similar to when they had previously played with some stakes on the line in the title season of 2009. Which was all good déjà vu for New Orleans.
Giant coach Tom Coughlin stood helplessly on the sidelines with his hands on his side, looking as if he were a teacher who could not get the attention of his class. If he doesn’t get it by the end of what remains of a difficult schedule, this season may be his last in New York.
Everyone Knows It’s Slinky… The Saints had almost 600 yards of total offense, represented with 49 points. The Giants had almost 500 yards themselves, the discrepancy not representative of a 25 point smother. Also, Eli Manning had completed twenty something consecutive passes and was on the verge of an NFL record, hardly the profile of a quarterback under duress. What gives? The game was a stat and Fantasy freak’s feeding frenzy.
Soul Brothers Detroit returns this week to New Orleans for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, for the first time since ‘09, when they provided the fodder for an opening day romp by the Black & Gold. Like New Orleans, the Lions, to their fans, represent a team to pull for with the imagery of much that is wrong with urban decay, patience for the easing of intransigence, resilience, and a cause better than self, all somewhat known as faith here. But this year’s model delivered fromDetroit may not be as user friendly.
The young, rebuilt Lions got hot at the end of last season and won five in a row to open this one, only to go into something of a tailspin, and are a 7 – 4, second tier team. They blew out the Tebow Miracle phenomenon in Denver in Week 8, 45-10 (Tebow’s only loss as a starter to date), and all 4 of their losses were to NFC playoff contenders, most recently not being able to slice Green Bay’s turkeys on Thanksgiving. But Deee-troit is a capable group, and the Lions remain a playoff contender, though their developing quarterback, Matthew Stafford, seems married to nagging injuries.
Vernacular On Sunday night’s ESPN telecast, snippets of Drew Brees and Sean Payton in a meeting room going over the game plan for the Giants provided viewers with NFL style street slang. We heard plays to be called with something like “X 88 Y 92 Slant Z Go, Weak Cross, Right Fade, Pumpernickel…”. Brees added some commentary in English, such as Coach, I really like this from the right hash. Payton would nod in approval to his engineer, both looking as if they weren’t enough room in the Christmas stockings to put all they wanted in them.
But Detroit’s huddle should be much plainer. Calvin Johnson is an elite receiver who towers over, runs through and away from opponents. One highlight had him snagging a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone with three professional defensive backs rolling off him like little children falling off Santa’s knee. His contribution to their offense is similar to the crème de la crème that tight end Jimmy Graham provides to the Saints. Matthew Stafford’s directive in the huddle can often be OK line, block, the rest of you find something to do, and stay the hell out the way, I’m throwing it to Calvin. On two…ready?
A Boy Named Suh Their talented defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was suspended for stomping on the arm of a stricken Packer after a play was over, not his first such personal foul, in a bad reality TV version of Championship Wrestling. You hear these pro players in interviews say how they look forward to showing highlights of their careers to their kids and grandkids; what will he have to say about these? Sadly, it looked like he was struck by uncontrollable offshoot symptoms of performance enhancing drugs, or had a case of ‘roid rage. Since the explosion of the game’s popularity in the 1960’s, pro football fans (and players) have always been attracted to the controlled violence of the game, but not Suh’s variety.
Speaking Of Which…Saint Isa Abdul-Quddus, a rookie from Fordham, unleashed a vicious but clean hit on a Giant receiver coming over the middle, for which he was penalized. There was no helmet to helmet contact violation. The receiver, thankfully, was not hurt and was walked off the field. But the point is, the refs in this league need to get it right and not penalize a player or team for playing the game at a textbook level. Since the league has tried to increase player safety, the refs have been too quick to pull the trigger in applying rules. League fines add to the relative injustice. Take the football instincts away from a football player and what you have left is a glorified version of Smurfball. In essence, this is why former all star defensive tackle Warren Sapp remarked recently that the league has gotten “sissified”.
Who Was ‘Dat? Early in the game Monday, linebacker Will Herring, a free agent acquisition fromSeattle, made the best play by a Saint at that position – perhaps in this millennium. He tracked a receiver down the field, covered, anticipated, and turned around to play the ball perfectly to intercept Eli Manning when the Giants were in scoring position. The game never got as close.
This Saints’ defense has its idiosyncrasies, but if unknown quantities with last names like Abdul-Quddus (can we call him “Que”?) and Herring continue to pitch in, it is only a matter of time before New Orleans challenges Green Bay for supremacy in the NFC. And offensively, no other team in the conference is as capable of doing so.
Souls Of The Saints hopes everybody had a nice Thanksgiving, and a Happy Holiday season….