By Bert Bartlett
All NFL teams pitch in an outright clunker or two a season, which is long. But nobody in New Orleans expected it to be in a home opener. One fan called for the players to forego their weekly salaries and donate them to victims of Hurricane Isaac. It wasn’t that the Saints lost this game, its how they looked in doing so that’s pause and cause for concern.
Will Poydras Park become associated with the field in the Dome this fall, given the large tracts of vacant land evident when the team was on defense? The new defense certainly can’t be classified as another bend but don’t break outfit because there wasn’t anything there that had any shape to it. This unit scattered like flies, coordinator Spagnuolo as clueless as the players. The late Tom Fears’ patchwork expansion defenses from the late 1960’s looked more substantive than this one did, and played with more heart. In 3 weeks, if it goes up to Green Bay “as is”, this defense will get sung to the tune of 700 yards. And maybe 70 points instead of 40. Indeed, the ‘Skins took field goals on occasions when they were perilously close to driving for more touchdowns, which could have put them over a nifty 50. With a rookie quarterback and cast of characters that even the football junkie media hadn’t heard of. Who was Alfred Norris, the second coming of John Riggins?
Credit RG III, even though it’s unlikely he will look across the line of scrimmage and see the amounts of green space he saw on Sunday for most of the next 15 games. And don’t take anything away from the Shanahan coaches, who drew up a perfect game plan for the newbie, breaking him in with knick knack screens and swing passes to establish his comfort level before moving on to bigger and better things, which he did, with aplomb. Griffin obviously has a bright future in D.C. Daniel Snyder must be beside himself. The ’Skins finally have a quarterback. The President-elect would be foolish not to hitch up to #10’s bandwagon during the remainder of the campaign.
It was a team effort from Washington, their players and coaches dismantling the Saints in thorough fashion, similar to the shocker that the ugly duckling Browns and Eric Mangeni pulled off here in 2010. Former Saints head coach and ‘Skin defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was prepared too; Drew Brees and the offensive line were doing lots of guessing and they played like it, with 3 false starts by the second quarter. How many false starts would there have been were this on the road? 6 – by halftime? Brees’ floater down the middle into a trio of red shirts was a wing it and hope kind of rookie throw that Griffin was anticipated to make. Into the hands of DeJon Gomes, the second coming of Darrell Green. Give a poetic justice kudo to Haslett, who had about as much of a chance as helping the Saints after Hurricane Katrina as Sean Payton does this season.
Losses are team efforts too. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael apparently came down with amnesia in the first half, forgetting to integrate a player who only gained more all purpose yards last year than anybody else has in ninety something years of the league’s existence. ‘Dat would be Darren Sproles. And when Mark Ingram wasn’t doing much, or wasn’t in a position to given the point deficit, from the sideline, the fear in the air was palpable to insert a rookie, one who showed more spark than the entire team in the pre-season. ‘Dat would be Travaris Cadet. And Marques Colston’s cases of the drops are getting old, his playing profile turning into an asset/liability spreadsheet. Henceforth, all the defensive backs in the league will be trying to strip him as if he were a tourist flashing jewelry on Canal Street.
While former Saints Jo Lon Dunbar and Tracey Porter were seen making interceptions for the Rams and Broncos, this page is already eating crow for stating last week that this roster had a chance to be the diversely best in franchise history. It was assumed more new and up and coming guys on it would play. In Spags’ schemes, no defender on the roster appeared more poised for an arrival than second year pro Martez Wilson, a tall, rangy, DE/LB type who can get after the quarterback better than anyone else in Black & Gold. He was limited to special teams on Sunday, his contribution being blocking the punt late in the first half that kept the Saints in the game. Are we missing something?
Interim head coach Kromer doesn’t look in over his head but is suddenly shorthanded. What was sorely missed from Sean Payton on Sunday was his feistiness, he not hesitating to get in players’ faces to get their heads in the game, regardless of how it looks on television. Joe Vitt is known to do that also, but he’s absent. Kromer has a juggling act to follow. If the Saints are not going to gradually descend from here, assistants obviously need to get more hands on with the players, and the amount of space that Kromer was expected to give the coordinators should not necessarily be too liberal during the week regarding personnel and game planning. The buck has to stop somewhere, and it’s with him for the moment, and he may as well embrace it. The consensual “business as usual” surrounding the team heading into this season’s circumstances was easy to buy into, but is gibberish and in denial, as the loss to the Redskins quickly brought to the fore. Of course the Saints are going to frigging miss Coach Payton. All year long, and in a big way.
The song Oh When The Saints…wasn’t written for upcoming opponents to sing in looking forward to playing the team. When Cam Newton and his offense sit down in the film room to look at how they are going to attack the Saints this week, they’ll start wiggling in their chairs and beg the coach to suit up and go out and play the game right then and there. Next door, the defense will be admiring and jotting down Haslett’s formations, liking the pressure that was put on Brees. We can hear the players, in unison; Yes, we want… to be… in that number! The Panthers got beaten down physically in Tampa in their opener, and their coaches will be reminding them of that. The clash in Carolina will be pesky. Like the Saints’ 2012 season, it’s up for grabs.