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Opposing quarterbacks plundering secondary

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; http://www.nola.com/saints/t-p/index...9294228950.xml » More From The Times-Picayune Saints News Opposing quarterbacks plundering secondary Passers completing 70 percent vs. N.O. Monday August 25, 2003 By Jeff Duncan Staff writer Opposing quarterbacks haven't completed every pass against the Saints during the preseason. It ...

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Old 08-25-2003, 07:09 AM   #1
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Opposing quarterbacks plundering secondary

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Opposing quarterbacks plundering secondary

Passers completing 70 percent vs. N.O.


Monday August 25, 2003


By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer


Opposing quarterbacks haven't completed every pass against the Saints during the preseason. It only seems that way.

Veteran coordinator Rick Venturi expected his defense to yield a higher completion percentage this season because of the plan to play more zone coverage.

But not even Venturi banked on this.

Opposing quarterbacks have completed 67 of 95 passes (70 percent), and they have combined to throw for four touchdowns and just one interception. Their efficiency rating is 100.6, well above the 85.0 mark considered a quality rating.

When Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb completed all five of his passes for 58 yards and a touchdown against the Saints on the opening drive of the preseason, it was considered a fluke.

When Chad Pennington of the New York Jets completed 14 of 20 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown the next week, it was called a coincidence.

But after San Francisco's Jeff Garcia completed six of seven passes for 52 yards on three series in a 27-12 victory on Saturday night it became a bona-fide trend -- and a scary one at that.

"We've got to get better," said exasperated Saints coach Jim Haslett after watching four 49ers quarterbacks complete 22 of 25 passes for 266 yards at 3Com Park. "We haven't stopped the pass in three games. We've got to get coaches and players working on it. . . . I don't know why we're not (stopping the pass)."

The Saints played the 49ers without their top two pass rushers: defensive ends Darren Howard and Charles Grant. Both were sidelined with minor injuries, and their presence surely would have made a difference against the 49ers' timing-based West Coast attack. And the Saints, who are notoriously conservative during the preseason, rarely blitzed or stunted.

"We're still vanilla," cornerback Ashley Ambrose said. "We're still holding stuff back. We don't want to show everything in the preseason. We're going to be fine. This is what preseason is for. The only thing we should be concerned with is getting better and better and jell as a defense, and we'll be fine."

The reason for the high percentage can be traced to a change in defensive philosophy. The Saints are playing more zone in an effort to reduce big plays. The idea is to keep the receiver in front of them, not get beaten deep and hope the offense makes a drive-stalling mistake or two somewhere along the way.

So far, the strategy has only changed the means, not the end. Opposing quarterbacks, especially the starters, are having a field day playing pitch and catch.

McNabb, Pennington and Garcia have completed 25 of 32 passes (78 percent) for 251 yards and two touchdowns. They have not thrown an interception and have been sacked once. Their combined passer rating is 120.1.

San Francisco backup Tim Rattay was equally effective. He completed 12 of 13 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. Even third-string rookie Ken Dorsey looked good, completing four of six passes for 65 yards.

"Give credit to their offensive line," said cornerback Fred Thomas, who was beaten by rookie receiver Brandon Lloyd for a 4-yard touchdown pass just before halftime. "They gave time for their quarterbacks. They had time to throw the ball and pick out receivers, and the receivers made the plays, simple as that."

The 49ers scored touchdowns on three consecutive series in the second quarter. During that time, Garcia and Rattay completed 11 of 12 passes for 150 yards, including 10 in a row at one point.

"We're not worried," linebacker Darrin Smith said. "We can't panic or anything like that. We've got to stick together, keep working and keep getting better. We know what kind of team we can and will be. We know we have the ability. We know we have the coaches, and we know we're going to be a good team."

. . . . . . .

Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3405.
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