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Versatility has produced Saints fast start in ’09

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; All phases of the game working for 4-0 New Orleans By JIM MASHEK - A fast start hasn’t always guaranteed success for the New Orleans Saints. But it sure can’t hurt. The Saints are off to a 4-0 start for ...

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Old 10-09-2009, 11:48 PM   #1
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All phases of the game working for 4-0 New Orleans

By JIM MASHEK - A fast start hasn’t always guaranteed success for the New Orleans Saints.

But it sure can’t hurt.

The Saints are off to a 4-0 start for just the third time in the franchise’s 43-year history, but the difference this time might be the varied ways in which they’re winning games.

In 1991, the Saints bolted to a 7-0 start, relying almost entirely on defense. They held five consecutive opponents to seven points or less during the winning streak. They forced plenty of turnovers. They excelled at controlling the football and recorded 50 sacks on the season, led by Pat Swilling’s NFL-leading 17.
The Saints went 11-5 that season before losing to the Atlanta Falcons 27-20 in the NFC wild-card game.
Two years later, as Jim Mora’s tenure as Saints coach was nearing an end, the Saints won their first five games of the season before losing to the Falcons. They’d lose four of their last five games and miss the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
They were simply too inconsistent that year, using three players at quarterback — Wade Wilson, Mike Buck and Steve Walsh. All three of them would be gone within a couple seasons.
This time, the Saints have showed a resourceful side with some versatility. They rung up 45 points on opening day against Detroit, beating the Lions by 18 points. They capitalized on Donovan McNabb’s injury to roll past the Philadelphia Eagles, who reached the NFC championship game, winning 48-22 in Philly. Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes in that game and Darren Sharper returned a late interception 97 yards for a score.
Then the defense went to work, as the Saints shut down Terrell Owens and the Buffalo Bills 27-7. They returned to the Louisiana Superdome and outplayed the New York Jets’ vaunted defense in taking a 24-10 victory, with Sharper returning an interception 99 yards for a touchdown in this game.
“Obviously that was a big win for us,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, “coming right before the bye (and next week’s home game against the New York Giants). We’ll now have a chance to get a few people healthy, the likes of (tight end) Darnell Dinkins and (offensive tackle) Jermon Bushrod and (running back) Mike Bell. I think we played with real good effort and energy.
“The turnovers we created were significant.”
The Saints intercepted Jets rookie Mark Sanchez three times and forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown. Pierre Thomas, returning from a knee injury, punched out 86 tough yards on the ground.
Bell had a big game against the Lions, carrying the ball 28 times for 143 yards and a score.
The Saints have shown an ability to control the clock, which they couldn’t do with an offense that relied on the passing game in each of the last two seasons.
“When we’re playing with a little bit of a lead now,” Payton said, “and we’re trying to bleed the clock, the one obvious thing to do is rush the football.
“I think we’re better at that than we have been.”
The Saints have done this despite losing Pro Bowl left tackle Jammal Brown for the season with hip surgery. Bushrod, Brown’s replacement, couldn’t play against the Jets, but Zach Strief filled in admirably.
“Any time you can get away with a win in this league, you’ll take it,” Strief said.
The Saints added Sharper, the veteran free safety, and cornerback Jabari Greer via free agency. Gregg Williams has had an immediate impact as the Saints’ defensive coordinator. And they have Brees, the leader on the field who guided the Saints to the NFC title game in 2006.
“You’re really just measured by your record,” Payton said, “and it’s really early the schedule.”
The tale of the tape measures the Saints at 4-0 through the first week of October

Versatility has produced Saints fast start in ’09 - Sports - SunHerald.com

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