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Saints, though 9-0, not juggernaut that started the season

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; ST. LOUIS -- As the frantic final minutes played out, Courtney Roby sat atop a bench at the back of the New Orleans Saints' sideline and held his head in his hands. A few feet to his left, Drew Brees ...

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Old 11-15-2009, 11:12 PM   #1
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Saints, though 9-0, not juggernaut that started the season

ST. LOUIS -- As the frantic final minutes played out, Courtney Roby sat atop a bench at the back of the New Orleans Saints' sideline and held his head in his hands.

A few feet to his left, Drew Brees sat alone, his golden right arm now a nonfactor in the game's outcome.
The rest of the Saints' sideline fidgeted nervously, alternating glances between the frantic action on the field and the seemingly interminable countdown of the play clock. This was not how the Saints expected to finish their game against the one-win St. Louis Rams on Sunday. On the ropes and on the defensive.
When Marc Bulger's final pass fluttered harmlessly out of bounds and the clock expired on a 28-23 win, the Saints walked off the Edward Jones Dome field as survivors more than victors.
The Saints committed three turnovers, six penalties, allowed the Rams to post season highs in points and yards -- a performance hardly reminiscent of the 1972 Dolphins.
Appropriately, a tangible sense of relief rather than joy permeated the air inside the Saints' postgame locker room. After so many exhilarating, dominant wins, this one felt more like a loss.
"We're dodging bullets right now," linebacker Scott Fujita said.

Somehow a Rams team ranked in the bottom third of the league in nearly every major statistical category outgained the high-powered Saints offense 434-420 and held a commanding 32:02 to 27:58 edge in time of possession. St. Louis rushed for 141 yards, passed for 293 and did not commit a turnover against the NFL's most opportunistic defense in the final 51 minutes.
In fact, if weren't for Courtney Roby's 97-yard kickoff return to start the second half, the Saints would have managed just one score in their final seven possessions.
The upstart Rams looked like the fresher, more motivated team. It's somewhat understandable. The hosts were coming off a bye week. The Saints were coming off a pair of emotional, hard-fought division battles against the Falcons and Panthers.
"It's already hard enough to get wins in this league, it's even harder when you have a team that has two weeks to prepare for you," running back Reggie Bush said. "I don't care who they are. I don't care if they haven't won a game, period, it's going to be a tough game."
Yet, motivation only goes so far on Sundays. There's a reason the Rams have won just one game. They're not very talented. Most NFL observers rank their personnel among the bottom of the league. But, the Saints made enough mistakes and bonehead plays to allow them to hang around and make a game of it.
Three of the Saints' first six drives ended in turnovers. One, a fumble by Marques Colston as he attempted to cross the goal line in the third quarter, cost the Saints a sure touchdown. Another, Drew Brees' second interception of the game and seventh in the past four weeks, led to a Rams field goal.
"Obviously, we're not happy with the turnovers," Brees said. "It's going to get our butts beat pretty soon if we don't fix it."
Indeed, if the Saints were a stock, they'd be trending downward. They clearly aren't the same juggernaut that started the season with five dominant wins.
In their first five wins, the Saints committed a total of six turnovers, allowed only four sacks and held opponents to 83.4 rushing yards per game.
In their past four wins, they committed 13 turnovers, allowed nine sacks and surrendered 155.3 rushing yards per game. Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams and Steven Jackson respectively have rushed for 151, 149 and 131 yards against the Saints in consecutive weeks.
"Glaring issues like stopping the run, turnovers, those are things that if we don't get corrected can come back to bite us," Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said.
More disconcerting, the Saints' injury list continues to grow. Cornerback Tracy Porter joined four other starting defenders on the sidelines when he injured his left knee. The Saints started the season with Porter, Kendrick Clancy, Sedrick Ellis, Jabari Greer and Darren Sharper in the starting 11. None of those guys were on the field when the Rams made their desperate last-ditch drive Sunday.
"We have a lot of confidence in all of our guys, but you're only so deep," Fujita said. "It's challenging."
The challenge might not be so difficult next week when the Saints travel to 1-8 Tampa Bay. But the injury-riddled defense will be exposed if Sharper's knee, Greer's groin and Ellis' knee don't heal before the Nov. 30 showdown against New England.
"We're happy with the win, but we understand we have to play a lot better," Fujita said. "Clearly, we have a lot of things to clean up."
The Saints are unbeaten. But they won't stay that way for long if they keep playing like they did Sunday.


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Old 11-17-2009, 03:36 PM   #2
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Re: Saints, though 9-0, not juggernaut that started the season

Some of the players that started the season are now sitting on IR. It's hard to be a juggernaut when you are limping through games with backups. At least we are winning, no matter how ugly the wins are.
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