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saint5221 09-07-2003 09:45 AM

Saints will need plenty of points to win opener

I sure hope our defense has something today this could get ugly if they don't.

Saints will need plenty of points to win opener

Sunday September 07, 2003

Peter Finney

A year ago there was no way of knowing the team the Saints had just beaten on the road, in overtime, would go on to win the Super Bowl.

There was no way of knowing the Saints would handle the most difficult part of their schedule, at least "on paper," in 6-1 fashion.

There was no way of knowing the Saints would begin December with their ninth victory, giving them a sweep of the Tampa Bay Bucs, then implode in horrible fashion.

Which brings up the question of the moment: What do we know the first week of September 2003?

I'll take a guess and say this: If the Saints don't score 30 points today, they don't stand a chance of beating Seattle.

Another question: Will 30 be enough?

I base this "on paper;" that is, what we've seen so far from Jim Haslett's "revamped" defense in those glorified scrimmages, also what we saw the Seahawks and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck do last season when they had the third-best passing game in the league.

"On paper," facing the Bucs and Packers right out of the starting blocks, the Saints were supposed to be 0-2, not 2-0.

This time, beginning with a Seattle team that needed a strong finish (to 7-9) to save Coach Mike Holmgren's job and following it with the Houston Texans, 4-12 in their "expansion" season, you'd have to say the Saints have a decent "on paper" shot to begin 2-0.

The Seahawks last season had the worst rushing defense in the league (hello Deuce

McAllister), and today they'll be without starting tackle Chad Eaton and Pro Bowl cornerback Shawn Springs. Oddly enough they will have tackle Norman Hand, who in effect became too fat and too slow to be a force in the middle for Jim Haslett, the same Norman Hand now banked on to elevate a defense that was a picnic to run on.

Since the Saints and Seahawks went into the offseason with similar aims -- addressing defensive woes -- Haslett will have to live with some key decisions.

The biggest: Using the sixth pick in the first round for defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan. Forget Hand. Forget the move to bring in Tebucky Jones to add speed to the secondary. If Sullivan doesn't come in and have something akin to an immediate impact (as do most highly drafted defensive linemen), the negative fallout will be significant.

As for Haslett's offense, we wait. Aaron Brooks in effect took the preseason off. With the real bullets flying, he has a chance to start the year attacking a suspect secondary with the likes of Joe Horn and Donté Stallworth and to do some additional damage handing the ball to McAllister.

The Seahawks defense could be there for the taking. Come to think of it, it better be, assuming the winner has to score more points than the other team.

Moving to Thursday's season opener in Washington D.C., did you catch the irony in how the final score came about: Redskins 16, Jets 13?

It was the idea of Steve Spurrier's team winning with a field goal in the final seconds. In college, Spurrier hated kicking field goals. He preferred passing for touchdowns -- many, many touchdowns. While he got some sharp passing from Tulane's Patrick Ramsey, Spurrier won with defense and running the football.

I do know one thing for sure: The Redskins and Jets will not be playing one another in the next Super Bowl.

Something I do not know for sure, but believe, is the Eagles, so long as Donovan McNabb stays healthy, are the best team in the league. In fact I say the two best teams, Eagles and Bucs, play one another Monday night.

I also say if the Eagles don't go the distance, the Bucs will. Why? Because Jon Gruden is the best coach in the NFL. How do I know this? Because I asked him and he told me.

Any more questions?

. . . . . . .

Peter Finney can be reached at or (504) 826-3802.

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