Saints can win the Superbowl
NEW ORLEANS - Can the New Orleans Saints win Super Bowl XLIV and claim the city’s first-ever NFL championship?
The answer is unequivocally yes, but first they must successfully negotiate two land mines placed on the NFC obstacle course, beginning with the divisional round Jan. 16 at the Superdome, against the winner of Arizona-Green Bay on Sunday.
The NFC’s top-seeded Saints have a potent, well balanced offense. Though vulnerable against the run during the final month of the regular season, their 25th-ranked defense (21st vs. run, 122.2 YPG; 26th vs. pass, 235.6 YPG) has enough playmakers to offset their shortcomings. Their coverage units on special teams have been spotty but are expected to get an infusion of frontline players for the postseason. And, Payton and Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams know how to assemble winning game plans.
That said, with a little luck and homefield advantage, I say why not the Black and Gold? Forget about recent trends and the Tampa Bay curse. Why not dream big? Too, the law of averages might be on their side after going Super Bowl-less for more than four decades. Four other NFL franchises also are lacking a roman-numeral title - Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonville and Carolina, though the Panthers did make the Big Show in Super Bowl XXXVIII only to lose to New England, 32-29.
Several things worry me, however, beginning with health issues. The latest roster casualty came Tuesday when team officials revealed that LDE Charles Grant will be lost for the postseason after undergoing surgery to repair a torn triceps. Grant was replaced on the 53-man roster by veteran DE Paul Spicer, who went to training camp with the team.
A number of key players need to get healthy in the coming days for the Saints to make a deep run in the playoffs, most notably, TE Jeremy Shockey (toe), WLB Scott Shanle (concussion), RB Pierre Thomas (ribs), FS Darren Sharper (knee), DT Sedrick Ellis (knee), DE Bobby McCray (back), WR Lance Moore (ankle), S Usama Young (groin), CB Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring) and KR Courtney Roby (head), among others.
Their recent inability to stop the run also throws up a red flag. Case in point: Home losses in Weeks 15 and 16 when Dallas (36 rushes, 145 yards) and Tampa Bay (34-176) combined to rush 70 times for 321 yards, a 4.6-yard average. That won’t get it done in the postseason when every little weakness gets exposed.
With that in mind, here are my …
TOP 10 REASONS WHY THE SAINTS CAN WIN SUPER BOWL XLIV!
(1) DREW BREES: The one thing that separates No. 9 from the active class of iconic QBs in the NFL is a Super Bowl ring. Tom Brady (3), Peyton Manning (1), Brett Favre (1), even young Ben Roethlisberger (2), have them. Brees hopes to join the crowd this postseason. Arguably, no quarterback played better in 2009 than Brees, who led the league in a handful of statistical categories, including passer rating (109.6), TD passes (34) and completion percentage (70.62, an NFL record). If Reggie Jackson was the straw that stirred the Yankees’ drink than Brees is the oar that steers the Saints pirogue.
(2) PICK YOUR POISON: The Saints’ offense is football’s version of Toys ’R Us, meaning Payton has a plethora of playmakers to break down a defense, move the chains and score points. Payton’s biggest problem is trying to keep all the receivers and running backs involved and interested with only one ball, a problem any play-caller would love to have. Seven players caught at least 35 passes during the regular season. Ten different players have caught TD passes led by Marques Colston and Robert Meachem with 9 each. No individual running back rushed for more than 793 yards, but the “3-Headed Monster’’ of Pierre Thomas (793), Mike Bell (654) and Reggie Bush (390) did combine for 1,837 yards and 16 TDs. Thomas is expected to play in the divisional round after acknowledging that he broke three ribs against Tampa Bay in Game 15. A healthy TE Jeremy Shockey (right big toe) also is critical to this unit’s success in the postseason. Ex-Patriot TE David Thomas, who was acquired from New England prior to the season, has played well down the stretch. Collectively, the Saints lead the NFL in total offense (403.8 YPG) and scoring (31.9 PPG).
(3) G-FENSE, G-FENSE: First-year Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams turned this unit into a rabid bunch of ball-hawking maniacs, nearly doubling the number of takeaways from a year ago. Exhibit A: 39 turnovers (22 in 2008), second only to Green Bay’s 40. Exhibit B: Seven defensive touchdowns. Exhibit C: Pro Bowl-bound free safety Darren Sharper (9 INTs, 3 TDs) and cornerbacks Tracy Porter (4-1) and Jabari Greer (2-1) combined for 15 picks and five scores. Throw in veteran SS Roman Harper and the 2009 secondary arguably is the best in franchise history. I playfully refer to them as the law firm of “Harper, Sharper, Porter and Greer.’’ Exhibit D: RDE Will Smith came within a whisker of making the Pro Bowl after posting a career-high 13 sacks. Williams deserves a lot of credit for changing the defensive culture. The former Buffalo Bills head coach and longtime NFL defensive coordinator instilled a swagger and newfound confidence to a unit that lacked both. From day one, he preached the importance of creating turnovers and being aggressive and swarming to the ball, and that approach paid huge dividends.
(4) BALANCED ATTACK: Though the final numbers reflect a late-season reliance on the pass, the offense did a much better job this season of balancing run and pass. Consider: Through 11 games, the Saints rushed 350 times and passed 343 times. Through 16 games, those numbers totaled 468 rushing and 544 passing, compared to 398 rushing and 613 passing in 2008. The difference from a year ago is the 3-pronged attack at running back with Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush. The offense became much more effective in short-yardage situations, due in part to Bell’s bullish running style. On 28 short-yardage running plays (3rd-and-1 or 2) this season, the Saints converted 23 times (82.14 percent) and averaged 4.79 yards per rush. By comparison, in 2008, the Saints converted 20 of 31 plays short-yardage running plays (64.52 percent) and averaged 2.84 yards per rush. The ability to run the ball at crunch time enabled them to protect leads and close out games in the fourth quarter.
(5) FRONT AND CENTER: The Saints’ offensive line perhaps is the least appreciated aspect of their football team. Yet, it is a huge reason why they led the league in total offense and scoring. Four of their five starters started all 16 games- LG Jahri Evans (voted as a starter in the 2010 Pro Bowl), C Jonathan Evans (1st alternate), RG Carl Nicks (2nd alternate) and RT Jon Stinchcomb (Pro Bowl reserve). Though he struggled at times (Dallas OLB DeMarcus Ware comes to mind), LT Jermon Bushrod filled in admirably at left tackle for injured two-time Pro Bowler Jammal Brown. Additionally, OT Zack Strief contributed mightily off the bench. Collectively, they were among the league leaders in fewest sacks allowed with 20.
(6) ALL HANDS ON DECK: From top to bottom, this year’s 53-man roster is the deepest since Payton’s arrival in 2006. The additions of CB Jabari Greer, FS Darren Sharper, TE David Thomas, DL Anthony Hargrove and FB Heath Evans (on IR with a torn ACL), plus the return to health of TE Jeremy Shockey and the emergence of RB Mike Bell, CB Tracy Porter and rookie CB Malcolm Jenkins have allowed this team to flourish. But the team’s most important offseason acquisition arguably is Williams, who helped make the Saints relevant on defense.
(7) ‘FEETS’ OF STRENGTH: GM Mickey Loomis and Payton took a lot of heat from fans and media for trading up into the fifth-round in the April draft to select SMU punter Thomas Morstead but that decision has paid off handsomely. Morstead possesses a strong leg and does a superb job of directional punting. He is averaging a net of 43.6 yards with 18 punts downed inside the 20. His ability to affect field position has been a real plus for Special Teams Coordinator Greg McMahon this season. Morstead is bound to make some all-rookie teams. Kicker Garrett Hartley has rebounded from a season-opening four-game suspension for using a banned substance. Since replacing veteran John Carney as the team’s game-day kicker in Game 12, Hartley has made 9 of 11 FG attempts. He missed a potential game-winning 37-yarder in the waning seconds of regulation against Tampa Bay in Week 16 that would have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Buccaneers went on to win in OT, 20-17. But he also kicked a game-winner against Washington in OT.
(8) COACH ’EM UP: Unquestionably, Payton has done his best coaching job (he earned my vote for The Associated Press Coach of the Year), not just because his team finished a franchise-best 13-3 and clinched the No. 1seed in the NFC but because he skillfully dealt with one of the league’s older teams. He pulled back in training camp and eased up in practice during the season, always mindful of having his players fresh and healthy on game day. Payton’s ability to keep his team focused, particularly during the distraction-filled days leading up to Super Bowl XLIV, would serve his team well.
(9) FINISHING KICK: At the start of the season, Brees and other players distributed T-shirts bearing a handful of clever inspirational messages and the Super Bowl XLIV logo. One T-short simply said “Finish.’’ This one word spoke volumes as to the players’ mindset. Last season, the Saints lost six games by a touchdown or less en route to an 8-8 record, oftentimes unable to hold onto leads and finish games in the fourth quarter. This season, the Saints owned the final 15 minutes, outscoring the opposition 139-48. The best illustration of this came in Week 7 of the Saints’ 48-34 victory against Miami when they outscored the Dolphins 22-0 in the fourth quarter after trailing 24-3 late in the first half.
(10) LAST, BUT NOT LEAST: The Saints likely would have the support of pro football fans everywhere, in part because they would be the new kids on the block, a bunch of wide-eyed players with fresh stories to tell a worldwide press corps. They already are one of the league’s most compelling stories this season, not only for what they mean to the local citizenry and the Who Dat Nation but because they represent a community that has had to overcome so much in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Everybody loves an underdog and the 43rd rendition of the Black and Gold is definitely a feel-good story.
NFL Playoffs: 10 Reasons Why The New Orleans Saints Can Win Super Bowl XLIV
Re: Saints can win the SB
2) Hell is freezing over.
3) The defense has shown they are capable of playing defense earlier this season, they can come to believe again with William's help.
4) Payton is an offensive genius.
5) Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL, easily the most accurate passer.
6) It is warm in Miami in February and the Louisiana people won't have to spend money on one time use items, like coats and stuff to attend the Superbowl.
7) As my old dad used to say, "Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while." The Saints are the blind pig this year.
8) Contrary to most Saints fans experience, there is a cosmic balance and a football god who is going to allow the have nots to feed at the trough this year.
9) We have come too far over too many not to enter the promised land.
10) From the black gumbo mud beneath New Orleans there is a gas bubbling forth from the bowels of the earth that is penetrating deep into the minds and bodies of the Saints players and fans. They will have some special strength to take into the playoffs with them.
Re: Saints can win the Superbowl
Well after tonight it look even better - The road to the Superbowl goes through the Dome
Re: Saints can win the Superbowl
This is our year. I've said this for 20+ years, but I finally believe it!
Re: Saints can win the Superbowl
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