Dissecting the New Orleans Saints' 'Five Things'
On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints will play the Minnesota Vikings with a trip to Super Bowl XLIV on the line. The Saints have got to go back and look at what worked exactly and what didn't as preparation for Sunday commences.
The Vikings are coming off of a dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys. The Saints are coming off of a total demolition of the Arizona Cardinals. Things could not be set up better for an offensive juggernaut battle in the Superdome this weekend.
I recently looked at the "five things to look out for from the Cardinals" from Cardinals' Examiner Scott Jones, and thought I'd dissect them a bit. You know, see why the Cards lost so bad and if it was because of not following the necessary game plan or something else.
It's due time now to go through my "five things to look out for from the Saints" and see if those were the reasons our boys won so handily.
1.) Going back to the days of playing fast from the start
When the Cardinals jumped out to the early lead right off the bat with that 70-yard touchdown run from Tim Hightower, I was expecting a shootout. Then the Saints marched down the field and tied it up. Next thing you know, the offense has the ball back thanks to Randall Gay and Darren Sharper. Then Jeremy Shockey is catching a 17-yard touchdown pass on a gimpy leg. One stop later and the Saints have the ball back with Reggie Bush running it in on a beautiful 46-yard dash.
Before the Cardinals knew it, the Saints were off to a fast start and the red birds were down 21-7. This is the type of thing I was used to from New Orleans at the beginning of the season and it helped them go for five straight games before ever trailing once. The black and gold may have trailed to almost literally start this game but once they got the lead back, they didn't relinquish it. Turnovers were turned into points. The crowd noise and enthusiasm was used as an asset which was evident by the players constantly asking for everyone to get louder. And the Saints did not have to rely on Garrett Hartley's leg because they'd drive the ball deep and finish off drives. Still, Hartley did well when called upon by hitting 6 extra points and his lone field goal attempt. Nice work, nice work.
2.) Jeremy Shockey needs to be involved in the game
3 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown catch (17 yards). Would you call that getting involved in the game? I'd definitely call it getting involved even though those numbers aren't staggering. He missed the last three weeks of the season with a toe injury and hadn't really been all that productive or even visible since about week eight against Atlanta. So now he comes back and plays in his first game in quite some time and had very mediocre numbers. But that doesn't matter because he was a factor against the Cardinals and it was wildness and enthusiasm that I spoke of.
Shockey's second reception of the game was a nice 13-yard grab down to the Cards' five yard line which eventually set up the Saints first touchdown that was run in by Lynell Hamilton. The thing about that catch was that Shockey grabbed it and took a decent lick from the defender yet hopped right up, screamed, and flexed getting the crowd going even more. Then came the touchdown catch which was just so much more awesome then it looks. Somewhere along the way (at least three plays before, AT LEAST), Shockey injured himself and was finding it very hard to even run his routes. On the scoring play, Shockey hobbled to the goal line, did a nice little move, and got open for the falling down score.
He got involved. He showed his presence. He allowed David Thomas to do a lot more blocking while giving Drew Brees another weapon.
3.) Keep Jinx Malloy (the deep ball) off of the field
Considering I was at the game and didn't hear the announcers, I'm not entirely sure if Daryl Johnston, Kenny Albert, or Tony Siragusa ever made mention of the stat I dreaded the most. If they would have made notice of the fact that the Cardinals weren't a deep ball team then the jinx would have truly been on. All season the Cards only had three pass plays that went further then 40 yards and with Boldin out; that looked like it might have srated that way. We forget about the 70-yard Hightower run because it's not a passing play so it's out ok? OK?
I still have no idea if that stat was mentioned by the announcers or any pre-game shows, but it didn't happen so no big deal. The longest pass play for Kurt Warner and the Cardinals was the 28-yard pass to tight end Jerheme Urban on their second drive that resulted in a turnover. Steve Breaston had a 20-yard reception and Larry FItzgerald had one for 16, but not a single one resulted in them finding the end zone. Both scores by the Cardinals were rushing touchdowns and the explosive passing attack was kept at bay. Even when Matt Leinart was in there. Heh.
4.) Blitz, Blitz, Blitz
I didn't notice an increidble amount of blitzing, but it really wasn't totally necessary either. The defense was playing well enough to cause turnovers and to also keep the Cardinals from getting big enough gains to get many first downs. Coverage during the passing game was really good meaning that Warner held onto the ball a bit longer meaning that even three or four man rushes were pressuring the quarterback. Warner does a great job of getting rid of the ball and he only took one sack, but the Saints kept coming at him even if the blitzing wasn't with large numbers.
Let's not forget that a quick lead meant the Cards were going to abandon their running game (which they did) and force a lot more throws out of Warner. Instead of a ton of blitzing, the Saints sat back in coverage enough to make sure that even if the ball was caught, first downs weren't achieved. All in all the defense did a great job except for one big play and I'd say that is a day well done.
Mission Half Accomplished.
5.) Take the ball out of Drew Brees' hands
As hard as it seems that this is a necessary evil; it is and it worked. Former Saints' quarterback Bobby Hebert said after the game that the team couldn't have played a game with a more balanced attack then they did. 32 passing plays and 34 rushing plays. I'd call that overly balanced and also say that it looks as if the ball was taken out of Brees' hands.
The running game has become a huge part of the Saints' offense this season meaning that the wear-and-tear on Brees throwing for 5,000 yards just wasn't there and that's a good thing. The trio of Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Reggie Bush make for a great rushing attack that will throw any team off their defensive set. Add rookie Lynell Hamilton into the mix and things get even more confusing. When Bush is playing like he did yesterday too; it makes things so much easier for the Saints and allows them to pull things out of the playbook that you won't often see. Even from a Sean Payton offense. coughFLEA-FLICKERcough.
My final score prediction was Saints 35 and the Cardinals 27 even though earlier in the week I had the Saints winning 41-24. Should have stuck with my original instinct because it was a lot closer on both counts. Still, I think the Saints had a great plan in place for Arizona and should go with much of the same against the Vikings when they host them in the Dome.
Everything listed here will be helpful when playing the Vikings on Sunday, but there will need to be some tweaks. The Saints are going to have to account for that tremendous defensive line among many other things that are different from what the Cardinals brought to the table. Still, the steps accomplished here by the Saints are what really helped them win the game and repeating all of them will help tremendously against Minnesota.
Fans, the boys will need you too because I know for a fact that the noise level and excitement was a big contributuon on Saturday. If the Saints play the way they did and the fans are as hot as they were then there isn't a single team in the world that can take them down. Check back tomorrow morning when I break down the Saints and Vikings position by position before giving my final thoughts late tomorrow or early Saturday.
Re: Dissecting the New Orleans Saints' 'Five Things'
Halo - I completely agree. If we can do the same things to the Viks that we did to Zona we are golden!!
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