Saints driven to show better
Motivation should be easy to find vs. Colts
Sunday September 28, 2003
By Jeff Duncan
The Saints have lost their share of games in the Jim Haslett era. But rarely have they been humbled as they were in last week's 27-12 loss at Tennessee.
Haslett said the physical beating was one of the three worst of his 51-game head coaching tenure. Few of his players would disagree.
"We got our butts kicked," right guard LeCharles Bentley said. "We lost. We got beat up. It's over. Now let's go beat up somebody else."
Bentley was one of several players who took the loss hard. After the flight home Sunday night, he immediately went to the team facility to review the game film.
There was plenty of blame to go around in Nashville. But Haslett made a point of singling out the sub-standard play of the offensive line, a unit he considered to be a strength entering the season.
Saints coaches challenged the line and the rest of the offense this week in preparation for tonight's prime-time game against the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts at the Superdome.
With a defense missing five starters, the team knows the experienced and talented offense must begin to play up to its potential for the Saints (1-2) to stay in the race until the injured heal.
"I don't think anybody had to challenge us," Saints left guard Kendyl Jacox said. "Anybody that's a man and a competitor and loves this sport knows the job that we have to do. We're challenging ourselves."
One player the Saints aren't concerned about is Bentley.
"I'm not worried about him at all, because I know his personality and his character," Saints offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy said. "I think he'll show what he's made of this Sunday."
The Saints will need Bentley, and everyone else for that matter, to be at their best. The Colts (3-0) are off to their best start since 1996. Among their three victims are the same Titans who manhandled the Saints last week. The Colts defeated them 33-7 a week earlier.
The offense features the usual suspects. Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison annually rank among the league's best. Third-year wide receiver Reggie Wayne has complemented Harrison
"They're certified," Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi said. "They're a team with tremendous weapons. There's not much that the Colts don't have."
What the Colts didn't have for years was a defense. But in less than two seasons, coach Tony Dungy has transformed the unit from docile to dominant.
The Colts' active and disciplined unit has allowed just 26 points, second in the NFL to Tampa Bay's 22. The Colts are ranked fifth at 260.7 yards allowed per game.
"They may not be as talented a group as we had last week (at Tennessee), but . . . it's a solid defense that plays not to lose," Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks said. "It's going to have to be a very patient game for us on offense."
A sellout crowd is expected. For the first time since a Monday night game against St. Louis on Dec. 17, 2001, the Saints late in the week put about 2,000 standing-room-only tickets on sale.
Quarterback Peyton Manning, a New Orleans native, knows what kind of environment to expect in the Superdome.
"I think we're catching New Orleans at a tough time," Manning said.
"They'll be ready to play this Sunday coming off a tough loss to Tennessee. They've always been a better team at home -- some of the best fans around, Sunday night, prime time. (It's) going to be a tough place to play."
New Orleans has been a tough place for the Saints this week. Fans and media, both locally and nationally, have criticized them for their 1-2 start and their performance against Tennessee.
Two ESPN analysts called them "the most underachieving team in the NFL." By mid-week, players had grown weary of the criticism.
"I'm going to say this one time, and I'm going to be done: In this league, you're only as good as your last game," Saints wide receiver Joe Horn said. "We lost. I can't speak for all 53 players. We got our (behinds) whipped (by Tennessee).
"I don't see any panic. We've got to correct this house. We can't worry about anybody else's house."
Instead, the Saints echoed a point made by Dungy this week. Of the seven teams that started 3-0 last season, only one -- the Oakland Raiders -- made the playoffs.
The Saints were one of those 3-0 teams to fizzle down the stretch.
"If we can just go 2-2 during this quarter, it puts us right back into the hunt," Jacox said. "Last year we started out of the blocks blazing. Hopefully it will be the other way around this year."
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i think this is quite possibly our make or break game for the year
we win we got a good shot at the playoffs
we lose we probably roll over for the rest of the year
I agree. This game has the look and feel of a playoff game. Regardless of what some members say, this is a talented team. Even the most talented teams struggle at times. Sometimes it takes extreme circumstances to get things turned around. While this game will not make or break the Saints season, as far as win/loss wise, it is a pivitol game.
With all the talent the Saints have on offense they are capiable of out scoring most teams in the league when they are clicking. So far that hasn\'t happened, but this offense seems to be pissed about the way they perfomed at Tennessee and the Colts could very well be running into a hornet\'s nest tonight.
If the Saints offense can get back to form against the Colts, it could very well give this team the confidence it needs to start playing consistantly for 4 quarters. If the Saints offense starts scoring early and the crowd gets in the game, it could be a long night for Peyton Manning and company.
[Edited on 28/9/2003 by BillyCarpenter1]
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