Five thoughts on the Saints' sad performance in Seattle
Five thoughts on the Saints’ stunning playoff loss to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks:
1) The No. 1 culprit was not the coaching or the injuries or the crowd. It was Roman Harper’s first-half performance.
Clearly, the Saints did not match the Seahawks’ intensity level after the 10-0 start. But without Harper’s inexplicable nightmare of a first half, New Orleans would have won. Relatively comfortably.
It’s strange. Harper had the best year of his career, forcing six fumbles, breaking up eight passes and, for the first time in five seasons, not looking lost when the ball was in the air.
His regression Sunday was remarkable. He was directly responsible for all three Seahawks’ touchdowns in the first half, getting abused for easy scores by tight end John Carlson twice and wide receiver Brandon Stokley once. He also got burned by tight end Cameron Morrah for a 39-yard gain that set up the second touchdown.
As well as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck played (very, very well), Seattle would not have won without Harper’s mistakes.
2) Criticize Sean Payton for his decision to go for it on fourth-and inches in his own territory during the third quarter all you want. The bigger factor was the sequence of three plays after the Saints had first-and-goal at the Seattle 11 while trailing 34-27.
Payton’s fourth-down gamble did not hurt. After stuffing Julius Jones, Seattle cracked under the pressure of going ahead by three scores and ended up punting thanks to a confidence-sapping dropped pass and delay-of-game penalty.
But when the Saints had a real chance to tie the score at 34 and make the reeling Seahawks panic, they became too conservative. With a first down at the Seattle 11, Brees never threw for the end zone, a mistake that also cost the Saints a game at Arizona earlier this year.
On first down, he checked down to tight end Dave Thomas for a 5-yard gain. Then he handed off to Julius Jones for two yards. Then he threw a quick out to Devery Henderson, who had to make someone miss or break a tackle, neither of which are his strengths. Three guys clobbered him two yards shy of the first down.
New Orleans settled for a field goal and never came close to tying again.
If Brees had taken three shots at the end zone, the Saints almost surely would have scored a touchdown. The way the Seahawks were gagging, New Orleans would have become the clear favorite to win.
3) The rationalization that the Saints definitely would have lost to Chicago or Atlanta if they had eked out a win in Seattle doesn’t wash.
Teams do not play the same way every week. They can, and often do, follow terrible performances with terrific ones. Teams that pull of huge comebacks usually play looser and better the following week. Doesn’t matter now.
4) The obsession with stripping the ball instead of tackling finally cost the Saints an important game.
We saw it in Baltimore a few weeks ago, but the Saints still would have been a No. 5 seed if they had beaten the Ravens. Lynch’s clinching 67-yard touchdown run will go down as one of the best in playoff history, but it came courtesy of horrendous tackling. The Saints tried to rip the ball out of his grasp instead of bringing him down, turning what would have been a third-and-eight into a first down and then a touchdown.
Fundamentally sound defenses wrap up before they try to strip. The Saints have become far too conscious of creating turnovers, and this time all they created was a season-ending touchdown.
5) Wasting two timeouts killed the Saints at the end.
The first one came when the Seahawks faced a third-and-8 in the fourth quarter. After the timeout, Hasselbeck completed a 12-yard pass.
The second one came when the Saints faced a third-and-8 at their 19. Brees threw incomplete on the next play, and New Orleans punted.
With only one timeout remaining, the Saints were dead when they did not recover Garrett Hartley’s onside kick, although Seattle mystifyingly gave them two chances to cause a fumble by handing off instead of taking a knee.
Note to Pete Carroll: With 1:28 left, you can take three consecutive knees and run out the clock when the other team has one timeout left. Do the math.
LINKBACK TO THE EXAMINER ARTICLE
Great post. I agree with all of your posts.
When Lynch got the first down, the game was essentially over. The Saints didn't have enought TOs to stop the clock and get the ball back.
Good stuff. All true.
#1 - Harper was absolutely terrible. Absolutely terrible. No excuses.
#2 - ...and many other poor play calls in my opinion.
The decision to not kick to Washington and basically give them the ball on their 45 was wussy and defanged these guys for the rest of the game. There wasn't one signature-highlight hit from our defense ALL day.
#3 - We CAN beat Chicago/Atlanta/Philly/New England - just line them up
We'd probably beat these guys 43-13 if we played again tomorrow.
#4 - Coaches (GW+ SP) have admitted to coaching up strip/take away technique. It simply burned us today - AGAIN! Hit-wrap-roll has been thrown out of the window. Kills me on a weekly basis. Now I have a few months to recover.
#5 - We should stop rolling the dice and putting ourselves in that position.
When you are up by 17 you don't even need timeouts.
It is these types of head scratchers that make me go away from a game like this and think, "Is the NFL rigged?"
I realize it would be very difficult to do this and keep thousands of employees hushed but you just can't help but think it because it happens over and over...not just in this game but many, many times during the season. The Philly/Giant game a few weeks ago had me wondering the same thing.
The fourth-down and inches play took waaaaay to long to develop. I agreed for the Saints to go for it but just dive under and get those two-three inches! Why did they bother wasting time handing the ball off to the back and having him run into the wall of linemen.
Drew, here's a plan. Snap ball. Hold ball. Lower shoulders. Plow through a small opening somewhere between linemen. Simple. It would have taken all of 1.5 seconds to complete.
1) I've said this last year and this year as well Harper is a liability in coverage. PERIOD! Now this is only coverage around the line of scrimmage he's in his element but in coverage he reminds me of Jason David and who was the other @#$% I forgot!
2) I did not like the way we didn't put our foot into kickoffs we basically gave the field position.
3) tackling was horrible once the runner is hit buy the 1st Saint he should just wrap'em and let the pursuit catch up and strip NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND
4) YOU CAN'T GO INTO THE PLAYOFFS WITHOUT A RUNNING GAME even though the offense held its own and it was enough to win but a running game would have covered up our porous defense
5) the 4th down decision to go for it was a good call just the wrong play, no running game should have let Brees do what he do
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