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Must win for the Saint's!

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; But this is coming from San Francisco: Saints in must-win situation Ira Miller Friday, September 17, 2004 The New Orleans Saints are tough to figure. Ever since the 2000 season, when they won a playoff game for the first time ...

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Old 09-17-2004, 04:02 PM   #1
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Must win for the Saint's!

But this is coming from San Francisco:

Saints in must-win situation

Ira Miller
Friday, September 17, 2004

The New Orleans Saints are tough to figure. Ever since the 2000 season, when they won a playoff game for the first time in their then-33-year history, the Saints were thought to be a team on the rise.

Instead, they were .500 the next three years, lost their 2004 opener at home to Seattle and are facing your basic must-win game in the second week of the season against the 49ers.

NFL personnel experts believe the Saints have decent players, yet they repeat the same mistakes and play inconsistently. New Orleans is particularly strong on both the offensive and defensive lines, a matter of concern for the 49ers.

Among other things, New Orleans had three pre-snap penalties on offense and had to waste two timeouts against Seattle. There were mix-ups in blocking schemes, incorrect pass routes and all-around poor play. This from a group of veteran players.

Afterward, coach Jim Haslett said, "These guys have been together for a long time and should not be making these types of mistakes."

Haslett, who was a first-year coach when the Saints won that 2000 playoff game, is on the spot. He is a former NFL linebacker and displays the same kind of fire and emotion as a coach that he did as a player, and that may be reflected in the up-down nature of New Orleans' play.

Those around the team say that Haslett has matured with experience and has become more of a steadying influence, but it hasn't been shown in the team's performance. The Saints also have done a good job of ridding themselves of some disruptive locker-room influences, players such as Kyle Turley, Albert Connell and Dale Carter, and bringing in higher-character veterans to set a better tone, such as Ernie Conwell, Brian Young and Jason Craft.

The Chronicle asked two NFL personnel directors to assess the Saints' roster. One rated them highly, saying he had questions only about quarterback Aaron Brooks' consistency and a weak secondary. The other said some of their players "might be a scant overrated."

At any rate, most people agree that New Orleans' strength is on offense, and the offense struggled against the Seahawks, in part because Deuce McAllister, who rushed for more than 3,000 yards the last two years behind fullback Terrelle Smith's lead blocking, has been unable to adapt to an offensive shift to two tight-end formations instead of using a fullback. (Smith signed with Cleveland in free agency.)

Earlier this week, a frustrated McAllister spoke with the coaches about making more use of rookie fullback Mike Karney in the offense and running the kind of power plays that previously worked for the Saints. Such a change is likely to show up against the 49ers.

When the 49ers have the ball, a matchup worth watching will be left tackle Kwame Harris against rookie defensive end Will Smith. Harris, a first- round pick in 2003, struggled in the opener, and even the 49ers may be starting to wonder if he can complete a transition from right tackle in college to left tackle in the NFL. Smith, a first-round pick this year, is a speed rusher who already looks good. It's vital for the 49ers that Harris show improvement.

Miami, too: The Dolphins were penalized a team record-tying 14 times in their opener against Tennessee, including four times for false starts. Coaches blame penalties such as that on lack of concentration, but there's another factor at work: In today's game, teams make so many offensive-line changes from year to year that it is difficult to get much early-season cohesion.

Tampa turmoil: Holdout wide receiver Keenan McCardell, whose contract runs through 2005, wants more money. The Bucs don't want to give it to him. His agent claims the team turned down a fourth-round pick in a trade. The Bucs insist no team has even asked about McCardell, who was their leading receiver last year. He says he wants to be traded. Ah, peace in paradise.

Oops: Kansas City put its hopes for a better defense on new coordinator Gunther Cunningham rather than rebuilding with different players on the field. That might not have been such a good idea. In opening games, only Minnesota scored more points than the 34 Denver got against the Chiefs, and only the New York Jets gained more yards rushing than the Broncos' 202.


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