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WCW 11-21-2004 06:53 AM

Saints still in playoff hunt

Saints still in playoff hunt

But today's game appears must-win

Sunday, November 21, 2004
By Brian Allee-Walsh
Staff writer

Despite a disappointing start, the enigmatic Saints can add themselves to the NFC playoff mix with a victory today against the Denver Broncos.

The thought is not so far-fetched. Think about it: A victory would give the Saints a 5-5 record with five games remaining against teams in the NFC South, where only the Atlanta Falcons have distinguished themselves, and a sixth against the Dallas Cowboys, who appear to be on the verge of imploding.

But first the Saints must take care of business against the AFC West co-leading Broncos, who should be refreshed and raring to go coming off an open week.

"People figure we're not going to beat both the (Kansas City) Chiefs and Broncos," Saints left tackle Wayne Gandy said. "I like it when people tell me you can't do something. I take that as a personal challenge."

"We understand that this is a great opportunity for us," Saints tight end Ernie Conwell said. "We're playing the third best defense in this league. They have good special teams. They move the ball up and down the field on offense. This is a top-tier team and we recognize that.

"It's a great challenge for us to see where we stand. If we win -- and we all believe we have the ability to win -- then we will have positioned ourselves to make a run at this."

In the NFL, it's all about positioning and staying within striking distance of the playoffs.

For months, an entire organization has pointed to this stage of the season that ultimately will determine the team's success or failure and perhaps Coach Jim Haslett's future in New Orleans.

"In college, you've got to win in November," Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks said. "In the pros, you've got to win in December. That's the key. If we can come out this week with a win, we can set ourselves up for the home stretch. We still have a chance to be where we want to be at the end of the year. So this game is huge."

Gandy, a veteran of 11 NFL seasons, said finishing 5-2 is not out of the realm of possibility, especially if players continue to believe in themselves and put forth an honest effort day in, day out.

"I told the guys last week that it's not about winning and losing right now," Gandy said. "It's about playing as hard as you can and then whatever happens, happens. That's what we deserve to give to each other.

"Regardless, if we make the playoffs or not, we can end the season on notes that carry over to next year. In the NFL, it's all about continuation. It's not just one year. The Patriots haven't won all those games based on one year. It keeps rolling over. We can still end up 9-7 and maybe we don't get in the playoffs but we can feel good about what we've done."

Veteran defensive tackle Brian Young said the Saints have little room for error and have no one to blame but themselves for being in this tenuous position.

"It's pretty much do or die time," he said. "We've lost all the games we can afford to lose. We've got to go into every game like it is our last. Technically, it is if we want to make it to the postseason."

Conwell said he has noticed in his teammates a more professional approach to their jobs in the wake of a confidence-building 27-20 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs a week ago.

"This is the time where true pros have to come to the surface," Conwell said. "Guys are tired. We've been playing football since July. We're beat up physically, mentally and emotionally. This is the grind.

"But we still have to show up every day. We can't feel sorry for ourselves because we're hurting. Throw all that stuff out the window. And I think guys have done that. There's no sense of panic. We had a chance to go in the tank against Kansas City after embarrassing ourselves against San Diego, and we didn't. That's real encouraging to me."

Saints middle linebacker Orlando Ruff broke the season down into four quarters with four games comprising one quarter. The Saints went 2-2 in the first quarter, 1-3 in the second quarter and have opened the third quarter with a victory.

"With nearly everybody coming up in December in our division, it's a great position for us to be in," Ruff said. "If we can take care of business this week, then we start back in the division.

"Unfortunately, we started off kind of slow but we're coming down the homestretch, and the third and fourth quarters are very important. In order for the fourth quarter to be important we've got to win the third quarter. That's what we're faced with right now."

spkb25 11-21-2004 09:13 AM

Saints still in playoff hunt
you know were not out of it, but by the way we\'ve played even in our most recent win, it does seem far fetched. hope im wrong

SaintFanInATLHELL 11-21-2004 10:24 AM

Saints still in playoff hunt

you know were not out of it, but by the way we\'ve played even in our most recent win, it does seem far fetched. hope im wrong
I think the point is still missed. Even if the Saints make the playoffs, they are still not going anywhere. Technically it would be a step. But the reality of the situation is that in points and yards, the defense is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Also Walsh misses the fact that 4 of our five losses are in the NFC and that 3 of those losses are to teams that we are grouped with in the 5-4 and 4-5 range (Seattle, Arizona, and Minnesota) so each has an effective extra game lead on us.

If the defense gets significantly better in the last \"two quarters\" as Ruff put it, then you may have something. But in the last 4 games we\'ve given up an average of nearly 500 yards and 27 PPG.

That\'s not the mark of a playoff team, no matter what the record says.


spkb25 11-21-2004 10:38 AM

Saints still in playoff hunt
no its not and i think that was my exact point in my post. but you never know. it is highly highly unlikely that we could start to play well. because lets be honest we should have lost last week by 14 at least. so we\'ll see but i 100% agree with you. but somehow i would like us to just start playing out of our minds. i dont expect it though. but if we can get a win ill take it. but without a doubt i dont want to go to the playoffs playing the way we have played this entire year

LordOfEntropy 11-21-2004 03:08 PM

Saints still in playoff hunt
I know this will sound negative of me to say, but others have said it before, and this is actually constructive criticism towards positive thought...

I hope we lose out the rest of the games this year.

This would force a change of management and yield some decent draft picks for the reorganization next year.

A worst case scenario to me would be winning out the rest of the games this year, because if that happens the status quo will remain status quo. And I don\'t think there\'s anyone on this board that is happy with the status quo.

This team will never be an overachiever (or even an achiever) with current management in place. While current management reamins, this team will struggle to be average (or even below average). Management changes must be initiated, and making the playoffs wouldn\'t help to facilitate this.

G504 11-21-2004 03:21 PM

Saints still in playoff hunt
Well, I wouldn\'t like to see us lose the remaining games, even though it\'s possible (Tampa & Carolina actually played like some pro teams today). I think we\'d be in a worse position for next year than we are now if we lose the few positive bright spots: Brooks\' yardage, Duece (at times), Horn, Karney, etc. Unless we\'re going with the theory than a few good players will purposely go at half speed with the hopes of a good draft pick, new staff, and easier schedule next year. But if not, Brooks needs to work on his turnovers, the line needs to protect him, and Deuce needs more touchdowns and first downs.

saintswhodi 11-21-2004 03:37 PM

Saints still in playoff hunt
Welcome LOE. Nice to have another brother in the \"means to an end\" family. I have said this for weeks.

WhoDat 11-21-2004 04:03 PM

Saints still in playoff hunt
Hey guys, we\'re still in it! At 4-6, if we just find a way to outscore our opponents 20-0, intstead of being outscored 20-0, in every first quarter, and we win the next 6 straight, and ATL loses every game they have left, we\'ll win the division. It\'s that easy! Guys, if you\'re a true fan you\'ll keep rooting for your team. Support Haslett - not supporting him is tantamount to being unAmerican!!!!

[Edited on 21/11/2004 by WhoDat]

saintswhodi 11-21-2004 04:13 PM

Saints still in playoff hunt

UK_WhoDat 11-21-2004 04:20 PM

Saints still in playoff hunt
Hey WhoDat

I support the Saints - deeply. And I am VERY comfortable in NOT supporting Haslett.

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