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QBREES9 11-05-2009 08:00 AM

New Orleans Saints fight to the finish of each game
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One of the most impressive aspects of the New Orleans Saints' 7-0 start is their dominant play in the fourth quarter. The final 15 minutes has become Saints' time. They own it.

The Saints no longer flounder in the fourth. They flourish.
They've outscored opponents 81-18 in the fourth quarter this season. Fueled by a dominant rushing attack and an opportunistic defense, they've allowed only one touchdown and scored 11 in the final quarter.
And seemingly every big play has gone their way. They clinched Monday night's victory against the Falcons when Jon Vilma's tipped pass was intercepted by Tracy Porter, and an 81-yard scoring march highlighted by a clutch 29-yard pass from Drew Brees to Marques Colston.
That was far from the case a year ago, when the Saints seemingly found new ways to lose in the frantic final minutes. Fourth-quarter meltdowns cost them potential victories against Washington, Denver, Minnesota, Chicago and Carolina.
"There's a conscious effort and focus from guys, especially the ones who have been here a few years, to finish games this year, " linebacker Scott Shanle said. "The mentality is there every week."
Few aspects of the strong start have been more satisfying to the club. Learning to finish games was an offseason priority for the entire football operation.
Coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis made it a top discussion topic in their postseason evaluation of the 2008 campaign.
The phrase "Finish Strong" was emblazoned on a set of T-shirts Drew Brees commissioned and distributed to the team during training camp.
It's also part of the pregame breakdown chant Brees barks to teammates in the end zone of each game.
"Finishing games has been on the forefront of everyone's mind this year, " Brees said. "I think we've learned from past mistakes. Experience is a big part of that."
It's one thing to want to improve an aspect of your game. It's another to actually do it.
So how did the Saints become a bunch of Mariano Riveras? Several reasons, players and coaches said Wednesday.
Payton pointed to the improved play on defense and in the running game as the most important reasons. Those two areas allow the Saints to control the clock, move the chains and keep their high-powered offense on the field. The Saints own a staggering 63:10-41:50 advantage in time of possession in the fourth quarter.
Accordingly, they've done more damage. In 26 offensive series, they've scored nine touchdowns and kicked three field goals. Five series ended with the Saints running out the clock in the victory formation.
In 26 defensive series, they've allowed one touchdown and two field goals and forced eight turnovers and 10 punts.
"That's big-time, " as Jon Gruden said during the Falcons-Saints Monday Night Football broadcast
Improved depth has also played a role. In Year 4 of the Payton era, the roster is deeper than ever. The club is able to withstand injuries to key players Jammal Brown, Billy Miller, Heath Evans, Scott Fujita and Sedrick Ellis.
The receiver rotation is four deep. The running back rotation is three deep. The secondary is so deep with quality talent that first-round draft pick Malcolm Jenkins can't get on the field.
The added depth has allowed Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to substitute liberally throughout the game. Players are fresher when it matters most.
"I think the bottom part of our roster has gotten better each year, " Payton said. "I think that's the challenge week to week in our league with the roster restrictions. It's different than in college where 95 guys come strolling out on game day. I think we are deeper, and I think that in year four into this, that's something that we're constantly paying attention to."
One of the other reasons the Saints are fresher is because Payton has scaled back his practice regimen. He no longer needs to grind the players into submission during the grueling heat of training camp. In Year 4, the malcontents are gone. Everyone is on board with Payton's program and message. The drill-sergeant approach is unnecessary.
The Saints still work hard and practice at a swift pace. But they are in full pads less often and have worked exclusively in the comfy confines of the indoor training facility since the regular season began.
"I think us holding training camp here has helped a lot, " linebacker Scott Shanle said. "Our legs are definitely fresher."
Conditioning, too, is a factor. Saints veterans weren't so keen on the incessant running and penance push-ups Williams enforced in camp, but they've since discovered there was a method to his madness.
"It's all coming together, " safety Roman Harper said. "All this running and crazy stuff we've been doing is all paying off. It's turning into wins and that's what matters."
Saints fans couldn't agree more. They're living every minute of the club's 7-0 start. Even the final 15.

New Orleans Saints fight to the finish of each game: Jeff Duncan | New Orleans Saints Central - -

Danno 11-05-2009 08:06 AM

Re: New Orleans Saints fight to the finish of each game
Q man, break it up... that is brutally difficult to read.

QBREES9 11-05-2009 08:11 AM

Re: New Orleans Saints fight to the finish of each game
I know Thats the way it post. I hate it. Click the link thats how I read it.

Rugby Saint II 11-05-2009 06:32 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints fight to the finish of each game
But still I agree with the article that we are a 4th quarter team. The article had some good info.

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