Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
To all the people who think Sean Payton made the wrong play calls when the Saints were in third and fourth short yardage situations, I agree with you. He should have thought outside the box. I'm not talking a different run or pass I'm talking next level people; magic.
The play-action pass is so 2011. Payton should have had Drew Brees levitate or turn invisible like he did against the Rams last year. Impossible? You'll probably say it's ridiculous for the Saints to go to the Harry Potter playbook. Why? They tried everything else to pick up a yard last night. Payton tried to have Drew Brees throw a quick tight end screen, rolled him out, and he even had Mark Ingram attempt the first ever goalline, off-tackle play with an offensive line made of paper maiche. It was revolutionary and while mache is very flexible, it tends to get ripped to shreds by angry defensive lineman.
Can we please at least put a hold on all the talk about Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks being elite? Elite guards don't get pushed back more than my yearly dental appointment. They are living off reputation and lazy media members who just repeat what they hear or coaches tell them.
The offense's failure to convert is on the players and what nobody seems to mention is even if Ingram had scored the Saints literally would have had to line up and do it again 30 seconds later to tie the game. Do you really think with as much trouble as the Saints had last night in short yardage they would be able to do it twice in a row? My scenario of Drew Brees using magic to turn invisible is just as plausible.
The Saints showed last night they are likely to return to their 2009 level of offense. Darren Sproles was what fans hoped Reggie Bush would be. He caught seven passes, returned a punt for a TD, and had the Packers so scared on kickoffs they did a pooch kick even with the new kick off rules. Sproles big plays also came at points in the game where the Saints were in danger of getting blown out. His signing looks like a homerun.
The off-season additions to the defense are another matter.
The defensive line was on fire all night. It wasn't the good on fire it was more of the "Stop, drop and roll! You ARE ON FIRE!" type fire. The return of Will Smith won't be a cure all. Shaun Rogers, Aubrayo Franklin, and Sedrick Ellis combining for more than four tackles and no quarterback hits would be a start.
If the defensive line was bad, then the secondary was worse. We'll need Patrick Robinson's dental records to identify him after the beating he took. When Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer weren't missing tackles they were blowing coverages so bad NBC's Chris Collinsworth at one point said, "It's so bad I'm not even sure what coverage they are trying to run."
If it was the "Let Packers-roam-free-and-frolic-like-a-new-born-deer" coverage, then well done. The Saints have been running this coverage against tight ends for five straight years in case you were wondering.
I said in my preview column the secondary would the biggest issue on defense. In fact, go read it again, as pretty much everything I said makes me Nostradamus at least for one game.
After one game the Saints defense doesn't look to have the consistency of the 2010 unit or be able to create turnovers or get off the field on key third downs like the 2009 one. It seems to be of the 2008 vintage whose strategy seemed to be "Bend, Break, and let the opposition trample us like a 1980's mom trying to get a cabbage patch doll for her daughter at Christmas."
No need to panic but if Jay Cutler and the Bears pull off in the Superdome what Aaron Rogers and the Packers just did then maybe Sean Payton will need Harry Potter after all.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.