Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
Since August 2009 being a New Orleans Saints fan has been one giant party.
They opened the preseason in 2009 by crushing teams and started a 17-month football good time that didn’t end until Marshawn Lynch ran over and through the Saints then added tossing Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter like a rag doll for an exclamation point.
As the late Don Meredith used to say, “Turn out the lights the party’s over. They say that all good things must end. Call it a night, the party’s over. And tomorrow and next year starts the same old thing again.”
The loss in Seattle wasn’t as shocking as the way the Seahawks delivered it. The Saints defense having been solid all year picked the worst day to play their worst game. The only thing worse than Gregg Williams’s game plan was the players’ execution of it.
The Saints intercepted Matt Hasselbeck on the Seahawks opening drive and proceeded to then give up 34 points on Seattle’s next seven possessions.
I remember listening to the NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi during the year and he made a comment about the Saints defense, which I think summed up Saturday’s debacle perfectly. I don’t have the exact quote but it was a long the lines of, “The Saints are a defense which because the defensive line and linebackers are not very talented they depend on Gregg Williams to have a great game plan. He has to create a pass rush because they can’t get pressure by only rushing four guys. If you have a good plan with a good quarterback going in against the Saints you can handle their defense fairly easily.”
Seattle had a solid plan and a quarterback who delivered the best playoff performance of his pretty good career. Seattle offense owned the Saints for three quarters. As a Saints fan, to me the most disappointing thing about Saturday’s defensive effort was the Saints didn’t really play their game.
Gregg Williams and the Saints are about pressure and attacking. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t but the Saints on defense always seem to live and die with the blitz. The Saints never really stopped Seattle as much as the Seahawks started dropping passes and let New Orleans back in the game.
Maybe it was just Seattle’s day and they were going to ride a hot QB and raucous crowd to a victory no matter what the Saints did. The loss would be easier to take if the Saints would have tried to blitz Hasselbeck into the ground and failed because at least I would have said, “That’s how the Saints roll. They live and die with the blitz and today they died.” The Saints doing what they do is why I’m not so infuriated by Lynch’s fantastic run.
The Saints were trying to strip the ball and maybe it wasn’t the wisest thing to be focused on at that point in the game but the Saints are always trying to force turnovers. They were trying to do what they do. If we are going to love Malcolm Jenkins for stripping Roy Williams to save the day in Dallas we can’t be too surprised when they are trying to do the exact same thing late against Seattle but fail.
Sean Payton stayed true to his aggressive nature on offense by going for it on fourth and inches down 14 points at his own 38-yard line. I wish the defense had done the same from the start.
Perhaps the only thing worse than the Saints defensive game plan was their special team’s strategy to pooch kick so Leon Washington couldn’t return kicks. This strategy was an epic failure and gave Seattle’s offense great field position early in the game when the Saints had a chance to deliver a knock out punch.
I get the Saints coverage teams have been mediocre during the year but they should have made Washington prove he could beat them and kicked off deep to him. If he runs it back for a score or has a great return then fine don’t kick to him but they conceded defeat before Washington proved anything. Washington is good but he’s not dominant.
The special teams overall were awful but I won’t knock the pitiful return game too much because Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem are the 3rd and 4th string return guys. The Saints were out of options.
The Saints offense was good in Seattle but as Drew Brees mentioned in his post game comments they had three drives stall inside of the Seahawks five-yard line.
Off all the injured players I think Jimmy Graham was missed the most and would have made a huge difference. While we blame the Saints for what went wrong, the Seahawks had a lot to do with the loss.
If Drew Brees had delivered a masterpiece like Hasselbeck did you wouldn’t be reading 1,000 words right now on how bad the Seattle defense was.
The Saints didn’t take Seattle lightly and by the players’ reaction after the game I think like the rest of America they were stunned Seattle played so well.
Heath Evans summed it up perfectly, “I think the part that's probably going to hurt the most is we can look back at some losses this year and think, 'Ah, we beat ourselves.' I'm not sure we're going to be able to do that. This team, they just beat us.”
The Saints head into the 2011 offseason needing to decide if they need to reset at running back or bring back the injured trio of Reggie Bush, Chris Ivory, and Pierre Thomas.
The defense desperately needs pass rushers to compliment the aging Will Smith and an infusion of speed at linebacker to help Jonathan Vilma.
Despite the struggles in Seattle I think the secondary is solid. Roman Harper has never been at his best in coverage and it showed again but get him near the line of scrimmage and he’s a solid strong safety. Going into last offseason the Saints weren’t allowed to do much in free agency because of the rules restricting how playoff teams could sign players.
This offseason they’ll face the uncertainty of a possible lockout. The only thing worse than the Saints losing to a 7-9 playoff team is thinking about no football next September.
Last offseason I think lasted two weeks or maybe it just felt that way because I watched Super Bowl highlights dam near everyday.
This year the labor unrest might make 2011 have the longest offseason ever. NFL, WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU WHY DO YOU WANT TO HURT US?
So our party’s over but the Saints with Drew Brees, Sean Payton, and Mickey Loomis will be right back in the mix again next year. It’s just the waiting that kills us.
Did the Hornets start playing yet? I need something to fill the next seven months of my life.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, or listen to his Saints draft night podcast at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/forecastradio