Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
The Saints were on Sunday as some people in the South like to say, "A big hot mess." Penalties, turnovers, and confusion were the key ingredients in a 40-32 beat down.
I had very low early season expectations for the new Steve Spagnuolo defense but the failure to even slow down the Redskins was stunning.
The coaches and players said Washington didn't do anything they were not expecting but from the opening snap Robert Griffin III had the Saints defense on it's heels.
The Redskins had Griffin running the spread option play colleges love and when the Saints weren't wondering where the ball was they were rushing up field, not with the goal of sacking Griffin, but keeping him from getting to the corner. Generating a pass rush can be really difficult if you are petrified the QB is going to simply run around you if you beat the offensive lineman in front of you.
I never felt at any time Washington's offense wasn't in complete control. Washington gave up three #1 picks for RGIII and when Cleveland fires Mike Holmgren in January he'll wish he offered the Rams five #1's. The kid's that good. He's like Michael Vick but more accurate. Mike Shanahan is no fool and has a pretty good track record drafting quarterbacks. He went all in with the right guy.
If we take the Saints at their word and believe the Washington offense didn't coach circles around the defense then it means RGIII in the flesh is completely different from the video tape version. I tend to think it's both.
The most concerning thing about Sunday's game and the thing which should worry you the most is the secondary. Right now it's a fatal flaw. I'm not talking a keep-you-out-of-the-Super Bowl flaw, I'm talking keep you from the playoffs and will make you mediocre flaw. The Saints were without Jabari Greer and lost Johnny Patrick and proceeded to get burned to the ground.
How bad was the secondary? So bad with RGIII facing a second and 10 right before the two-minute warning the Redskins didn't hesitate to have RGIII drop back and throw for a critical first down. And why not? receivers were running wide open all day. I'm not sure how the Saints fix the secondary I just know if they don't New Orleans won't need heat in the winter because opposing quarterbacks torching it will keep us warm until Christmas.
While the defense was getting worked over by a rookie the offense was doing what it's done in losses the last six years; forget the NFL does in fact allow running plays and letting Drew Brees get hit way too often.
I'm petrified at how bad the secondary is but I'm still convinced the offense will be fine. Yes the Saints offensive line got whipped but the St. Louis and Tampa Bay both did that last year and things turned out fine. The Saints have a history of cleaning up offensive line issues and pre-snap penalties. If they have a dozen penalties and Drew Brees is getting picked up off the ground in Carolina we'll revisit this discussion.
As for the lack of a running game? It's the Saints M.O. since Sean Payton arrived. I think the reason the Saints sometimes are so quick to abandon the run is because their offense is so explosive. When they fall behind by two scores they think, "We are so good at scoring fast let's hit a big play like we always do to get back in this game." Most of the time that's exactly what happens but sometimes you get the three play series lasting 25 seconds we saw Sunday.
The only time during Sunday's game I really wished the Saints would have brought in Pierre Thomas and tried to crank up the ground game was when they had the ball down 33-25.
There was plenty of time left and a little patience might have been a good idea.
You'll probably hear all week about how the Saints were a disorganized mess and Sean Payton's absence is now a certain death knell. Talk a deep breath or a sip of your favorite beverage. The Saints got thoroughly dominated and in spite of multiple self-inflicted wounds still had a chance late in the game. I always wondered all off-season how soon the Saints would face real adversity and when we would learn if they could survive without Sean Payton. Look's like we'll have an answer pretty darn quick.
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.