Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
The New Orleans Saints 34-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys was as perfect a win as a 6-8 team can have. The reason is the Saints displayed all their strengths and weaknesses in gutting out their third road win of 2012.
While it’s admirable the Saints haven’t quit on the season (See Tennessee or Tampa for examples of not giving a you know what) the best news about the late season surge is New Orleans’ front office will go into the off season seeing a true picture of what the team is.
The Saints dropped 562 yards of offense on the Cowboys and did pretty much whatever they liked. Drew Brees threw for over 450 yards, Marques Colston had 153 yards receiving, Darren Sproles had 152 combined yards rushing and receiving, and the Saints even quietly ran for 116 yards on 38 carries. Also, I’d like to applaud Joe Vitt for being hyper aggressive by going for it on fourth down trailing 14-7 because when you are 6-8 being reckless makes Sunday more fun. I enjoyed it the heck out of it Joe.
The Saints ran an unbelievable 91 plays including 84 in regulation. The Saints were the efficient killing machine that won 37 regular season games the last three years and it was done against a team fighting for its playoff life.
Drew Brees has bounced back from the worst three game stretch of his career by showing us he was worth every bit the 100 million the Saints gave him and his prime is far from over. If the Saints can get him a good enough defense Brees has another Super Bowl in him.
The Saints showed their offense is still every bit a Super Bowl contender but the defense showed every one of its fatal flaws in a late game collapse.
The Saints had a comfortable 31-17 lead with 4:45 left and if they had any sort of a consistent pass rush it should have been open season on Tony Romo except the Saints pass rush is barely adequate on its best day.
Tony Romo was forced to throw the Cowboys back into the game and he did exactly that. All he did was complete 8 of 12 passes on the next two Cowboys possessions for two scores. He wasn’t sacked or even made to be uncomfortable. If the Saints defense can’t put pressure on a quarterback with a two-touchdown lead with five minutes to go in a game then their pass rush stinks. It’s not more complicated than that.
The Saints also showed against Dallas with Jabari Greer the secondary is below average and without him they are a crash test dummy. Actually, I think a crash test dummy might tackle better.
The Saints defensive struggles to me are a good thing. The last thing I wanted was for Junior Galette or Martez Wilson to have a great couple of games and have the Saints think, “Well Galette had three sacks and forced a fumble in Dallas. He’s the second coming of Joe Johnson. OUR PASS RUSH PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED!”
Nope. This defense still needs a lot of work and the Saints won’t be able to view anything from 2012 to make them think different.
I’m not a big believer good late season finishes carry over to the following year. If December wins for non playoff teams mattered Philadelphia, who won their last four games in 2011, wouldn’t be about to pink slip Andy Reid.
In this awful mess of season, which never really had a fair shot at success, I will let the words of the poet Dylan Thomas sum up my feelings of how the Saints have played…
“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
They have fought a fight the NFL stacked against them before it even started and having every reason to quit they haven’t. They’ve shown us their strengths now they just need to fix their weaknesses.
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.