Red zone blues: Saints searching for touchdowns inside the 20

Red zone blues: Saints searching for touchdowns inside the 20

Credit: AP

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Devery Henderson (19) is tackled by Carolina Panthers cornerback Richard Marshall (31) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

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by Bradley Handwerger / Eyewitness Sports

wwltv.com

Posted on October 7, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 7 at 5:44 PM

METAIRIE, La. ― It’s fairly well known that right now the Saints aren’t scoring points in bunches like they did a season ago.

And while the Saints’ “shot” plays are down, there’s another culprit keeping New Orleans off the scoreboard like it has been in the past – red zone woes.

To be clear, the Saints haven’t been horrid this season in the final 20 yards of the field. In fact, New Orleans has scored on 12 of 15 trips into the red zone.

But it’s touchdowns that have eluded the Saints and at 40 percent, 20 teams in the NFL have better touchdown percentages.

On the way to the Super Bowl a season ago, the Saints punched the ball into the end zone 41 times, good enough for 57.7 percent. That was sixth-best in the NFL

So, what’s wrong this year?

“There’s a combination of things. No. 1, if you ask what stalls drives in the red zone – penalties, sacks, minus-yards plays or turnovers, you try to address those specifics,” Payton said. “We had some minus yards last week in the red area. We had the turnover. You really want to take advantage of each snap you have. Those are the main things you point to.”

Against Carolina, the Saints ventured inside the 20 a season-high five times. But picked up a touchdown only once, settling for field goals three times and fumbling another time.

Eight times in the 2009 regular season the Saints were better than 60 percent in a game putting the ball into the end zone. Through the first four games of 2010, they haven’t been better than 50 percent.

One thing that hasn’t been keeping the Saints out of the end zone is penalties. New Orleans has yet to be flagged inside the 20 this season. In 2009, that happened eight times, though New Orleans still scored touchdowns on three of those drives.

The question is how does a team correct red zone issues?

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod said it starts by watching film of the opponent. Only then, after learning tendencies and formations, Bushrod said, can the team begin to correct what ails it in the red zone.

“You’ve just got to take everything that you see off the video and take that to the practice fields with the look-squad D,” Bushrod said. “Hopefully when game time comes around, Drew sees it the same way he saw it on tape and we can go ahead and execute it the way we saw it.”

Receiver Lance Moore puts the onus completely on the offense, giving very little credit to opponents’ defenses.

“We determine whether we’re going to score touchdowns or not,” said Moore, who has caught two touchdown passes inside the 20. “If the defense stops us, we feel like most of the time it’s something we did or didn’t do. We’ve just got to make sure we step up and we make those plays.”

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