METAIRIE, La. ― Through four games of the Saints’ Super Bowl-winning campaign of 2009, the team had scored 144 points and had overtaken its opponents by a combined 78 points.
A season later, New Orleans has made its way to 3-1, winning its three games by a combined 10 points while scoring a total of 79 points.
And some Saints fans are starting to wonder about an offense that has ranked first in three of the past four seasons but is only 12th heading into the fifth week.
But for those inside the locker room, the only time concern is being thrown about is in talking about the Saints’ next opponent, Arizona in Glendale on Sunday.
“Yeah, we want to put together some of the games we had last year, but our concern is fighting to get better and working a game plan for this week,” left tackle Jermon Bushrod said.
The Saints opened the 2010 season by scoring 45, 48, 27 and 24 points respectively. Against this year’s competition, which is 1-10, the Saints have scored 14, 25, 24 and 16 points.
Nevertheless, as most in the locker room are apt to say, the Saints are 3-1 and a missed field goal away from being 4-0.
By the end of the 2009 regular season, the Saints weren’t blasting opponents like they did in the opening five games. Four of their final eight wins came by seven or fewer points and two of their three losses came by a touchdown or less.
If those games had happened at the start of the season, the worrywarts from 2010 might not be worrying so much.
“I don’t think so,” veteran safety Darren Sharper said. “I think they wouldn’t be questioning. We set a precedent last year early part of the season where we were beating teams pretty soundly, pretty convincingly.”
Yet, there are issues that the team realizes need to be fixed.
Devery Henderson and Jeremy Shockey both dropped passes against Carolina that could have extended drives. The Saints fumbled twice – once at the goal line and once heading into the red zone.
“I think if you look at points scored, that aspect hasn’t been what we’re accustomed to and certainly where we want to be,” Head Coach Sean Payton said.
Part of the problem is that teams are defending against the “shot” plays, those where quarterback Drew Brees goes for the 20-plus yard pass plays. Payton said defenses are playing a little bit “softer zones” than normal, forcing the Saints to be more patient than everyone is used to.
But Payton said that’s not affecting the overall rhythm of the offense, which against Carolina put together three drives of 13-or-more plays.
“You’d certainly like to score in chunks and yet I think only when the opportunity is present,” Payton said. “The key each week is to really look at what we’re getting defensively and what we think we’re getting.”
Still, for a city accustomed to heartbreak, last year’s respite is hoped to be long-term, not just a flash in the pan. The offense, Bushrod said, will come around.
And for those who still worry, Sharper said not to.
“People are remembering (2009) and kind of comparing, ‘OK, what’s wrong,’ ” Sharper said. “At the end of the day we’re 3-1 and really should be 4-0.”