Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
NEWORLEANS- The 2011 New Orleans Saints are coming into focus and one thing is abundantly clear; they are not to be trusted on the road under any circumstances.
The Saints have committed six turnovers, allowed Drew Brees to be sacked six times, and given up 300 yards rushing in their last two road games. Throw in the fact one of those games was against a winless team and the 2011 Saints are officially road kill. You could point the finger at Drew Brees' interceptions or the run defense but I think the root of the problem lies somewhere else. The offensive line is proving to be like walking around without any pants; it's fine at home but anywhere else is just awful to look at.
The Saints were forced to play their third string offensive tackle, Pat McQuistan, for a large part of Sunday's debacle in St. Louis but so what? They got pushed around by a horrible Bucs defense two weeks ago in Tampa. Zach Strief hopefully will be back soon but he won't be a cure all for the beatings Drew Brees has been taking. The Saints need to get the blocking fixed or Brees won't survive 2011 in one piece.
The Saints have rushed for a combined 126 yards in their two losses to Tampa and St. Louis. Falling behind has a lot to do with the poor rushing stats but they got absolutely no push from the offensive line in short yardage situations. It seems like we always complain about the Saints lack of commitment to the running game whenever they lose but would it have killed them to line up and try to play smash mouth football against the 32nd ranked run defense in the first half when they only trailed 3-0? I know Pierre Thomas can't be a 300 carry feature back but I think he's the best between the tackle runner the Saints have and I'd like them to give him the majority of the carries instead of a time share between him, Mark Ingram, and a now activated Chris Ivory.
Brees wasn't able to take advantage of an injury-ravaged St. Louis secondary because Chris Long was treating whoever was playing right tackle for the Saints as a turnstile. Not having to face third and long all day might have helped.
The funny thing about the game was the Saints were treading water and seemed to be headed to halftime down only 3-0 when everything unraveled. The Rams blocked a Thomas Morstead punt and scored a touchdown in two plays then Brees threw an interception and 41 seconds later it was 17-0. The Saints followed the 'How to lose to winless team on the road' instruction manual to a 't'. The only thing missing was Sean Payton firing off a warning flare letting fans know the Saints were ruining a perfect Sunday afternoon.
While the Saints offense never did get things in gear the defense was OK for most of the day. They held the Rams to three points for 28 minutes of the first half until the Saints melted down and they made a big play to try to spark a comeback. They did give up 159 yards to Steven Jackson but a big chunk of those yards were on third and long situations and fourth and short where he got free for a 32-yard gain. They did have their 4,999 and 5,000 dropped interceptions of 2011. I don't have actual statistics to back up the previous sentence but IT SURE FEELS TRUE.
So the Saints have reached the midway point of the season 5-3 and face the biggest two game stretch of the year. They'll get a rematch with Tampa Sunday in the Mercedes Benz Superdome and then go to Atlanta.
I don't feel good about Sean Payton coaching from the booth at all. He shows no emotion from the booth and no matter what the Saints say it's not good and has a negative affect on the offense during crisis.
Sean Payton summed up what the team is in his post game comments, 'You take a game like we had a week ago and then we just become an up and down team.'
The good news for the Saints is they only have three road games the rest of the season, the bad news is if they can't figure out how to win on the road they aren't going anywhere in 2011.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, or follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough