Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
The Saints went to Jacksonville and won comfortably but not very convincingly. The New Orleans high-powered offense couldn't quite bury the Jaguars in spite of a quick 14-0 start to open the game.
Drew Brees started the game throwing the ball all over the field but it seemed to mostly find his two favorite new toys in Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. The best passing offense in the NFL since 2006 has added the best receiving tight end in football to the party. Teams with linebacker trouble like next week's opponent Carolina should be very afraid.
The Saints offense really gave about a C+ effort Sunday. They had two turnovers, couldn't finish drives in the second half, and still scored 23 points against the NFL's fourth-ranked defense on the road. Not bad.
New Orleans had the ball for 37 minutes, ran for 177 yards, and it felt like they had complete control of the game.
I'm not even going to complain about Sean Payton still throwing the ball all over the place late in the game with a two score lead because that's just part of the Sean Payton head coach experience. We're in year six of this and at this point asking Payton to run more is like asking a dog to not bark at the doorbell. It's not going to happen. Let's just move along.
On second thought let's not. Would it kill Payton to call three straight runs after Drew Brees hit Jimmy Graham on 59-yard pass late? I'd have much preferred a field goal to make the score 26-10 then to see Drew Brees get pummeled. It just seems an extreme risk to have Drew Brees dropping back late in a game already in hand. Did I mention the Saints were minus two starters on the offensive line? Sean, if you won't think about your QB's safety at least think of the children. Run more late in the game for the children.
The Saints have rebooted the three-headed running game they used in 2009 only now it's even better. Darren Sproles is better and more consistent than Reggie Bush ever was, Pierre Thomas is healthy again, and Mark Ingram will end up being better than Mike Bell.
The defense proved again it could devour a bottom tier NFL quarterback. This time the victim was rookie Blaine Gabbert. He converted only 4 of 15 3rd downs and none of the 4th down tries the Jaguars needed.
Jacksonville had a tight game and Maurice Jones Drew was starting to get warmed up in the second half but they still decided to let Gabbert try to win it? If I was a Jaguar fan I'd need to be put in a straight jacket in a padded room because the play calling would have drove me crazy.
Jack Del Rio, I thought your formula to win was keep the score low and then run Jones-Drew till his legs fall off? Thanks for having a rookie throw 42 times. The stretch of 10 straight incompletions was delightful.
I'm still not certain if the Saints defense is anything more than average but I saw a couple of good signs today.
Will Smith had two sacks and Cameron Jordan seems to make a few more plays every week. The defensive ends have shown signs of life and if they can deliver consistent pressure it will mean Gregg Williams can be even more creative on defense. When Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin finally live up to expectations the defensive front could be the strength of the defense. Just like Halloween it's coming. When the Saints are 3-1 we're allowed to think positive.
The Saints have delivered exactly what I expected in the season's first month. They weren't able to crack the mystery of beating the defending champion on opening night but have been perfect since. Besides two games with Tampa the Saints next five games include the one-win Panthers and the no-wins Colts and Rams. Things look pretty good at the quarter pole of 2011.