The Saints are headed to East Rutherford, New Jersey to face off against the New York Giants, but they will be going into the game 0-1. In a devastating loss to the Oakland Raiders in the home opener last Sunday, many issues with the Saints became extremely clear. However, fans shouldn’t lose hope just yet.
Week One of the season brought multiple questions for the Saints, as they try to rebound from the horrible defensive performances they had last year; and with promise of production and improvement, it proved to be instead some rather lackluster play from the defense.
Worse news followed when young star cornerback Delvin Breaux was carted off the field and diagnosed with a broken fibula.
Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux (40) is carted off the field after an injury in the second half against the Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Raiders won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Breaux is expected to return midway through the season, but will that be too late to help save the defense?
As much as I would like to have complete faith in the defensive couching staff and the players to step up, fans have to see it to believe it first.
However, worry not Saint fans, if there has been anyone that has proven we could always rely on over the last decade; it’s Sean Payton and Drew Brees.
Although Breaux’s injury really takes a toll on the secondary, Payton has done his best to make sure the Saints have at least “fill the gap” somewhat with veteran talent at the position by adding corners Sterling Moore and B. W. Webb.
The Saints cornerbacks position is very young, with the oldest now being the two new comers Webb and Moore, which sets the maximum age at 26.
While I know fans are biting their nails even thinking about Victor Cruz, and Odell Beckham Jr. going up against the Saints secondary, Payton made moves that were necessary to help the team in their “gray areas”, and give them the best chance to get back to winning games.
Oct 4, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller (28) carries the ball past Dallas Cowboys strong safety Barry Church (42) to score the game-winning 80-yard touchdown in overtime at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints won 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Even with some blunder moves made in unrestricted NFL Free Agency by the team in recent years (Brandon Browner, and C.J. Spiller being a few names that immediately come to mind), Payton has to make these though decisions — for better or worse — to keep the team afloat.
Countering those blunders, everyone thought Payton went absolutely mad trading away Jimmy Graham to Settle for center Max Unger; but it has worked out well for the Saints, especially with the season Benjamin Watson had last year, and the promise that they are still hoping for from new free agent tight end Coby Fleener — who just this week told a throng of reporters he’s become more comfortable with the team’s playbook which reportedly he had yet to grasp 6 months into his time with the team.
The offensive line, though it was ranked 3rd best in the NFL last year and had a solid opening performance against the Raiders, still remains a concern.
But yet fans simply need to have both the faith and the patience that Payton knows what he’s doing, but as we all know: patience is something Saint fans aren’t a stranger to.
Sep 1, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton during the fourth quarter of their game against the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Ravens won, 23-14. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
No matter how anyone wants to justify the loss at home against the Raiders, it was the defense that let a decent size let down.
But, before the 2nd half, the defense looked like they had found a groove, and began the game on a good note. The progress is apparent, but in true recent fashion, the defense simply allowed to let another lead go, and let big plays go by them.
The front seven cannot afford to let the Giants’ offensive line to dominate them. If they want any chance to win the game on the defensive side of the ball and assist the secondary, there needs to be pressure on Eli Manning — and lots of it.
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Turning it to the other side of the ball, I think it’s safe to say that after a concerning preseason for the offense, that the offense is looking better than ever.
Even with an aging Brees at the helm, he ounce again found a way to shut up all the naysayers by putting up amazing numbers against a projected Top 10 defense.
He even found ways to break records yet again; as he threw the longest TD pass in his career (and in Saints franchise history) of 98 yards to Brandin Cooks in the 3rd quarter.
Plus, with Tom Brady suspended until Week 5, Brees was able to break the tie they had for 3rd most touchdown passes in history.
Brees is now only 76 passing touchdowns behind Bret Favre, and has 3 more games without any competition.
It doesn’t come as any surprise that Brees was able to rally the offense for 4 touchdown passes, 423 passing yards, and zero interceptions.
Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws a touchdown to wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) during the second quarter of a game against the Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
After all, ever since Brees and Payton came to the Crescent City, they haven’t had an offense ranked lower than 6th overall.
That offensive power still holds up 10 years later, and if Sunday will be anything like the last time the Saints and the Giants met, they will need all the offensive power they can get. Fans should be on the watch for an intense battle at the wide receiver corps when the ball kicks off at Met Life Stadium.
While the Saints are nowhere near a perfect team, we’ve seen that teams can win championships with an elite offense and a mediocre defense, and vice versa.
But before they can think of winning a championships, they need to focus on winning their first game.
As tough as an opponent that the Giants may be, the Saints have the ability to beat good teams.
Even though they didn’t get the win against the Raiders, they were in control for a huge majority of the contest.
As long as they can find ways to hold out and “finish games” going forward, we can witness the Saints still have a successful season — a season that still has 15 games left to play.
Sep 11, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead (83) makes a catch while defended by Oakland Raiders defensive back Sean Smith (21) in the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
The Saints have a long season ahead of them, but this Sunday can really be a turning a point for them as they are poised to be “road warriors” (or so one hopes), before they return home to play the Atlanta Falcons.
Not only is the game against the Falcons a “prime time” event, but it’s also their first divisional match up of the season and perhaps more importantly: could provide the team and the franchise with an emotional lift with the honoring of beloved hero Steve Gleason throughout the night.
Good things do in fact come to those who wait; and hopefully Saints fans will only have to wait until tomorrow to see the Saints have their first victory of the new season.
Bottom line: don’t lose hope — because there’s still a whole lot of football, left to play……….