Sloppy Saints moving backward

Posted Oct. 31, 2011 @ 11:55 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

The Saints entered Sunday's game against the Rams averaging 34 points per game. Yet, they were held to 21 points — the last seven of which were scored in garbage time when the game was already out of reach — in their 31-21 loss to St. Louis, and one of New Orleans' scores was a defensive touchdown.

This happened against the previously winless Rams, who had allowed 31 points or more in three of their previous six games. They sacked Drew Brees six times — the most he's been sacked in a game since signing with the Saints before the 2006 season — and dominated New Orleans' offensive line, hitting Brees three other times, as well.

"I don't know if I've ever been a part of a game where we had that many 3rd-and-long situations, you know, 10-plus situations, which is unacceptable," Brees said. "That makes it very hard on you offensively. There's not that many plays you can call, and defensively, they can pin their ears back and tee off on you a little bit. We really weren't able to create very much momentum."

The PFW spin

Even the Saints, who dropped 62 points on the Colts one week earlier, couldn't overcome poor field position and frequent 3rd-and-long situations.

They needed at least 10 yards to convert on more than one-third (6-of-17) of their third-down plays, and they picked up a first down on only one of those 3rd-and-long tries. When fewer than 10 yards were needed to convert on third down, the Saints converted 7-of-11 tries, although they were stopped on manageable attempts, including a 3rd-and-4 and 3rd-and-1 twice.

Few things went right for the Saints in St. Louis. They allowed a punt to be blocked, Steven Jackson gashed their run defense for 159 yards rushing (the most he's had in a game since the 2008 season), Brees threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a TD with three minutes to play, ending the Saints' small chance of mounting a comeback.

The Saints have lost two of their last three games and have put themselves in a situation where they can fall behind in the NFC South race if they don't take care of business in the next two games, in which they will face their toughest division opponents. The Saints host the Buccaneers, a team that defeated New Orleans in Week Six, and then travel to Atlanta to face the on-the-rise Falcons in the next two weeks before a Week 11 bye.

It looked as if the Saints might be trying to keep pace with the Packers and give themselves a chance to gain home-field advantage in the playoffs when they started 4-1. Instead, the Saints are battling just to keep a slim lead in the up-for-grabs NFC South.

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