Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Edge Cannot Hold or It's Great To Be Proud To A Thicker Applause

Let's take a minute right now to remember the good times.  It's been a while, I know, but if you concentrate you can probably bring them back in your mind.  They were about a month ago.  The stupid fake games were all over with.  Nobody was worried about Sean Payton's eyesight.  Tom Benson's statue hadn't quite happened yet.  Domestic violence was still within the power of a multi-billion dollar commercial enterprise tax exempt non-profit to quietly sweep under the rug.  People were content. Things were... well.. not nice, exactly. But the discord was sufficiently sublimated. Radisson was still pleased with its marketing strategy. 

Also everyone still loved Rob Ryan.  So strong was the cult, in fact, that Saints fans commemorated the opening of what we all expected would be a glorious 2014 football season with a Rob Ryan themed pub crawl. They did this on the Saturday prior to opening weekend.  I mentioned this activity back in my Week One post so some of this might be a repeat.

They began at the Gleason statue (the good statue at the dome) with an invocation and made their way Uptown toward Ms. Mae's stopping at several watering holes along the way. It rained like hell but they didn't seem to care.  They were celebrating all things Rob Ryan and buying drinks for strangers.

I caught up with them at Igor's.  They looked ridiculous.


In addition to the fancy get-ups, the Pub Crawl also featured strong elements of ritual.  For example, there was a missal  on which the prayers, Our Coordinator, and Roofbanger's Creed, appeared.  These were passed around at each stop so that bar patrons could follow along with the blessing.

There was also a call and response.  This took a little explaining... in fact I'm still not sure I understand it fully but I'll try to relate what was going on as well as I can.

Shortly after the Ryans arrived at Igor's, Mr. Clio (that's him in the above photo as Ginger Rob Ryan) explained to me that one of them had either attended a Saints practice or saw some footage of Ryan at practice or something like that.  (I wasn't paying close enough attention not knowing where this was going.) At this.. practice.. or whatever it was, Ryan was yelling at someone to, "Hold the edge!"

I don't quite know what it means either.  And I'm not sure the Rob Ryans do. And, again, this whole conversation was just nonsense to me up until this part.

Mr. Clio:  So what we've been doing is calling out names of Saints defensive players from the past and telling them to "Hold the edge!"

Me: Uhh.. um.. I don't..

Mr. Clio:  Ok so think of any Saints defender from like any time.

Me: Alright.. um... Jim Wilks?

Mr. Clio: Ok but just shout it.

Me: What?

Mr. Clio: Yeah right now, just shout it out. Watch.


Entire Bar: HOLD THE EDGE!

This sort of thing continued on for the duration.  Many a random Saint current or retired was named.  Many edges were held. There was much rejoicing.  But soon Menckles and I had to get out of there.  It was Saturday and we had a date at a different bar that evening for the opening night of the 2014 Les Miles follies. So we said our goodbyes to the Rob Ryans and saw them off on their merry way further Uptown.

It would be the last time we'd think to use the words Rob, Ryan, and merry in the same sentence for quite a while.

So what the hell has been going on?  Here's a quick look back at the first two weeks of the season.  They're different from how we thought they would be.

(Note: As a long standing running joke of obscure origin going back almost a decade now, we at the Yellow Blog enjoy "shamelessly stealing".. that is hot linking directly to NOLA.com photography of the week's games and writing our own captions under them.  But, in the spirit of good nettiquette, we will link to the galleries. This week, they are here and here if you'd like to flip through them all.)

First the good news

The Saints do not suck on offense.  Despite having played two games on the road, where they're supposedly "not themselves" or whatever, as of this writing, they are ranked 3rd in scoring offense. Also they are 3rd in total yards. That's 6th in passing yards and 5th in rushing (Whoah! Balance!)  Drew Brees has thrown one extremely costly interception at crucial moments of each game so far.  But, apart from that, he's his usual self.  Jimmy Graham is still pretty good.  They haven't done anything terrible to the uniforms.  It looks like they kept the right kicker.

Hey guys it's Shayne Graham. I am on your team.  Really they told me I could be in here.

Brandin Cooks Rookie of The Year Watch

Brandin Cooks won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award several times during the first half vs Atlanta.  The Saints made an effort to get him involved early and he proved more than ready for the task.   Cooks caught 7 passes for 77 yards. He looked equally as good catching deep passes and short passes.  He was effective on routes along on the sideline as well as in the middle of the field.  He looked good on and end around play that went for 18 yards.  He scored his first NFL touchdown in the second quarter to put the Saints up 20-7.

But the most impressive moment for Cooks came on the second play of the game when Brees connected with him on a 32 yard pass off of a play fake.  Cooks, who is approximately 4 ft 3 inches tall out leaped a defender to pull the ball down.  If it wasn't already clear to fans who had seen his preseason that Cooks has pro receiving skills, it was after that play.

Cooks can play tall or he can play small as he did here squeezing though a tight spot for a touchdown

As impressive as all that is, Cooks virtually disappeared in the second half.  Obviously the Falcons adjusted their defense to pay more attention to him. That can be a good thing since it means the Saints have a weapon that teams have to account for.  But it also could mean that it took only one half of football for someone to write the book on how to shut down the Saints' explosive rookie.

At Cleveland, the Saints had so much trouble getting the ball into Cooks' hands that Sean Payton had to resort to trickery just to hand it to him. 

Still in all, it's a pretty nice way to start out for Cooks.  He hasn't blown his chance at that award everyone has him penciled in for yet.

Also this was kind of adorable.

Worst 3rd Quarter Ever

This was set up to go poorly when the Saints allowed the Falcons to finish the half with a field goal after taking possession with only 20 seconds remaining. Atlanta took the kickoff to start the third quarter so the touchdown they scored then actually capped a ten point swing.

But the big deflating moment came when, as the Saints were poised to answer, Drew Brees threw an interception as he targeted Cooks in the back of the end zone. When it happened, I wondered if the rookie had been maybe a bit off with his route.  But after the game, Brees blamed himself.
"If I can put that thing a foot more in front of Cooks, it's a touchdown instead of an interception," Brees said. "It was a good decision. I was going to the right place. I just didn't put the ball out there far enough for him. When you have a game like this, it's those plays that make all the difference."
That one sure did make a big difference. Five plays and several missed tackles later, Antone Smith had given the Falcons their first lead of the game.

We were all over here. But suddenly he was all the way over there

Worst First Quarter Ever

Jesus, the Browns really came out and punched the Saints in the mouth, didn't they?  In the first quarter last week, Cleveland outscored New Orleans 10-0, outgained them 133 yards to 7, and caused at least five more collective "Ooohs" from the crowd at Harry's Bar in reaction to hits on the quarterback or ball carrier. It was.. not good.

Twice during this mess the Saints had the Browns stalled in 3rd and long situations.  Each time they allowed a conversion due to errors by Patrick Robinson (more on that in a bit).  But besides the atrocious play on 3rd down, the defense was terrible in every possible way; pushed around by the Browns' front line and young power backs, unable to generate any sort of pass rush, and completely baffled in coverage.

It was.. unbelievably not good and it lasted for 25 percent of the available playing time.  Combine the first quarter of Week 2 with the third quarter of Week 1 and the Saints have completely spaced on one fourth of their entire season thus far.  Taking into account that they've lost two games by a total of less than one touchdown, I'd say that's pretty significant.

"Bill Parcells says Khiry Robinson reminds him of  Curtis Martin" is the new "Jimmy Graham used to play basketball"

I don't really have anything to add to that. I just wanted to point that out. Really looking forward to being in the Dome and away from any TV commentary this week. On the other hand, I might consider the theory that Khiry is a "fake" Curtis Martin. But let's leave that alone for now as well.

P-Rob Problems

Somewhere in the Good Fan Handbook there's some sort of directive about heaping too much blame on quarterbacks or cornerbacks.  So we are obliged to state for the record that Patrick Robinson is not the only reason the Saints are 0-2 or that the defense is on pace to surrender more yards than it did during the 2012 Spagnocalypse.  But, at the same time... come on. P-Rob is having issues out there.  Let's review some of the standout moments so far.

In Week 1 at Atlanta, the Saints got out to an early lead.  They had build a pretty nice 13-0 with 10 minutes to play in the half.  The juggernaut we expected all offseason was beginning to manifest. They were poised to drop a hammer down on the hated Falcons who they now had backed up in their own territory facing a 3rd and 8.  And then, this happened. (Borrowing a GIF from B&GR)

That drive culminated in a touchdown and suddenly the Falcons had life.

Atlanta took the ball to begin the 3rd quarter and moved to the New Orleans 28 where they began to sputter.  But on 3rd and 10 Julio Jones shook free of P-Rob and set the Falcons up with a 1st and goal at the one. They would score on the next play.

Things would get worse for Robinson in Week 2.  He was responsible for a pass interference on a 3rd and 7 during the 1st quarter which set up a Browns touchdown.  The touchdown was scored by Miles Austin in single coverage with.. Patrick Robinson.

Patrick Robinson (not in the picture because.. why would he be?) was responsible for this

Later in the quarter, Browns kicker Billy Cundiff had a field goal attempt deflect off of the left upright (which caused Saints fans to wonder if it could play corner) only to be given a do-over a few plays later thanks to a neutral zone infraction by Patrick Robinson.

On the Browns' final drive, P-Rob was beaten by Austin again for a 13 yard gain just two plays prior to the dumbest defensive play in history during which, of course, Patrick Robinson was (somewhat irrelevantly) flagged for holding.

There's more but those are the, um, highlights. At the beginning of the season, we said that P-Rob was the "Mark Ingram of the defense." He was a high draft pick who had been disappointing but could make a huge impact if he could finally put it together a bit. So far, this story is not having a happy ending.

The return.. and subsequent departure of #AngryIngram

Mark Ingram had a nice two weeks there. At Atlanta, he carried 13 times for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both of those touchdowns and the bulk of those yards came during the 4th Quarter when they were needed most and after this happened.

This is the legend of #AngryIngram acted out in dramatic fashion.  Cute joke and all.. until the experiment is replicated and the theory confirmed.

Ingram smash

And then it happened again!  Ingram's numbers at Cleveland: 11 carries 83 yards 1 touchdown.  Most of the yards came after he broke his hand during the first half.  The touchdown came during a furious 4th quarter rally that gave the Saints a lead which lasted until the final seconds.  Both weeks Mark Ingram's performances should have been enough to help the Saints win.

When you score 34 and 24 points you probably should win most of those games.  But to blow them in the frustrating, gut wrenching ways the Saints blew them... that could make a person lose his temper a bit. He's going to miss a few games now. Let's hope everyone stays out of his way in the meantime.

Marques Colston: HOLD THE EDGE... or at least the goddamned ball 

Not to dwell on this too much but, Jesus, what an awful way to lose that Atlanta game. If Colston doesn't fumble that ball at the start of overtime, does anyone have any doubt whatsoever that the Saints march right on down the field and #AngryIngram the ball on into the endzone? Nope. No doubt about that.

But that isn't what happened.

Instead this happened

Marques Colston has not been heard from since.  He is said to have participated in the Cleveland game but was not targeted with a single pass. If you see him, please ask him to call home.

We are wasting Morstead's beautiful talents

The Saints' dumpster fire of a defense has completely wasted some clutch efforts by punter Thomas Morstead. Let's review those briefly.

Midway through the 4th quarter of the Atlanta game, the Saints are holding a three point lead and the ball.  Their drive stalls and on comes Morstead who delivers a beautiful 58 yarder that reverses the field position from the Saints' 30 all the way down to the Atlanta 12.  A holding penalty backs the Falcons up further to their own 6.  Thomas Morstead has saved the day, right?

Nope. The Falcons shoot right out of that hole.. converting a 3rd and 6 against Patrick Robinson along the way... and drive the length of the field for a touchdown.

Late in the Cleveland game, the Saints have the lead and the ball and are driving into Browns territory.  But then, disaster strikes. Brees is sacked on a third down pushing the Saints just out of field goal range.  No problem.  The Saints just trot out Morstead who delivers a perfect kick pinning the Browns down on their own 4 with less than three minutes to play.

We already know how that drive ended.  

The point is the Saints are playing well enough to win on offense. They could be a bit better in some aspects of special teams but the punter is certainly getting the job done.  So what's the deal with that defense?

Advertising looks and chops a must

What the hell happened to Rob Ryan?  It was supposed to be through him that all things were possible.  Ryan had designed the Future Of Defense where we put 11 safeties on the field and "get weird" all over everybody.  Ryan was going to win us a Superbowl and ride off into the sunset with a head coaching job somewhere.

But so far, things have been very different from that. Versus Atlanta, the Saints surrendered 568 total yards.  That is the second most in team history. ( The most  was 605 yards which came in 2004 605 against the Vikings... this week's opponent, incidentally.)

Their highly touted and highly paid defensive ends could generate very little pressure on Matt Ryan despite facing a second string left tackle. I'm not going to look this one up but I'm pretty sure the Saints have 2 total sacks in 2 games. The coverages are frequently confused. Patrick Robinson is not good.

Again.. what the hell happened?  Well, for one thing, Rob Ryan apparently decided to stop being Rob Ryan. 
None of this makes sense. The Saints didn’t put much emphasis on the cornerback position during the offseason, and did put a lot of emphasis on safety, giving many dollars to Jairus Byrd and matching the offer Rafael Bush got from Atlanta. That, with all the talk of multi-safety hybrid weird revolutionary future of defense defenses, indicated Rob Ryan would deploy his personnel sort of how he did in 2013.

He hasn’t. The Saints have played three safeties only rarely, and when they have they’ve only done so because personnel groups like the Falcons’ four receiver sets forced the Saints to use four corners. That’s why Rafael Bush played a significant number of snaps against Atlanta and just five against Cleveland: Atlanta spread the field; Cleveland, which has no good receivers on its active roster right now, couldn’t.

Rob Ryan wanted to “get weird.” He did. His defense is so inexplicably plain that I’m bewildered.
Why would Rob suddenly betray his nature.. or at least his defense like this?  The Saints appear to have spent very little time preparing to play defense at all.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer found Hawkins down the right side for a 28-yard reception, setting up the winning 29-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff.

Why did two players go with one man?

“We were trying to figure that out right now,” White said after speaking with his fellow defensive backs, including Lewis. “We’re going to go watch the film and figure it out from there. We don’t know.”
Maybe he's distracted.  As we've seen,Ryan got a lot of press this offseason labeling him the next big thing.  We know he wants a head coaching job.  He's considering this season a kind of audition for that.  But in trying to figure out what teams are looking for in a coach, he may be concentrating on style over substance.
If Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants to be a head coach in the NFL, apparently all he needs to do is call his barber. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Monday that the reason Ryan's not getting more consideration as a head coach this offseason is because some NFL executives don't like Ryan's long locks.

"If he wants to be a head coach, he has to cut his hair," Mortensen said several executives told him, via FoxSports.com. "It is about image for these guys. They want a CEO-type. That's what they want."
And sure enough, Rob is wearing a, yes still nearly shoulder length, but decidedly more conservative hairstyle this season.

I'm just a boy with a new haircut

Could it be that Rob bought the bullshit about his hair to such a degree that he decided to work more on that than on actually preparing his team?  Stop trying to please the big boys, Rob.  Like the song says, "Attention and fame is a Korea," or something like that.  Anyway it sounds bad.

What to do?

Well this roundly sucks.  What are we supposed to do with this football season?  Are we giving up? After 2 weeks? That's not where Angry Who Dat's head is at.
What I do know, and will repeat for the second week in a row (hopefully this doesn’t become a thing) is this: it’s not happening because the roster is devoid of talent. We’ve seen better from every player on the field, including Patrick Robinson. And whether it’s the gameplan or the play calling or something more intangible like leadership, by definition it must be something that can be fixed. And something, in my delusion, that I believe will be.

The first two games were not pleasant experiences. But in perspective, they were losses, on the road, by a field goal or less. Ahead are 14 more games, 8 of them at home where Sean Payton simply does not lose. A lot of fun awaits, many drinks, a little anger and probably a lot of yelling at Patrick Robinson. We have a long way to go. Even if it’s over, declaring it’s over won’t negate the sadness. If it’s not over, and you assume it is, you’ll miss out on the fun.
Not only is there "a lot of football left to play" but also things are suddenly very interesting.  Just a short month ago, Saints fans (and possibly the team and coaches too) were spending a little too much time congratulating themselves on the season they were about to have. You don't have to believe that the 0-2 start is totally the result of karma or even just hubris. But you can probably agree that expecting to win every game and then just going out and winning every game is boring.

We don't watch these games to be bored. We watch them because they are entertaining. The inspire our sense of drama, heroism, and above all, absurdity.  Those are all fun things. We do this for fun.  You have to believe that there's more fun left to be had over the next 15 weeks, right?

Besides, look:

Week 3

Carolina ain't going nowhere. We'll see them down the line.  We'll see Atlanta again too; in Week 16 in what could be a big showdown after many other interesting things will have happened.  Also Tampa.

So you see it's fine.  Or at least it will be fine if the Saints can get it together real quicklike.  I'm a bright eyed optimist right now, but come see me at 0-3 and then maybe we'll have to talk about that.

The good news is, here, in a pretty desperate spot, the Saints have one strong card to play.  For the first time this year they get to roll out their home stadium and their... very anxious.. home fans.  Let's hope that's enough to save the season. In any case, they're waiting to hear from you.

1 comment:

hopitoulas said...

This is the best blog post I've ever read. Laughing and reveling, and enjoying it the whole damn way! Excellent work. Thank you.