Thoughts on New Orleans Saints versus Atlanta Falcons

Thoughts on New Orleans Saints versus Atlanta Falcons

Not the day we expected or wanted.   Before I appear to be tossing the season into the dumpster – I am still very positive this team can be the best in Saint’s history.  I keep telling myself it was one game, an overtime loss to a heated rival, on the road.  That is all real…. BUTT there were other real things that I witnessed while sitting in section 347 of the Georgia Dome.

First, comments on the visit:

There was a great contingency of WhoDats, we were loud and fun-loving.  From the boarding of the MARTA train to the Five Points change, it was full and loud.  The best line of the ride – “If your team has never won a Super Bowl – Get off the Train”!  I will also tell you that the WhoDats took the loss hard, but I saw nothing but the hand of good sportsmanship – even after being told to do things that are actually impossible to do.

We sat in the middle of Falcon season ticket holders.  They were great fans.  While we constantly ribbed each other, it was respectful, informed, and as equally critical and supportive of their team as we were.  Even the intolerant kids in front of us and the one jerk behind us, eventually came around to the fact this was a game supported by passionate fans.  In full disclosure, getting out of the stadium is horrible.  No beer and it appeared all 80,000 were trying to go down two escalators to the MARTA.  I may have felt differently about the fans if I had not decided to pay the $34 and jump a cab to Hartsfield.

The cranes are up outside and the Falcons are starting to build the new stadium.  I hope they add air conditioning – the building was hot – real hot.  The concessions were boring, bland, and under-staffed and under prepared.  The season ticket holders I talked to are concerned that the price of PSLs have not been announced and word is that there are only 3 of the new suites sold.  Mr. Blank is putting up millions of his own money to build a stadium that may bring a Super Bowl back to Atlanta.  Half the fans I asked said they loved the “futuristic design” of the building – half felt like me – it is ugly.

Atlanta is the Atlanta airport.  It is almost sad that your community is only known because of your role as a “transfer station.” Most people visit Atlanta by just training between Terminal A and Terminal D.   Since my trip was continuing for a week on the road, I had bags that I could not take to the stadium.  The airport is going through a continuous re-model, fewer smoking rooms and no place to drop your bags.  So I rented a $25 car for the day, took the tram to the rental car facility, got the keys, found the car and dropped my bags in the trunk.  My car was parked three spaces from the return parking and next to the attendant office.  I told them I was waiting for someone to join me, and I was leaving the car for a few minutes.  Returned after the game move the car three parking spaces, grabbed my luggage, and the same attendant I spoke to that morning wanted to check my mileage and fuel before checking me out. Less than a tenth of a mile – I may have completed the world’s shortest car rental.  Apparently there was rain somewhere around Atlanta.  My plane was two hours late, missed my connection in Charlotte and had to check-in to a hotel at 1AM and back to Charlotte airport at 6AM to continue my trip.  Son of Comncnts was three hours delayed back to Orlando.

BTW – there were 100+ WhoDats on my plane to Charlotte – they all missed their connection to New Orleans.  USAir was horrible.  They kept telling everyone on the plane – you will make it…the plane missed by less than ten minutes.  Because it was “weather” only re-booking for the next available flight. No hotel, no meal assistance.  Holding the plane 10 minutes would have not cost USAir a hundred dollars, it inconvenienced hundreds.  The worst part, they had three attendants at the counter (six computers), and at one point I counted over eleven USAir employees standing around talking, while the line had over 100 people in line.  Then at 11 PM, one by one the ones working the counter said it was time to go, got their personals and left – with the line still down the hall.  There is an absolute dis-regard for customer service.  USAir flyers beware.

Now the game.  I find myself agreeing with Mike Smith – this game is over, we will analyze it for a week, it is time for us to move to next week.

We have a talent-laden team.  There were some bright spots, but we looked as under prepared as the concession stand that ran out of fried chicken.  Here are quick observations:

  • Drew Brees was off, he missed four throws that he usually makes. He appeared to be behind on the throw.
  • Settling for two field goals (when we should have had TDs in the first quarter) kept us from putting it away.
  • OLine performed ok. No sacks, noqb  hits,139 yards rushing – it was:
    • Open receivers we missed
    • Receivers that could not get an additional step
    • Meacham and Morgan five targets, no catches
  • Defense started with a quick 3 and out – then it appeared we could not get off the field.
  • Losing the turn-over battles ended as always – a loss

My Greatest Concerns

Caution On The Road – Remember back in the old days – 2009, when our offense was aggressive and efficient – getting early leads (TDs not FGs) and our defense pinning their ears back and taking charge. Oh we gave up some big plays- but we were aggressive.  It appears on the road, we get the slimmest of leads and then play not to lose.   We are so concerned with giving up the big play–that the opponent dinks and dunks us to death.   Where is our confidence?  Quit protecting the lead put your foot on the gas on both sides of the ball.

Looking Soft – Especially on defense – we looked tired and soft.  Maybe choosing to “resort it” instead of “gassers in the heat” – we better spend time this week running.   A little soft on coverage, and I understand the concern with the receiver quality, BUTT once again we allow Atlanta’s number three, geriatric receiver (Hester) to get 99 yards on 5 receptions.  Our tackling was bad, Steve Spagnuola bad.  Has anyone seen Vaccaro?  Oh, yea that was our hard hitter that planted his feet, dropped his head and whiffed on the TD run.

Where is the killer?  Not Jerry Lee Lewis, the leader that will step up, put the team on their back and make the play. Great that Lofton was a leader after the game. Where is Cameron Jordan, Junior Galette, Jairus Byrd, Curtis Lofton–someone on defense that says if we can’t stop them – I will.  Where was the will of the heart and the aggression of an athlete that picks the team up when it needs them the most?  The Niners have that player, the Seahawks have that player, the Panthers have that player….where is ours?  Stop the great team quotes, sometimes leaders appear, sometimes they take over. We miss the killer on offense when we muddle around with same formations, same plays – Sean Payton take over.  Rob Ryan, time for pee and vinegar.  You created an illusion last year without much talent…get it back.

It appears we had heard for too long that we are a contender, our defense was as special as our offense.  We played like this game was on paper, and after solid first quarter, we just coasted – we gave up TD drives of 80, 80, 80, 94 — plus a 79 yard drive that ended in a fumble.  Pat Lencioni a great business consultant says teams work more efficient when there is a crisis.  He even advises that sometimes we need to create the crisis.  Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago has been noted for saying “never letting a good crisis to go to waste.”   Next Sunday we will learn if this is a crisis, if coach makes it a crisis, and how the team responds.

COMMENTARY POSTCRIPT:  This morning’s release of the Ray Rice video doesn’t change the incident, the result, and the admission by Mr. Rice of his wrong-doing.  Most of us were outraged by the penalty handed out by the Commissioner.  The release does show the sheer violence Mr. Rice unleashed, but most important it showed his reaction, his lack of in-the-moment remorse, his “rag doll care” he demonstrated – his lack of concern at the moment.  If the league will not increase his suspension – I hope the Ravens will either choose to suspend or at least keep him inactive for a longer period.

My biggest frustration is with the NFL office:

  1. If the NFL (Roger and investigators) did not see this tape – how did the same NFL investigative arm that threw the book at the New Orleans Saints for all the proof they uncovered in “bountygate” miss this video tape?  For crying out loud, TMZ could find it.
  2. If the NFL (Roger and investigators) did see this tape – how could they in good conscience of a son, father, brother, or husband – not penalize Mr. Rice at least one half a season.

Mr. Goodell’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction” were his early claims of all the evidence against the Saints, never fully backed up, but the oversell and the over-reached penalty was in the bank. His short-sighted, over-spoken claims showed his immaturity and cost our organization a year of competition, when we were at our peak.   When he lost to players, who had representation–he stuck his penalty on management and the coaches to save face.  When he was late (and wrong) on Rice to begin with, he tried to be stronger with rhetoric and a letter.   That worked for three days when the other “Harbaugh” led team had an alleged assault incident.  I think Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fujita rocked the commissioner – after over-penalizing the Saints – therefore, he under-penalized Mr. Rice and Mr. Jim Irsay.   Mr. Commissioner, you must get it right.  Today – extend Ray Rice’s suspension to be  a minimum of one year or just be quiet in the future.