Before I start this weeks edition of the Grind Factor I want to give props and thanks to @WhoDatWarriors for giving me a ticket to a great seat at this game, Salute. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted but it was a really fun day at the Dome.
After some time I finally started the film breakdown with a clean mind and my emotions in check, what I see is a team that is right there, but as the this season has gone, the Saints always have mistakes crop up at the worst time. Whether it’s having Drew Brees throwing into triple coverage or Marques Colston dropping a long pass right in the breadbasket to Kenny Vaccaro losing containment on 4th and 10. I don’t care if you are the best team in the NFL these mental errors will cost you games almost every time, it has been proven the Saints aren’t good enough to over come them.
The 49ers came to play Sunday just like I thought they would and to be honest I thought Colin Kaepernick played a really good game, but as has been the case all year his receivers continue to drop the ball. With that being said the Saints played pretty good too (minus the mistakes mentioned above) I thought they really brought the hammer in the second half, Mark Ingram and Jimmy Graham get my game balls this week, they were outstanding.
It’s always tough doing a Grind Factor after a loss but this one isn’t as nearly as tough as say the Cowboys or Falcons losses, this one was two evenly matched teams going toe to toe, unfortunately the Saints came out of it on the wrong side and yes they have to improve in all facets of the game but I’m not discouraged, disappointed yes but not discouraged. I also can’t ignore what happened so this week I’m forced to bring back my “The good, the bad and the ugly” Grind Factor. I picked three plays (you probably know which ones) Two offensively and one defensively. Okay let’s get this rolling….
The Saints have the ball 1st & 10 at the 49ers 31 yard line with 9:21 left to go in the 1st half
This a play that is a staple in the Saints playbook that they have run for years when they get into the opponents 25 to 35-40 yard range. The Saints pretty much want to stretch the defense out and send everybody deep (except the safety valve RB) Drew Brees makes his hot read depending on the match ups and what the safeties do. In the past in most cases he goes to Colston, they have hooked up numerous times from this formation. FS Eric Reid knows this and is zeroed in on Colston, SS Antoine Bethea drops back also to help with the box coverage on Colston. Below is a screen shot of the personnel grouping and the routes ran.
In this next screen shot you can see how Marques Colston draws the two safeties and a linebacker to bracket him. Drew Brees knows where he’s going with the ball as soon as they shift and leave Brandin Cooks one on one with FS Jimmy ward. Brees throws a perfect strike, also notice this is one of the few times in the game where Brees has a clean pocket to throw from.
Below is a couple of views of the results, a perfectly executed play taking advantage of the mismatch, I know Colston had a rough outing dropping the deep ball but this play doesn’t work if the 49ers don’t respect what Colston and Brees have done numerous times.
The Saints have the ball 2nd & 15 at their own 15 yard line with 5:58 left in overtime
This is the Ahmad Brooks sack/strip that ended the game, I was tempted to put this play as the “ugly” play but there is one that is uglier (I think you know which one it is) anyways the Saints have a good play drawn up, you have to remember Brees was sacked on the previous play so the Saints send four wide on medium deep routes and they have Travaris Cadet come out of the backfield on a short dump off crossing route. Below is a pre-snap look at the personnel grouping and the routes they ran (in this case almost ran)
Two things happen for this disaster to take place, first Terron Armstead is beaten by LB Ahmad Brooks and second Cadet gets tripped up coming out of the backfield. In the screen shot below you can see if Cadet had not tripped and Brees got him the ball, he would have either got the 1st down or would have been close to it but that’s a big if because I’m not sure Brees would have got the ball out in time, we will never know.
We all know what happens next, Brees doesn’t see Brooks and is hit from behind while trying to get rid of the ball, there’s really not much more to it than that. The 49ers made the game changing play when they had to, it was really a great play on Brooks part. Below is a couple of screen shots of the play that ended the game, it really shouldn’t have come down to this because unfortunately my next play is why…..
The 49ers have the ball 4th & 10 at their 22 yard line with 1:34 to go in the 4th quarter
In my opinion this is the one play that best describes the season so far, when the Saints have the opportunity to slam the door shut, it gets kicked open. In this play the cornerbacks and linebackers are playing to keep everything in front of the first down marker and let the Safeties Raphael Bush and Kenny Vaccaro take the deep routes, problem is Vaccaro is tunneling down on Vernon Davis coming across the middle. Corey White does the right thing letting Micheal Crabtree go by him thinking he had safety help, he didn’t because Vaccaro goes towards Davis. On the top of the screen you can see how it should have been played, Dixon let his man go by (like White) but Bush plays it correctly and take the receiver going deep as seen in the screen shot below.
Junior Galette supplies the pressure with some inside help from Tyrunn Walker and Colin Kaepernick simply buys some time scrambling to his right to make the throw, I have to say not many quarterbacks can make that throw, running one way and throwing deep down field the other way.
I know it’s tough for any defensive back to keep coverage with as much time as Kaepernick bought with feet but Vaccaro blew this play from the beginning. The worst thing you can do as the deep safety in cover two is lose containment on the receiver going deep. In Vaccaro’s defense I think he just got the play call wrong thinking they were in man coverage and he had center field. Below is the final two screen shots of this meltdown.
Well that’s a wrap for this week’s Grind Factor, as tough as that loss was to swallow the Saints never quit when they were down 14 points and battled back to take the lead but like so many games this year they just don’t know how to finish. This season has been like ground-hog day where the simple mistakes are repeated over and over, it’s like a broken record. To be honest with you I was over this game before I completed my drive home from the Dome and was already looking forward to the Bengals coming to town.
The 49ers came into to town wounded and with their backs to the wall and really responded well, the Bengals are a similarly dangerous animal having 10 days to stew over their embarrassing loss at home to the Browns. There’s a big difference in these two teams though, the Bengals defense is pretty bad ranking 28th in to total defense and 31st in rushing defense (giving up 143 yards per game on the ground) I fully expect the saints to dish out a big old serving of Mark Ingram in this one similar to the game they played against Green Bay. Just keep feeding Ingram the ball and take your shots down field when it’s there and please cut down on the stupid mistakes and to that I say, as always….WHO DAT!!!