For those not familiar with the Grind Factor, for the past three years it’s been a weekly detailed look at three or four plays that helped swing the outcome of the game – good or bad

Four words describe this Saints team after the defeat in week one at Arizona – A work in progress. What you witnessed this past Sunday was growing pains, which is to be expected when almost half the team has never played in a real game together before.

On the defensive side of the ball I like how they fought back after such a dismal start, they did enough to win this game in my opinion but it was the offense and their inability to convert touchdowns when they were in the red zone that cost this team the game.

The plays I picked today was the Cardinals 1st touchdown and the horrible Saints red zone offense. Okay lets get started….

After the Cardinals drove down the field with ease on their opening drive setting up a 1st and goal from the 8 yard line the Saints held tough on the 1st two downs, first with a thundering  hit by Stephone Anthony on Andre Ellington dropping him for a two yard loss and then an incompletion over the middle to Ellington with Cam Jordan on the coverage.

The Cardinals have the ball at the Saints 10 yard line, 3rd and goal with 9:56 left in the 1st quarter 

The Saints a are going to rush four and drop seven into coverage, the ability of Carson Palmer to buy time and look off the defenders spelled doom for the Saints on this play. Below is a screen shot of the routes ran and the Saints defenders on the play.

John Brown 1Hau’oli Kikaha brings the pressure causing Palmer to roll to his right, some analyst have said that Kikaha should have contained the pocket – I disagree, he was trying to get to the quarterback on 3rd and goal and would have got there if he wasn’t held. It’s only a hold if you get caught and the tackle had Kikaha between the pads and that almost never draws a flag, Kikaha needs to use his hands better in a situation like this, below is a screen shot of the play.

John brown 5When Palmer rolls to his right to escape the pressure Arizona wide out John Brown sees this and moves with Palmer, at the same time Kenny Vacarro comes over from center field to help Damian Swann with the coverage as seen below.

John Brown 2This where the play breaks down, Palmer the savvy vet is looking for Larry Fitzgerald who is racing towards the middle of the end zone in the spot vacated by Vacarro. As soon as he plants and looks that way Vacarro is in no mans land and breaks off of Brown to try and get back into coverage and at that time Brown slips behind Swann to the corner of the end zone and it’s all over after that with Swann playing too far in as Palmer throws the strike as seen in the shots below.

john brown 3

John Brown 6John Brown 4Okay on to the missed opportunities in the red zone. First up on the Saints 1st possession they drive the length of the field and are facing…

The Saints have the ball 3rd and 3 at the Cardinals 19 yard line with 4:36 left in the 1st quarter 

This is a play where Sean Payton is overly aggressive trying to hit Brandin Cooks on an out and up route to the corner of the end zone, it looks good on paper but in reality Arizona has all world cornerback Patrick Peterson doing what he does best – shut receivers down, below is a screen shot of the Saints receivers on the play and the routes that are run.

Cooks 1This play was designed to go to Cooks all the way as Brees didn’t look any other way. If he did the safer bet would been to hit Mark Ingram on the little flare route and take their chances that he could beat Arizona linebacker Kevin Minter for three yards, he didn’t and the results speak for themselves as seen in the screen shots below.

Cooks 2Cooks 3Up next Wille Snead puts the Saints in great position with a 63 yard catch and run – after a couple of small gains…..

The Saints have the ball 3rd and 5 at the Cardinals 7 yard line with 13:16 left in the 3rd quarter.

Unlike the previous play I love the play call here, a screen to Khiry Robinson with Jahri Evans and Max Unger getting out front to pave the way, below is a pre-snap look at the play (notice Benjamin Watson’s route is designed to take Safety Tony Jefferson out of the play leaving behind LB Kevin Minter and CB Jerraud Powers for the linemen to take out)

Screen 1

Three things doom this play, first Tim Lelito gets beat by defensive end Calias Campbell to make Brees rush the play instead of having time for it to develop as seen below.

Sreen 2Look where Robinson is in relation to the two pulling linemen, he’s two close and when they make their blocks and he tries to cut back, he runs into Max Unger as seen below. There’s an art to running screens, reading your blocks and the defensive flow are key. I can’t pin it all on Robinson because like I said Brees had to rush the throw plus Safety Tony Jefferson makes a great play peeling off his coverage of Watson and reversing field to make the stop short of the 1st down marker.

Sreen 3Screen 4After Mark Ingram rumbles for 59 yards on a flair pass (great blocking by Coleman to help) the Saints are in business once again. After Brees is sacked and Mark Ingram runs for one yard….

The Saints have the ball 3rd and 10 at the Cardinals 15 yard line with 7:56 remaining in the game.

This is a case of the Saints going to the well once too often with – you guessed it, another screen pass. Arizona’s defense probably read this play before the ball was snapped, specifically LB Kevin Minter and strong safety Deone Bucannan. Below is a pre-snap look at the alignment – notice center Max Unger is the only lineman to pull on this play, it was hard to tell if Tim Lelito was designed to stay behind or simply got caught up in his block and couldn’t release.

Screen 1Sometimes you just got to tip your hat to a great play by the defense and what Minter did here was outstanding. As soon as Mark Ingram starts his way out into the flat Minter is on his way from across the field, to be honest I don’t even think Unger saw him as he races behind him. I think Unger was trying to get to Bucannan who peeled away from his coverage of Ben Watson to help snuff out the play as seen below.

Screen 2The end result is Mark Ingram stopped for no gain on the most critical play of the game.

Screen 3After watching the film of this game I under stand why Payton did a lot of misdirection and screens, Arizona’s defense is extremely aggressive and fast. This is one of the better defenses I have seen in a while, having a healthy Tyrann Mathieu really has helped them do what they want to do.

Well that’s it for this week’s Grind Factor, I will be back next week with another installment after the Tampa Bay game. These are always fun to do and I hope you enjoyed it so until then, as always….WHO DAT!