WhoDat Warriors has always been a place dominated with a true love for the New Orleans Saints. Sometimes factually critical, WDW contributors were often very optimistic about their beloved team. This year is no different. This off season the fans watched as the Saints made significant changes in the coaching staff, watched them once again trade a key piece of the potent offense to solidify the defense and add depth. We watched as the most significant free agency dollars were about retaining key players and added a top line guard. In the spring, the team worked the draft to re-structure the defense and to some chagrin added an offensive lineman and moved up to select a running back. Everyone felt better about the Saints, but not everyone was optimistic for the 2017 season.
Concerns were voiced over Drew not wanting to stay for a rebuilding. Was this the last season for Coach Payton and what about Mickey? Optimism was leveled, but most had hope for improving from a routine seven-win season. There were those that filled chat rooms with a 6-10 season has our best expectation! There were the over optimistic that could see the exact opposite (10-6). Pre-season suspension, camp injuries, the loss of Fairly and even the very optimistic began to hold back. Starting the season with a demoralizing loss to the Sam Bradford Vikings and a big score loss to the Patriots and the fan base grew concerned.
Honestly, who reading this thought that on November 5, we would be sitting at the top of the NFC South? Holding a 5 Win, 2 Loss record? Going for a sixth consecutive win? Are you honest? Then you must have a Saint’s Sixth Sense – because everyone else would have referred you to the psych ward.
A defense that has allowed youth and an aggressive, tailored game plan for each game has allowed the team to start to create a defensive identity. Opposing teams no longer just game plan their offense and expect to dominate – today they must game plan around strengths and scheme. The offense has been able to play more balanced and they have minimized mistakes to be more confident in winning low scoring games. Who knew?
Today the Saints are going into that rare air – seeking their sixth consecutive win. The 2010 Saints were the last time the team has put together six wins in a row!
KEYS TO THE GAME:
MISTAKE FREE FOOTBALL: The last two games have watched the offense have inopportune penalties and serious turn-overs. The defense held strong and helped create wins without scoring significant points. Today we must not make silly penalties and we must hold possession.
3rd DOWN EFFICIENCY: A hallmark of the Payton/Brees offense has been the 3rd down conversion efficiency. It has failed us this year. Ranking 17th in the league with a 38% 3rd down conversion has forced us to stop too many drives. I mean, I like Morstead, but I prefer him holding for extra points.
DEFENSE ELIMINATES THE BIG PLAY: Each game has seen our defense give up big plays (especially in the 1st half). We have seen Mr. Winston perform when he gets on a roll. We know the Bucs will bring their best game of the year to the Dome….Do Not give them life! Allowing them big plays, easy scores, will on give them the confidence they can hang.
Prediction: Fast track on the dome floor today – at least for the Saints. I expect the first 15 to be scripted to identify defense weakness and I see Thomas and Kamara having big days on the receiving end. Mark Ingram will run angry and that is good for the offense. Saints 37….Bucs 17.