How the Saints can win now…and why they won’t
If you read my thoughts on the Saints draft, you probably think that I believe the Saints are doomed and are no better than they were last year. That is hardly the case. In fact, I think this roster could win 12 or more games, despite the schedule being an absolute nightmare.
The Saints have become almost unbearable to watch over the course of the last three or four years. When you have a undoubtedly top five quarterback, you should not be coming off your third straight 7-9 season and playing from behind constantly.
Most fanboys of the Saints will probably go on to tell you it is all the defense. That is the one and only reason the Saints can’t seem to sniff the playoffs. Considering the Saints are on their fifth defensive coordinator since Sean Payton came to New Orleans, at which point do we turn and point the finger to him?
Coordinators under Sean Payton (Record with Coordinator)
- 2006-08 Gary Gibbs (25-23) 1 Playoff Appearance
- 2009-11 Gregg Williams (37-11) 3 Playoff Appearances
- 2012 Payton Suspended (won’t count that one)
- 2013-15 Rob Ryan (25-23) 1 Playoff Appearance
- 2016 Dennis Allen (7-9) Missed Playoffs
I know Sean Payton is an offensive guru, but what is your job as a head coach? To win football games. You can have all the offensive numbers you want. If you can’t win, you’re not doing your job. So Payton should follow his advice, “DO YOUR JOB.”
The worst part is that it isn’t always the defense’s fault. I can recall three games last year the defense did their job (Giants, Carolina and Denver). They sacked Trevor Siemian six times with two interceptions. They held Cam Newton’s completion percentage under 50%. The Giants scored 16 points. They still lost all of those.
Control the Line of Scrimmage
I am not saying the Saints defense is great. I am not even saying it is good. Hell, I am not even saying they are average. But, the offense isn’t doing a sub par defense any favors by throwing the ball 45 times per game. When you throw the ball at the volume the Saints do, you are doing one of two things.
You are getting off the field quick because you’re not gaining enough yards to make 3rd downs manageable. Therefore, short drives are the result.
The second downfall is you’re getting off the field quick because you just scored in four minutes or less.
Either way, you’re likely not methodically moving the ball. Sure. It is pleasing to watch…sometimes I guess. Flash doesn’t win football games though. Getting it done in trenches wins football games.
The rules are already designed to help offensive score more and make playing great defense more difficult than ever. Imagine being on the field and chasing guys around for more than half the game. That formula sucks for winning. Still think I am full of shit, let’s look at 2016…
The Saints ran the ball more than their opponent in seven games last year…
- Week 3 (Chargers)
- Week 8 (Seattle)
- Week 9 (San Francisco)
- Week 12 (Los Angeles)
- Week 15 (Arizona)
- Week 16 (Tampa Bay)
- Week 17 (Atlanta)
In those games, the Saints hold a 6-1 record. The only loss came to Atlanta at the end of the year when the Saints were playing for nothing. Let’s not pretend that was a close game either. Atlanta basically laid down and died, kind of like the Super Bowl…heyooooo! You know what else those games have in common? They controlled the clock in all of them, even in the loss to Atlanta. They had a higher time of possession than their opponent.
That means they finished with an impressive 1-8 in every other game where they didn’t stay committed to the run. Of those nine games, they only possessed the ball longer in three of them. Guess what? One of those three is that lone win.
There is a simple and old school rule of football…control the clock, control the line of scrimmage and chances are you win that game. The Saints suck at doing that. It isn’t because they can’t. They choose not to.
Football Outsiders ranked the Saints as the best run blocking offensive line in football last year. Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus ranked them third. The offensive line only got better by adding Ryan Ramczyk in the draft.
You can eliminate or mask defensive woes when you keep them off the field. The Cowboys followed that method and rode the tires off DeMarco Murray in 2014. They finished the season with 12 wins.
When the Saints signed Adrian Peterson, this left them with a pair of two very good two down backs to rely on. Then they drafted former Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara in the third round. It seems like the backfield may be overcrowded, but not so fast.
The Saints have used a three-headed stable before. Quite frankly, it was one of the most effective offensive assets the Saints have had under Sean Payton. We saw it in 2009 (Super Bowl) with Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush. We saw it again in 2011 (Lost to SF in NFC Divisional) with Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.
With AP, Ingram and Kamara set to be the next three-headed monster in New Orleans, cut out the air attack and control the damn clock.
Ingram finished last season with over 1,000 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
Adrian Peterson is looking sharp based on the videos he has posted on his Instagram account (or as Bill Belichick calls it…Instaface). Nonetheless, there are still questions as to which AP the Saints will get once the pads are put on.
Kamara gives you a true threat as a scat back, something the Saints have been missing since Sproles left. The one thing Kamara has that Sproles and Reggie lacked is a presence running between the tackles. That will keep defenses honest on running up the middle when he gets on the field.
He could be your true two-down back. He could be the guy who sets the tone giving you second or third and manageable. You let him tote the rock on early downs 12-15 times per game, defenses have to respect it. In a perfect world, if he can finish the season with at least 200 carries for 800+ yards, that is a major win.
Ingram is a better pass blocker and receiving option than Peterson so he can be used as more of a utility back to a degree. When the Saints have a 2nd and 7, Ingram may be the better option, unless Adrian Peterson looks like he did two years ago. Ideally, Peterson and Ingram can split the first down carries and depending on the second down situation, mix it up. If he can get roughly the same split with AP, that is putting you at 24-30 carries per game on those two alone. Much like Peterson, if he can float somewhere in that 200 carry mark while averaging 4.5-5.0 yard per carry, the Saints can have him go for 1,000 two years in a row.
This is your third down back, period. He is fantastic catching the ball out of the backfield. Use him as your scat back. Remember when Pierre catching screens was deadly? Kamara could fill that void. Maybe he gets a few early down carries, but he should float somewhere between 5-7 carries per game. Of course he will get his touches in the passing game as well.
Help Drew Brees
Brees isn’t getting any younger. You could potentially save a season or two by letting him throw 10 less passes per game. The Saints continue to talk about winning now. Stop making him throw 45 times per game and maybe that happens.
Remember earlier when I talked about how when they ran the ball more than their opponent they won? There were only five games last year where Brees three under 40 passes. Guess what? They won all five!
By staying committed to the run, you obviously open up the play action for more big plays.
For all the reasons listed in this column, you can prolong the career of an older quarterback. You can maximize the number of wins by controlling the clock and keeping your defense off the field. Hopefully, that will squeeze out another run or two while you still have a top tier quarterback.
And Here’s Why They Won’t Win
The Saints are a pass happy football team who prefer chasing stats over winning games, despite having one of the best run blocking offensive lines in the NFL. We hear Sean Payton say how they know the formula to winning after every loss, yet here they are at 7-9 three years in a row. Where are the wins?
I am not going to pretend that I know what teams see on game film each week because I don’t. But the Saints continue to throw the hell out the ball and it isn’t working. The only stat I need is the number of wins. The wins show running the ball wins the Saints football games.
You know the old saying don’t fix what isn’t broken. Well Sean, your current system is obviously broken. Check you and Drew’s ego at the door and adapt! Otherwise, continue losing. I will sit back and laugh at the fans who keep eating up your bullshit. I will channel my inner Randy Quaid from major league if I have to and shit on you until you fix it and start winning. That may make me a bandwagon fan, but I really just don’t care.