We've waited a while but finally the Saints brought their A game on all sides of the ball. We looked more hungry than the Bears overall in fact.
On the D side we pursued harder, gang tackled, did an excellent job in man coverage (Jabari Greer outstanding!) and got penetration up front. 6 sacks was a telling end statistic.
On the O side I thought the line did an incredible job of keeping the likes of Julius Peppers quite. Beyond a couple of 1st Quarter mentions in fact we barely even heard his name. That is testament to a much improved display by the guys in the pits.
Add to that the running game actually got going with all 3 backs gaining decent yardage and you've got to say we look like the real deal if we can continue to open holes for them.
Brees was pretty much flawless and hit Devery Henderson with an inch perfect bomb en route to a 79 yard TD. He even managed to get Meachem into the game and Mr Butterfingers himself caught every ball thrown his way and really stepped up to the plate in Marques Colstons absence.
Add to that another fine display by Jimmy Graham and you have to give the O an A rating as well.
Even on special teams we were pretty much all there. Thomas Morstead has one of the best legs in the business and managed to keep the ball away from Devin Hester most of the time. Sproles looked dangerous again on returns and it's surely only a matter of time before he breaks another big one and the coverage teams finally learnt how to tackle so again another A rating for them.
* The D learnt how to tackle
* The D brought consistent pressure
* Jabari Greer knocked down ball on third down, defended another pass to Devin Hester with perfect coverage and made an open field tackle on Forte. Great day by this unsung Stallion!
* Jimmy Graham creates mismatches all over field - still a long way to go but could be the next Tony Gonzalez
* Robert Meacham for catching all passes thrown his way and restoring faith that he can catch the ball in clutch situations
* The Saints front 7 for bringing the heat and for sustained penetration
* Sproles, Ingram and Thomas for being the 3 pronged sucker punch we envisaged and now see as reality. Great inside running by Ingram in particular one time pumping his legs for 8 yards that he had no right to gain
* Thomas Morstead for just being consistently excellent in his execution
* The O line for an outstanding job all day.
* The Zebras. A number of bad calls in the first half put coach Payton on the road to a coronary. Harper did not rough the passer, Meachem was hit late and out of bounds + another incident that my brain can't recall right now
* Malcolm Jenkins dropped a blatant pick... although we can forgive him this one indiscretion as we know it won't happen again, right Malcolm?
* Forte 42 yard run in 1st went untouched by any defender. Add to that a 17 yard reception in which he broke 2 bad tackles and some of the Saints main frailties were once again out in the open
* Red zone conversions still a concern. The pitch to Ingram was a bad call and they still don't seem to trust the inside run down at the goal line. With 2 Pro Bowl guards you'd really like to think we could convert in such situations but apparently not and accordingly Payton doesn't trust them to get the push in those situations.
Game Vs The Texans
If we can bring that same kind of intensity, hustle and heat on a consistent basis we'll be a match for anyone especially the Texans. We have to continue line penetration with the front 4 rather than always bringing the house as quick release QBs may well pick us apart down the stretch if we always have to bring everyone.
I hope the Bears game wasn't a red herring because of their poor O line. It's difficult to judge whether we've turned the corner or whether this was an anomaly. I guess we'll find out in a few days’ time.
I'm encouraged by Jonathan Casillas and Jo-Lonn Dunbar in the pass rush. With Will Smith back and Turk McBride also putting in a good performance who's to say this isn't the start of something better, after all new personnel take time to acclimatise so maybe we're about to see the promise fulfilled.
Still the pessimist doubts remain. Let's hold judgement until after the Texans.
In the meantime Reggie who? Sad to say as I do believe the guy cared and worked hard for the team but you couldn't find a more ready-made replacement and improvement in Darren Sproles. North south running, great in the flat and what speed in the return. Truly a major acquisition. I believe he'll be the same kind of catalyst for the O as Darren Sharper was for the D in '09.
Heal up Marques!
2 videos for you. First up Pat Williams and Brian Blessing preview the Saints Texans game this coming Sunday, September 25.
And a short promo vid about home school kids and the Saints.