Coming off a pitiful performance against the Houston Texans both offensively and defensively, the Saints were looking for some retribution while analyst’s were looking for improvement.
That improvement came to a degree — the Saints first string offense looked much better — and Drew Brees was a crisp 15 of 23 for 189 yards while leading the team to three scoring drives
Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram both scored on the goal line, and Darren Sproles averaged nearly five yards a carry in limited action. Short yardage and goal line situations have been a problem for the Saints in the past, but it didn’t show against the Raiders.
Going back to the Texans game for a moment the Saints defense was destroyed in every facet. Houston scored on their first four possessions and produced 323 yards and 19 first downs in the first half.
It was imperative for the Saints defense to come out against the Raiders in dominant fashion, only emphasized by a tough week of practice in Oxnard, California where defensive coordinator Gregg Williams “cracked” the proverbial whip.
But their performance was lukewarm at best as they allowed Oakland to march down the field in an eleven play 91-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 35-yard touchdown pass to Derek Hagan in their first defensive series.
Hagan finished with six receptions for 121 yards.
Rush defense was still an issue as the Raiders group of running backs — Michael Bush, Taiwan Jones, Michael Benett — combined for 124 yards with a per carry average of 5.63.
Jones did the most damage with 81 yards, all in the second half, but it was painfully evident that whether it was the first, second, or third defensive units that no one could get any of the these running backs on the ground.
Tackling was a real issue all night. Several times it appeared that the Saints defense had pinned an Oakland running back for little to no gain, but the defender would simply bounce off or tackle high.
There wasn’t any one player that had a bad game. Missed tackles plagued the entire Saints defense from the defensive line to the secondary. It’s a problem that’s team specific, not player specific.
Should the Raiders have been a better team then it seems plausible they could have rolled up even more yardage on New Orleans, much like the Texans the week before.
Opening day of the 2011 NFL season is only ten days away. The marquee match-up between the Packers and Saints will headline all opening day games, everyone will be watching the past two Superbowl champions duke it out.
If the Saints can’t find away to clean up their tackling and stiffen up their run defense it will be nearly impossible to stop an offense as good as the Packers. Ten days from now they better find a way to be ready.
Looking into the division the Saints must face four former 1,000 yard rushers — Michael Turner, LeGarrette Blount, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart — and you can be sure they have all taken notice of New Orleans weakness.
What’s the best way to beat the Saints? Keep their offense on the bench. How do you keep their offense on the bench? By controlling the clock with the run game, blueprint exposed.