Once again the New Orleans Saints made it into the play-offs. Once again they were bounced by a team that they could have defeated; and once again they were bounced because of a faltering defense coupled with a non-existent rush offense.
Look, I love watching big play highlights as much as the next guy, and when you have quarterback Drew Brees on your team you have to use him.
But the San Francisco 49ers have won games all season by forcing teams to become one dimensional and creating turnovers.
When the 49ers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15, by a score of 20-3, they did it by creating four turnovers and getting to Ben Roethlisberger.
They also forced Pittsburgh to become one dimensional, and to try and play catch-up after falling behind in points.
The Steelers were at least able to establish a running game with Rashard Mendenhall, who rushed for 64 yards (not that it helped).
The Saints barely had a running game at all against the 49ers, aside from Brees running for his life from their front four.
Running back Chris Ivory led the team with only 23 yards rushing, and the Saints couldn’t get any help setting up the play-action pass — that accounts for many of their big passing plays.
In their first playoff game against the Detroit Lions New Orleans running-backs combined rushing total was 152 yards with three touchdowns.
The Saints went on to win that game 45-28n and Brees had six plays that went for twenty or more yards thanks to successful play action passing.
In their Monday Night game against the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans running backs combined rushing total was 155 yards with one touchdown.
The Saints won that game 45-16.
When the Saints have success running the football, they usually win the game.
In the 49ers game, the Saints did not even try to run the football.
When Brees would try play-action passes during the game, not a single 49ers defender bit on the run because they knew the Saints were passing.
Brees always talks about how he shows confidence in his receivers by going back to them later in the game.
Head Coach Sean Payton had no confidence in running backs Chris Ivory and Darren Sproles , and never tried to run them later in the game.
Payton could not control the clock, or keep the 49ers defense off balance.
The result was a thrilling game that football fans will enjoy for ages to come. Sadly, the Saints ended up on the wrong end of a very winnable contest
Has they been able to establish the run early, things may have turned out differently.