Nov 9, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Halfway through the season, it’s safe to say the New Orleans Saints are not playing their best football. They have obviously improved since the start of the year and are still the front-runners to finish atop of the league’s worst division.
However, even with the best chance to take the NFC South and grab home-field advantage for their first postseason game, the Black and Gold will need to drastically improve their turnover differential for a high seed and a deep playoff run.
At -8, the Saints are sitting at No. 28 overall in the give-take category. They are at the bottom of the barrel with NFL weaklings like the Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders. Ouch. That is no way for a team that was originally acknowledged as a championship contender to perform.
There is still a ton of football left to be played this season, but some critical changes are to be made. While Drew Brees needs to work on not forcing things, the defense is going to have to figure out how to make big plays to get the offense back onto the field.
The Saints’ Pro Bowl quarterback spoke with the media during Wednesday afternoon’s press conference. “The turnover margin is the most important statistic in football and we preach it all the time,” Brees explained.
“We have our moments where we may go four or five games with one turnover, and then we may go a few games where we got a couple each game, and that’s not okay. We come out and practice and we talk about it, and we do things to correct it, but we also don’t paralyze ourselves, because at the same time, you know how important it is, and yet, you know that you can overcome it,” Drew continued.
While Brees seems to be talking about himself and the offense, he also mentioned how it correlates with the other side of the ball. “When you’re playing that complementary game with your defense, they’re thinking ‘Okay, we got to get one back.’ ” The Saints’ gunslinger continued to explain the defense’s mentality. “Hey, it’s okay offense, we got you, we’re going to stop them, and then eventually we’re going to get one back that’s going to give you (offense) an opportunity.” “That’s when you know that you’re really cooking is when you’re able to play with that complementary mindset,” Brees wrapped up.
That’s how all teams hope the ball bounces, but unfortunately, not everything goes as planned, and that’s been the story of the Saints in 2014. Like they say, actions speak louder than words, so it’s about time for the Black and Gold to get the ball bouncing in their direction.
New Orleans is set to square off with the Cincinnati Bengals at home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday. As the AFC North team continues to struggle after a hot start, this would be the perfect opportunity for the Saints to get back on track.
QB Andy Dalton has thrown for six interceptions and only two touchdowns in the last four games. Obviously, keeping track of A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu on the field is a tough task, so a solid pass rush by the Saints’ defense will be crucial. Dalton easily folds under pressure, so hurrying him could result in a couple of turnovers.
As for the offense, Brees must overcome last week’s woes and correct the errors. He needs to relax in the pocket and not keep trying to force things. Protection from the line will be critical, as will the ground attack. New Orleans must continue to feed Mark Ingram the ball to keep Brees relaxed, limit mistakes and open up big-play opportunities.
Like Drew said, the turnover differential is the most important statistic in football. The odds of winning the game are in favor of the team on the plus side of the margin. It’s time to see if the Saints can get on the right track this Sunday at home.