Nov 9, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (55) during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 49ers won 27-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The New Orleans Saints must restore their confidence on Sunday when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals. However, that task is easier said than done.
The Saints received a major punch in the gut after losing at home to the San Francisco 49ers in overtime 26-23. It was a game where the Saints overcame an early 14-0 deficit, dominated, and then fell apart in the end. Such has been the story with these Saints this season and last season.
The Saints try to pick up the pieces, and put together a win to pull themselves back up to .500 on Sunday. More importantly, the Saints need this win to keep pace in the NFC South, as the Falcons (3-6) are breathing down their neck, and are poised to put a stranglehold on the division should they beat Carolina and New Orleans loses.
With just seven games left to go in the Saints’ 2014 season, it’s no longer a matter of if they can win mindset, it’s more of do what you have to do to win mentality.
I can’t exactly recall seeing a team that has a +29 point differential, top three passing attack, top ten rushing attack, and a middle of the road defense (in terms of yardage) sporting a sub .500 record in quite some time.
There’s plenty of great things going on with the Saints this season, so where has the Saints’ shortfall been? Turnovers.
That’s one of the areas my colleague, Andrew Schuster, went into detail in earlier this week.
To reiterate, the Saints sport one of the league’s worst (28th ranked) take-away/give-away ratios in the NFL at a -8. For perspective, only the Redskins, Raiders, Jets, and Jaguars are lower, and their combined record of 6-32 reflects it. The Saints have eighteen turnovers this season (10 interceptions, 8 fumbles lost). In two games at home, Drew Brees has accounted for six of those turnovers (Bucs, 49ers), and five turnovers in the past two contests. Brees knows that he needs to play better and execute better, and his teammates have confided in him.
On the flip side, the lack of generating turnovers has been a huge opportunity, as New Orleans sits 27th in the league with only 10 takeaways. That’s something we thought was going to change this season with the addition of safety Jairus Byrd, but we’re still staring at a handful of turnovers right now. We can only envy teams like the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans, who lead the league with 21 takeaways.
The defense has improved tremendously in the sack department (and overall play) since the start of the season, sitting 16th in the league with 21 sacks. Remember, they only had 6 sacks through the first five games earlier this season. There’s a lot to make of the team’s effort, and they must continue playing at such a high level down the stretch.
We can sit here and point the finger at a plethora of things: the dropped passes, the insensible play calls, the defensive meltdowns, the bad decisions, the what ifs, the botched referee calls, and whatever else comes to mind that helps you justify a loss. However, the true character of a championship caliber team is overcoming whatever adversity is thrown your way.
One thing you must learn about the New Orleans Saints organization is that the fans, the players, and the coaches have never, and will never give up. We continue to cling to that hope every week.
As the hourglass continues to run out on the 2014 NFL season, there’s no more excuses. The New Orleans Saints must win by whatever means necessary, and it has to start Sunday.