Observations From The Cheap Seats
By Tony Twillie
The New Orleans Saints glass you drink from this week will depend largely on your taste.
Currently if you are a Who Dat, you are still sick to your stomach over watching what was easily one of the most gut-wrenching defeats in some time. The defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos are not the team they were last year, but they are still an upper tier team in the NFL, with a vicious defense. The Saints knew they had their work cut out for them.
Work they did, right down to the wire; only to have the sweet bells of victory drowned out by the clanging gongs of defeat. It’s one thing to lose – we’re Saints fans; we’ve grown to know the feel of defeat over our 50 years of fandom. But the manner of losing – rallying back from a deficit, tying the game late and only needing a point after to take a lead… and then the ugly – that’s what makes it hard to digest. Here are our observations from the cheap seats.
The game began in not the most kind of ways for the Saints. Denver’s defense has been hampered by injuries lately, but they showed no sign of that on this Sunday. As well, the Bronco offense has been maligned for not working the ball up the field. Sometimes playing a suspect Saints defense is the elixir for what is ailing a sluggish offense though. The Denver offense didn’t necessarily light up the scoreboard, but they did take advantage of a still growing Saints defense. Denver got on the board first and looked like the better team in the first half forcing several Saints punts. However, the Saints got a turnover, the first of a couple and at least got on the board before halftime.
After a late first half Sterling Moore interception, the Saints marched 50 yards in 29 seconds and put up a Wil Lutz field goal to get on the scoreboard at halftime. The Saints came out after halftime having made some defensive adjustments and truly got after Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian in the second half, hitting him often and disrupting the flow of Denver’s offense. As well the offense found their rhythm and scored on their first possession, tying the game. Denver was picked off again on their second possession of the second half and the momentum had completely swung the Saints direction as they scored again taking a 17-10 lead that they held into the 4th quarter.
After a Denver TD tied the game midway through the 4th quarter, two Saints turnovers turned into 6 Broncos points and the Saints were behind 23-17, with 2:50 left in the game. An excellent, methodical drive by the Saints culminated in a Brees to Brandin Cooks TD with 1:30 left to play. All that was left was a simple point after. But nothing is so simple.
Denver’s Justin Simmons hurdled long snapper Justin Drescher without contacting him and blocked Wil Lutz’ point after attempt. Will Parks picked up the blocked kick and returned it down the sideline for a 2 point conversion for Denver, giving them a 2 point lead instead of the Saints having a 1 point advantage. Controversy ensued on the return as it seemed very much like Parks stepped on the out of bounds line during the return, which would have negated the 2 points and the play would simply have been dead at the point where he stepped out; the game would have been tied and the Saints would have still been kicking off to Denver.
The onside kick failed and the game ended woefully, with such a low after such a high. Depressing is an understatement…
Observations from the Cheap Seats:
- The officiating crew in this game decided they needed to have their flags for something later. They were VERY stingy in tossing flags in this game. They missed a couple of pass interference/holding type calls and some offensive holding calls, besides what seemed to be a HUGE miss on the player stepping out of bounds on the run-back from the blocked PAT. The teams combined for a total of 4 penalties for 35 yards. And 15 of those came on one play.
- Early in the game, Thomas Morstead was hit on a punt. The refs didn’t throw the flag because a Saints player pushed the defender into him, but Morstead’s ankle was obviously bothering him the rest of the game. Trainers taped him up on the sideline at one point, but he still had a noticeable limp the whole game.
- Just an interesting thing to notice – meant nothing overall, but maybe one day… Denver’s Siemian passes complete to Emmanuel Sanders on a second and one play. The pass play was 9 yards, so it wasn’t as if the play was close – it was well past first down yardage. What was interesting was the defender, Sterling Moore, didn’t touch Sanders down when he made the catch at the 40 yard line of the Saints. Rather, he let Sanders roll backwards, get to his feet and then tackled him. It ended up being a one yard loss in that transaction. That could come in big one day. Also, if other players are around, that’s another opportunity for a turnover. Interesting heads up play by Moore – as long as he makes the tackle…
- Once again we must give credit to the Saints offensive line. Von Miller hurried Brees a few times and hit him once, but didn’t get a sack. If fact, Brees was only sacked once, on a delayed blitz.
- While the defense was typically generous in giving up easy passes and chunks of yards, again, they kept the score relatively reasonable and gave the offense ample opportunity to win the game. The late start, only scoring 3 points early was damaging. Kudos to creative play calling on defense as well. It’s scary sometimes to leave receivers somewhat open or put your corners and safeties in man to man coverage, but our zone coverage is not very good either; and allowing us to rush 5 guys and occasionally 6 really kept Denver in check.
- Don’t know what the future holds for Kenny Vaccaro with his potential suspension looming, but Sunday he possibly cost his team 3 points with a late hit. His play this year has been superb and it’s the aggressive stance that has made his play so good, including this game. But as a veteran leader, he’s got to be better than those close call sideline hits.
- We have to assume that Tim Hightower thought he was in the field of play when he originally touched the kickoff that he muffed, then picked up and returned only about 12 yards. If he touched it on the field, it would be a live ball. If he drops it in the end zone and covers it or kneels it, it’s just a touchback and we get the ball at the 25 yard line.
- Hitting in the game was extremely hard, and that caused the second fumble my Michael Thomas, who is likely sick after his two fumbles led to Denver points. Definitely not a good situation, but Brees is going into the Hall of Fame and he threw 2 interceptions today. Sometimes the defense wins… Not trying to give him a pass. Just thinking like with Mark Ingram, you have to come ready to play again tomorrow…
Glass half full, or half empty?
Overall, you have to choose which glass to look at… The half full glass says the Saints lost by only 2 to the defending Super Bowl champions; they got a decent defensive effort with 6 sacks and 2 interceptions. They staged a solid comeback and kept Denver’s defense at bay for the most part. The defense looked improved and got some pressure for once. Atlanta lost so our division is still not out of reach. Carolina lost and is playing on the same short week as us.
The half empty glass says we turned the ball over 4 times. We were sluggish and inefficient the entire first half. Credit them for playing good defense. But if you’re one of the best offenses in the league, you’ve got to get on the board with more than a field goal before halftime. We beat ourselves and shot ourselves in the foot a few times.
Yes, the officiating was suspect. Yes, Denver’s Parks probably did step on the line on that return for 2 points. But we should never have been in that situation. We did so many of the things we needed to do to win a football game and still lost. The Black and Gold are better than they were in Week 1 against Oakland. But they’re still looking like a .500 football team at best.