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From the Coach’s Office: Saints–Eagles Analysis

The hits kept on coming for Michael Vick and the Eagles while the Saints were just happy to snag a feel-good win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Photo: Parker Waters).The hits kept on coming for Michael Vick and the Eagles while the Saints were just happy to snag a feel-good win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Photo: Parker Waters).

What are the things that bad teams have in common?

While neither team was very good, the Philadelphia Eagles have taken futility to an entirely new level. This led me to search for examples of things that bad teams do. Here are a few that affected the game.

The Saints gave up 447 yards yet the Eagles could only score 13 points for 34.38 yards per point. I do not know if that is a record, but it should be. Good teams translate yards into points. Bad teams do not.

Bad teams do not finish in the "Red Zone" and Goal Line area. These two areas, especially in the Goal Line area, are more about execution than talent. The Eagles, especially, are one of the worst in the league.

Philadelphia was inside the 10 three times and only scored two field goals. When you consider the Patrick Robinson 99 yard interception return for a touchdown, the Saints scored more points than the Eagles in their goal line attack.

By the way, I hate the term "Red Zone" for the area inside the opponent's 20. I am confident that this term was devised by a defensive coach to alert his troops to stop the opposition. Red means stop. If you are on offense, the term "Gold Zone" has greater meaning. You are going for the gold, not stopping on red.

I actually separate the +20 to +10 as the Gold Zone and the +10 to the end zone is the Goal Line Zone.

Bad teams turn the ball over, especially in scoring territory. The Eagles have now committed 19 turnovers, with 13 of those in the plus end of the field.

Bad teams tackle poorly, or do not tackle at all. There are actually too many illustrations from this game to point out. If you do not tackle well, the scheme does not matter.

Tackling is not foreign in the NFL. Look at video of San Francisco, Chicago and Houston. When they tackle you, you go backward. The Saints have given up 400 yards every week for a reason. As bad as the Saints are defensively, it is amazing that they are not the worst in the league in scoring defense.

Bad teams do not protect the passer. The passing game starts with pass protection. The best routes and patterns in the world are not effective if your quarterback is on the ground. It was sometimes hard to tell whether the problem was scheme, technique or talent. No one can have free runners at the quarterback and call themselves a good team.

Bad teams allow the opposition to get off the mat and get back in a game.

At the start of the second half, New Orleans had a chance to put the game away. It was now the Saints turn to do what bad teams do. Unfortunately, I still remember Kansas City.

First, Colston gets penalized for holding on what would have been a run by Cadet to the six yard line. The Saints overcame that with a pass up the left rail to Pierre Thomas.

Brees's then came up with his best throw of the night to Colston to get the ball down to Philadelphia's nine yard line. At this point with the game seemingly under control, the Saints gave the Eagles a chance to get back in the game. Philly took full advantage of the opportunity.

The Saints' Eric Olsen was in at right guard for Jahri Evans and allowed penetration inside. Cadet could not get separation on an option route and Brees had to step up. Olsen was forced right into his lap and knocked the ball out. Brandon Graham both forced and recovered the fumble.

The Eagles took instant advantage by scoring in two plays. This could have been a major turning point in the game. A 77 yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson, uncovered on a secondary blitz, brings the score to 21-10 at the 8:42 mark of the third quarter. It appeared that Patrick Robinson blitzed when he should have covered Jackson.

This is, in effect, a 14 point swing. Instead of knocking the Eagles out, they were now back in the game. Another trait of a bad team is to not cover the opponent's best player.

A Cadet fumble on the next kickoff put Philadelphia back in business at the Saint 22. Bad teams fumble, and Cadet's technique of carrying the ball away from his body leads to the turnover.

A Vick scramble brought the ball down to the eight with first and goal. Once again, the Eagles revert to their bad team status, and get thrown all the way back to the 19. Will Smith gets credit for a sack when he is left unblocked, and then settle for a 37 yard field goal.

Bad teams take good plans and execute them poorly. With the score 28-13, the Eagles had one more bullet in the chamber when Special Teams Coach Bobby April, from Chalmette High School and Nicholls State, came up with their version of a throwback kickoff return. Uniquely done and effective, a great plan falls awry to faulty execution when the cross-field throw is forward.

Fortunately for the Saints, the Eagles are in total turmoil. I do not know if Andy Reid can survive, which is unfortunate for someone with his class and ability. That is another trait of all bad teams: they do not listen, cease being coachable and get worse throughout the season.

A redeeming value for the Saints is their desire to improve and their coachability. This combination gives them a chance going forward into the meat of their schedule. Playoffs? Probably not. Respectability? Definitely.

Now, if they can just tackle...

 

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