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From the Coach’s Office: Saints-Falcons Initial Analysis

The debut of the Rob Ryan defense in New Orleans led to a win over Atlanta, gave Saints plenty of reason for optimism and left room for continued improvement for the unit moving forward (Photo: Parker Waters).The debut of the Rob Ryan defense in New Orleans led to a win over Atlanta, gave Saints plenty of reason for optimism and left room for continued improvement for the unit moving forward (Photo: Parker Waters).

The New Orleans Saints win over the hated Atlanta Falcons in week one is the best possible type of win. The Black and Gold won the game yet still has plenty of room for improvement. There are plenty of things to work on, and Sean Payton can keep his team on edge going forward.

This is simply an initial analysis of key points from yesterday’s game. I have only seen the game live and reviewed the TV copy of the game. A thorough analysis cannot be made without the coaches’ copy of the video that includes the sideline, All 22, view and the tight end zone view. In the coaches’ copy, these two views are intercut on every play so you get the sideline and end zone view together. There is no better view for analysis.

I will get that look later in the week through NFL Rewind.

Do not let anyone else fool you. You cannot give an “expert” analysis without these copies of the game. The TV copy alone is much too tight an angle to see all you need to see.

So much was made by others about the transformation of the Saints defense from the Steve Spagnuolo 4-3 to the Rob Ryan 3-4. There were even some people who were convinced that the Saints personnel was better suited to the 3-4 than the 4-3.

Those people were wrong. The difference between the two defensive coordinators was much greater than simply a change in alignment or the number of linemen or linebackers. It was Rob Ryan and his system of defense that made New Orleans successful against Atlanta.

Coaches today must have a system that adapts to the players. They must have a system that utilizes each player’s talents and abilities, and not the other way around. You have to evaluate what each player can and cannot do and then design schemes that let them do what they can do. Never ask a player to do something he cannot do.

Rob Ryan did that by being very multiple in his defenses and putting players in positions to succeed. There was not a single snap of a traditional 3-4 defense. There was a lot of 4-man fronts with single-gap players defeating edges of blockers. In fact, if you diagram the defenses, there would be many where you could not tell if it was a Ryan or Spagnuolo defense.

What you can tell is the increase in speed and aggressiveness of the players. They were playing fast and without hesitation. As varied as the defenses were, there were few busted assignments. And when there were busts, the remaining defenders would hustle to make up for it.

And there were busts. Both Falcon touchdowns came after explosive, 50 yard plays. One was a long pass on a crossing route to Harry Douglas and the other was a long run by Steven Jackson early in the third quarter. An NFL defense has to eliminate the quick strike plays and make teams take the long way.

Ryan’s style and personality fits this team more than the scheme. The biggest difference between Ryan and Spagnuolo is that Ryan does not care where a good idea comes from. He enjoys listening to his players and wants them to be comfortable in what they have to do. Ryan constantly solicits their input and will put their ideas into play when possible.

The athletes of today appreciate that. They feel like owners and not renters of their defense. With that sense of ownership, players will take greater responsibility for the overall success of their defense. The defense belongs to THEM.

Sean Payton has incorporated that concept in working with the offense and especially Drew Brees. As strong a personality as Payton is, he is not going to call a play that Brees does not feel confident in executing.

Offensively, Brees did not have one of his better games. While it would have been a good game for most other quarterbacks in the league, the bar is set higher for Drew. He was not as accurate as we know him to be, and some credit has to go to Mike Nolan’s Atlanta defense for causing some hesitation.

Brees also struggled some on deep balls where he really has to step up into his throws. On two throws to Kenny Stills the balls were underthrown. One traveled 42 yards where he could not step up, and 54 yards when he did get his momentum going forward. Even the “wheel route” to Darren Sproles in front of the Atlanta bench was not snapped off in the usual Drew Brees style.

The kicking game has to eliminate penalties in the return game. While Sproles is reliable, he is not a game breaking returner. Adding penalties to his returns really put the Saints in a hole. All of the penalties were preventable and uncalled for. A kick blocker should never block toward the returner. This would not only eliminate block in the back penalties, but would have prevented Rod Sweeting from running into Sproles when he was breaking out into the open.

The Saints still have a long way to go and it was only week one. We have had our one day of celebration and now it is back to work.

There is more real analysis to come.


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