After a disappointment such as the New Orleans loss in Seattle, I am reminded of a quote attributed to Sir Andrew Barton in an old Scottish ballad:
"I'm a little wounded, but I am not slain;
I will lay me down to bleed a while.
Then I'll rise and fight again."
The Saints have to find a way to recover and move forward from an embarrassing defeat. With Carolina coming up in two of the next two weeks, not only is the NFC South Division championship in play, but also the second seed in the NFC.
The second seed gets to play at home after a bye the first week in the playoffs. They also will get a home game in the championship game if the number one seed is upset.
In battling the Seahawks, the plan going in was to stop running back Marshawn Lynch and make quarterback Russell Wilson beat you from the pocket. Wilson was more than up to the task.
Wilson finished the game 22-for-30 for 310 yards with touchdown passes to Zach Miller, Doug Baldwin and Derrick Coleman for the Seahawks (11-1). Wilson also led all runners with 47 yards. The Saints did a good job on Lynch as he finished with 45 yards on 16 carries.
Seattle also controlled the ball for 33 1/2 minutes, outgaining New Orleans 429 to 188 yards.
As good as Wilson was, however, the New Orleans defense contributed to his success.
There is no question that much work has to be done in defending the "Zone Read" concept. In the Zone Read the QB reads the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMLOS) while he rides the ball in the stomach of the running back going in the opposite direction. If the EMLOS closes with the running back, the QB pulls the ball out and keeps the ball in the opposite direction.
Early in the game, this concept completely befuddled the Saints, probably through faulty execution. David Hawthorne especially appeared to be out of position in securing Wilson. That is the beauty of the Read Concept; a defender must be assigned to take the QB on every play. That occupies a defender that would normally be in pursuit.
This has to be cleaned up with Carolina and Cam Newton facing the Saints twice in the next three weeks.
Also, the Saints defense had to make Wilson beat them from the pocket. First of all, you had to keep him in the pocket. The defensive ends cannot get up the field and get pushed past the quarterback. You do not keep him contained by blitzing and playing man coverage. You need 22 eyes on the QB and form a net around him inside the tackles. Both the plan and execution did not allow the defense to do that.
The Seattle defense did its part, limiting Drew Brees to just 147 yards passing and a touchdown on 23-for-38 passing, and allowing the Saints (9-3) to cross midfield just once in the first three quarters. They also stopped the Saints twice on fourth down in the fourth quarter.
Seattle also did a great job in pass defense with a depleted secondary. It was difficult to tell that two starting defensive backs were out of the game. The Seahawks did a great job of covering the inside routes while closing on the deep outside throws and converging on the underneath check-downs.
In many ways, the Carolina Panthers are a clone of the Seahawks. They have a great defense and a mobile, athletic quarterback. The Panthers are also the hottest team in the league right now.
The biggest difference between the Seahawks and Panthers is that the Carolina secondary is truly vulnerable.
The delay in returning to New Orleans after the game will have an effect and is another obstacle to be overcome. Football preparation and rehearsal is best done in a routine. The routine is already off due to a short week after a Monday night game. The plane trouble adds to that problem.
Although, it was better that they found out about the problem before they took off. At least the players got to sleep in a bed Monday night.
The coaches will be behind schedule in their planning, even though in today's football they had their scouting resources available on the road. A majority of the scouting report and game plan is normally handed out when the players come in on Wednesday morning. The coaches will be frantically working around the clock to get back on schedule.
This brings me to the topic of fatigue. I learned from Coach Tubby Raymond at the University of Delaware how important it is for the coaches to be rested for the games as well as the players. There are so many important decisions that have to be made during games you want to make sure that your head is clear. It is very easy to work yourself into the ground which can lead to tired decisions.
New Orleans has many questions that must be answered. In order to reestablish themselves as a playoff contender, the Saints must rise to fight again.
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