Gus Kattengell’s Saints Report – Cardinals Game
It's been a cardiac start to the 2013 season for Saints fans but it's also been a pleasantly surprised one in that the defense has been responsible for the wins
“It’s two weeks, and we’re encouraged," Saints head coach Sean Payton said of his defense's play thus far. "There are a number of things we feel like we can do a lot better. I think we’re still in that early part of the season where we’re trying to make the corrections, make the improvements."
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's defense has helped the Saints become the 8th best in the league against the pass giving up an average of 196 yards a game. The defense still has work to do against the run as they give up an average through two weeks of 124 yards a game good for 24th in the NFL.
Injuries to the defensive hasn't helped as defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley has practiced all week and defensive linemen Tyrunn Walker and Glenn Foster are practicing on a limited basis as they work back from injuries.
The play of the Saints defense has even caught the eye of Arizona head coach Bruce Arians. “I think (Rob Ryan) has done a good job with them," Arians told the New Orleans media this week. "They are very young, very athletic and very physical, which I wouldn’t expect anything else from one of his defenses. They play extremely hard and I’m very impressed with them.”
Bottom line though the Saints defense has managed to create turnovers or force punts at key moments in games to help the team pick up their pair of wins.
Arizona finally has a decent quarterback in Carson Palmer. The Cardinals offense ranks 12th in passing and 20th in rushing averaging 282.5 yards in the air and 86.5 yards on the ground.
"We’re going to see some really good offenses. We've seen one in week one. Tampa was different in Atlanta in the way that they operate. Arizona will be much different than both two teams," Payton says of the challenge. "They’re very explosive outside. They’re in a lot of sub personnel. They’re in a lot of one-back sets. The quarterback is a veteran who can do a good job locating the football, and they have a good running game. This week presents a different challenge from the first two.”
The Saints offense has worked on two areas this week, those being running the football more efficiently and red-zone offense. At Tampa Bay, the Saints were 0-4 when inside the 20-yard line and on the season the team is just one of seven in the red-zone and good for last in the NFL.
"I think it is just execution," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said this week. "(On) At least two occasions it has been penalties, we got a couple of penalties that set us back and the field is already compressed enough at that point, challenging enough to get five yards much less 15 or 20 when you set yourself back so. We have to do a better job with that and I think just overall execution. We certainly had some opportunities and just haven’t taken advantage of them yet. Eventually that will bite us if we don’t get it fixed so that is what we are working on.”
The Saints running game issues is about being more efficient. Payton will never run the ball more than passing but the times run plays are called he'd like to see a higher return rate. Running back Mark Ingram has been the target of Saints fans' ire in his lack of productivity especially following the failed fourth down conversion in the Bucs game. This week Payton fell on the sword saying it was his fault and Brees was asked if the failed conversion was Ingram's fault.
“No it doesn't all fall on him," said Brees. "There are a lot of guys out there that have to do their job in order to get him in the end zone. Listen, that was a great defensive effort and combined with guys on offense doing all the right things, but it was kind of a stalemate on the one inch line. Credit to them, they stepped up and did a great job stopping us. So much, I think, in those calls is based upon on momentum and confidence at the time, a play call that you really like and then hey, did you get the look you thought you were going to get. And for us, no that was not the look we thought we were going to get. There were adjustments that had to be made. I thought we did a good job of, but it’s not what we practiced. Listen, our job, at the end of the day, is you call the play, we make it work and we didn't get in, so that’s on us.”
DOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Who Dats will be doing all they can to help the Black and Gold improve to 3-0 in helping make the Superdome a hostile environment. "It’s very unique. It’s Halloween every night in the dome when you play there," Arians says of the message he has told his team. "The fans are just fantastic. You have to match that energy because Sean (Payton) has done a great job over the years as a play-caller and leading the league or close to leading the league in scoring on the first drive. We have to match that energy and don’t be surprised by it.”
WHAT I THINK
The Saints are the better team off of the bus and watching the rest of the NFL are among the top looking teams around. The red-zone offense will improve. Payton and Brees are too good to not turn things around. Sure the games won could have gone the other way but in each the offense had the opportunity to put it away early or put the nail in the coffin.
Offensively, the Cardinals have a solid defensive line and a secondary that consists of a pair of former Tigers Patrick Peterson and Tryann Mathieu. Their play this season has caught the eye of the Saints signal caller. “Yeah, they are both explosive players," says Brees of the pair of defensive backs. "They are very talented, playmakers, game-changers, so as you are sitting there watching film, they are definitely two guys that you want to know where they are and how they are playing. It seems like they always have their eyes on the quarter-back. Definitely, as we sit there and think about how to attack them and game plan them, that kind of thing, you are definitely aware of those two guys.”
Defensively, the Saints defense has faced a high powered offense in Atlanta and managed to shut down Tampa Bay. The Cardinals have the ability to move the ball but their top play maker in receiver Larry Fitzgerald is hampered by a hamstring.
To me it's simple. Play mostly mistake football and the Saints will win. A week of focusing on the offense's red-zone's woes and running game should provide for an offensive output that will make fans happy.
I see it 31-17 Saints.