Saints 16, Panthers 14 and quarter season review

Well, this doesn’t bode well. The Saints eked out a victory at home against an inferior opponent. While it’s great to be a 3-1, and a field goal away from 4-0, the Saints have some problems right now, and I’m not optimistic about the rest of the season.

The primary concern for the Saints right now is their offense. Brew Drees finished 3348 for 275 yards. Brees was sacked 2 times (losing 13 yards) and didn’t throw an interception. Those numbers add up to an adjusted yards per attempt (aYPA) of 5.24, which is the Saints’ worst this season. Not encouraging, given the fact that Carolina is a pretty bad team right now.

Of course, part of the reason for the low aYPA is that Brew threw about 10,000 short passes to running backs and receivers on short routes in an attempt to make up for the injuries to Pierre Thomas and Reginald. However, the low aYPA still points to an inefficient offense, and the low point total (16? Really? Against Carolina?) is a result.

Through 4 games, the Saints’ offense has averaged a relatively poor 5.8 aYPA. While I don’t calculate league-wide statistics, I suspect that’d put them around the middle of the league. Not so good, especially since the offense is supposed to be the strength of the team.

Why the mediocre aYPA? Anecdotally, the receivers have stunk this year. They’ve dropped a ton of catchable balls, often in key third-down situations. Nothing will sink your offensive efficiency like dropped passes. Additionally, the downfield passing game hasn’t been there so far, although I’m not sure why. Perhaps the opponents have done a good job of taking it away, perhaps the receivers haven’t been able to get open. What’s happened to Robert Meachem?

The other problem has been turnovers: while Brew has been his typical INT-free self, the Saints have been fumbling the ball like mad, and are lucky to have recovered as many as they have.

Fortunately, the Saints’ opponents have been even worse, averaging 5.20 aYPA. There are two reasons for this: first, the Saints’ defense has done well, and second, they’ve played some mediocre teams. Of the Saints’ 4 opponents, the only one that appears to be good is Atlanta. The others are either bad (Carolina and San Francisco) or probably bad (Minnesota). The schedule will only get tougher from here, so the Saints will need to improve their play to keep winning.

The good news is that the Saints likely only need to split their last 12 games to make the playoffs. However, I think the 3-1 record is deceptive, because last year’s team would have had at least 2 blowouts among those 3 wins. We have a ways to go before approaching that quality of play.

NOTE: The other concern, of course, is injuries, which I left out of this discussion. However, they aren’t stacking up our way right now, which is quite bad. Hopefully we can get healthy and get it together.