Answers from the Saints-Bucs game

That wasn’t a good loss for the Saints. It’s one thing to get beaten by a team that’s better than you are, it’s quite another to get beaten at home by a team that you’re better than. The Saints are unquestionably a better team than the Bucs, but you wouldn’t have known it today.

The best hope is that the Saints realized that the game was irrelevant, and they weren’t trying that hard’you know, the proverbial “Bucs wanted it more”. It is the NFL, after all, and each team is filled with professional football players.

Also, if Drew Brees stayed in the game, the outcome very well might have been different, as that awful pitch/fumble to Reginald probably wouldn’t have happened. Still, it wasn’t a great game for the Saints.

Earlier today, I [posted 3 questions][1] about today’s Saints-Bucs game. Now that the game is over, I thought that it might be interesting to review them and see if we got any answers. After the jump, I’ll do just that.

**1) How long will the starters play?

**

Too long, it turns out. Although the Falcons-Panthers game (the only relevant game for the Saints’ playoff position) was out of hand by halftime, Sean Payton chose to keep the starters in for almost all of the game, risking further injury in a chippy game that had already seen 4 Saints regulars (Jimmy Graham, Chris Ivory, Malcolm Jenkins, and Alex Brown) Michael sidelined with injuries. While all 4 of those players were hurt before the Falcons had a firm lead, there was no reason to keep Drew Brees et al. in as long as Payton did. Brees was the victim of a nasty face mask late in the game; if that had gone differently, we might be seeing Chase Daniel start a playoff game for the Saints. Bad job by Payton, letting his aggressiveness get the better of him.

2) How will the Saints’ run defense hold up?

Pretty well, all things considered. LeGarrette Blount had 66 yards rushing on 19 carries, and Cadillac Williams had 1 rush for 7 yards. Not a bad job at all, which makes 2 weeks in a row that the Saints have shut down a pretty good running back. They’ll need to keep it up in the playoffs, especially if the Saints’ offense continues to play like it has been playing.

**3) Will the offensive line be able to protect Drew Brees?

**

Not as well as I’d hoped. Brees was under pressure again today, getting sacked 3 times, hit a number of times, and hurried even more.

The fact that Brees was in such trouble against the Bucs (one of the worst teams in the league at creating sacks) doesn’t bode well for the Saints in the playoffs. The offensive line play has been the single biggest contributor to the Saints’ offensive struggles this year, and if they don’t do better in the playoffs, the Saints probably won’t make it past the second round.

**Bonus 4th question: How many yards will Adrian Arrington get?

**

Arrington had a nice day, leading the Saints with 7 receptions for 79 yards. He looked pretty good on the field, but maybe wasn’t as crisp as I’d like to see. The Saints will probably have to put him on the active roster next year to keep him, which likely means that one of the current receivers (Roby or Henderson, if I had to guess) will be gone. Still, that’s a good problem to have.

[1]: http://www.whodatreport.com/2011/01/3-questions-for-the-saints-bucs-gam/