Who Dat Report 2010 Week 8

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Running time: 30 minutes

In this week’s show, Stuart and Eric Schmidt break down the NFC and find that there still might be room for the Saints, after all.

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Who Dat Report 2010 Week 7

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Running time: 60 minutes

This week, I have a little Saints/Falcons/NFL concussions talk with Adam Schultz of The Falcoholic, followed by a little Saints/Browns talk with my cousin Zach. I also review last week’s game, have the Josh Levin random Saints memory, and the exciting return of Saints Trivia.

Please take a second to rate the Who Dat Report on iTunes and become a fan on [our Facebook page][3]. It’s the best way to help The Who Dat Report reach new fans, which really helps me to justify the hours a week it takes to produce the show.

Thanks so much for listening, and go Saints.

[3]: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Who-Dat-Report/125282380853803?ref=ts

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Saints 31, Bucs 6

When it happens, it happens, eh?

After 5 weeks of mediocrity, the Saints offense showed up yesterday, dismantling a punchless Bucs team. This game surprised me, because this year’s Saints team hasn’t played like last year’s Saints team, hasn’t been lucky like last year’s Saints team, and hasn’t won like last year’s Saints team. So, I fully expected a close game against the feisty Bucs, and wouldn’t have been surprised to see the Saints lose.

Fortunately, I was wrong.

I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink discussing how important the passing game was to set up the run, but in this game, the running and passing happened in such explosions that it was hard to determine which was setting up which. Just look at the Saints’ first drive:

1-10-NO 6 C.Ivory up the middle pushed ob at NO 24 for 18 yards

1-10-NO 24 L.Betts up the middle to NO 28 for 4 yards

2-6-NO 28 C.Ivory right tackle to NO 35 for 7 yards

1-10-NO 35 D.Brees pass short left to R.Meachem pushed ob at NO 47 for 12 yards

1-10-NO 47 D.Brees pass deep middle to L.Moore to TB 37 for 16 yards

1-10-TB 37 D.Brees pass short right to D.Thomas to TB 31 for 6 yards

2-4-TB 31 PENALTY on NO-J.Evans, False Start, 5 yards

2-9-TB 36 PENALTY on NO-D.Brees, Delay of Game, 5 yards

2-14-TB 41 D.Brees pass deep right to L.Moore for 41 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

A great drive, other than the penalties. Of course, the Saints have opened each game this year with a great drive. The question I was asking myself at this point: how good would the second drive be? Would the Saints offense stall after a fast start yet again?

No, they wouldn’t. The second drive was also excellent, 14 yards rushing, 66 yards passing, and another touchdown. The Saints were up 14-0, and the game was solidly in hand since Tampa wasn’t doing much against our defense.

Let me repeat: the game was substantially changed by the first two possessions, as the Saints were at a huge advantage. How big? Well, according to AdvancedNFLStats.com, the Saints had a 90% chance of winning the game after that second touchdown.

By then, the Saints had run the ball 7 times for 43 yards and a 6.1 average. That’s good. However, they’d also passed it 9 times for 141 yards and 15.7 yards per attempt. That’s even better. I take two points from this start:

  1. The Saints’ running game was great in the first two drives.
  2. The Saints’ passing game was even greater in the first two drives.

So, we have two facts which are, I think, inarguable. Part of the fun of analysis is coming up with a theory that explains the facts. Let’s look at two theories:

The first three runs stuck fear in the Bucs’ hearts. Under this theory, the Saints’ running game was so strong from the beginning that it forced the Bucs to move a bunch of guys into covering the run, opening up huge holes for the passing game.

If you buy this theory, then you’re implicitly stating that the Bucs changed their whole game plan based on the first 3 plays. That might be what happened, but I doubt it. I don’t suspect that 3 plays caused massive panic on the Tampa sidelines. I don’t have the game on tape, though, and was driving during the first half while listening to Jim and Hokie call the game on the radio. It’s possible that, had I seen these first two drives, I might have seen the Bucs move more men into the box, scrap the Tampa 2, etc., because they became suddenly worried about the running game.

The Saints’ offense was just better than the Bucs defense in all phases. Under this theory, the Saints just outmatched the Bucs in both the passing and the running game, and they were able to move the ball so effectively because they were just a better team on that day.

If you listened to last week’s show, you might remember that Bucs blogger Eric Schmidt said he was concerned about the Bucs’ defensive line. I mentioned in the same segment (and in my game preview for [Canal Street Chronicles][3]) that I thought the Bucs should worry about their secondary, since their safety situation is awful and Ronde Barber is ancient. Well, if you subscribe to this second theory, then you’re implicitly believing that the Saints were able to take advantage of both of those deficiencies to run and pass the ball efficiently.

While these theories aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, you can probably guess that I lean more toward the second theory, that the Saints were just better than the Bucs yesterday.

My point in going through this exercise: Most of the post-game commentary I’ve read has focused on Chris Ivory’s “breakout” performance, and how the running game was the crucial component of this victory. And while I agree that Ivory had a great game, I think it bears remembering that in those first two Saints drives, the two drives that changed the tenor of the entire game, Brew Drees’ passing game was even better than the running game. So, in our hurry to anoint a new small-school hero as the quick fix to what ailed the Saints, let’s not forget the even bigger contribution from our hall-of-fame caliber quarterback.

Other Notes

  • The Saints’ offense finished with 6.34 aYPA, which is close to last year’s average of 6.45, which was 3rd in the league.
  • The Bucs’ offense wasn’t nearly as strong, averaging 4.9 aYPA, which would’ve been middle of the pack last year. Of course, the real story of the Bucs’ offense was their absolute lack of running game: 18 carries for 42 yards. Just because I tend to focus on the passing game doesn’t mean that the running game isn’t important.
  • We have another gimme game coming up this week, which I’ll be previewing for The Canal Street Chronicles later this week. It’ll be telling to watch what happens: I’ll start to get excited again if we can blow the Browns out. Until then, I’ll remain skeptical.

Look for this week’s show to be released on Thursday, as usual. Until then, thanks for reading!

[3]: http://www.canalstreetchronicles.com/2010/10/16/1750373/previewing-the-saints-bucs-game

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Who Dat Report 2010 Week 6

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Running time: 44 minutes, 12 seconds

This week, Stuart previews the Saints-Bucs game with Eric Schmidt of What The Bucs and Red Zone Talk. You can also follow Eric on Twitter. And no, Eric isn’t _[

Play

Running time: 44 minutes, 12 seconds

This week, Stuart previews the Saints-Bucs game with Eric Schmidt of What The Bucs and Red Zone Talk. You can also follow Eric on Twitter. And no, Eric isn’t ]4 Eric Schmidt.

Show Notes

[Here’s the box score][5] for the Saints-Panthers game that led to Jim Mora’s famous blowup. That was the last game that Mora coached for the Saints, and it wasn’t pretty. Jim Everett was the quarterback, and he finished 14 for 29 with 117 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. His aYPA that game? About 3.7. Ahh’the bad old days.

Mora was replaced that year by Rick Venturi, who coached 8 games and led us to a single victory. It was part of a long stint for Venturi, presumably because he was either a nice guy who no one wanted to fire, or because he had some pictures of Tom Benson. Either way, those weren’t great times in our history. But, it might’ve been worth it just for the diddly poo.

[5]: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199610200car.htm

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Cardinals 30, Saints 20

Well, that sucked.

With yesterday’s loss, the Saints fell to 3-2, along with what seems like the rest of the NFC. What’s disheartening is that the Saints have only played one good team (0-1), and are 3-1 against some crappy teams.

For today’s game review, I’ll look at two questions: the narrow question of why the Saints lost this game, and the larger question of what this means for this season.

**Why did the Saints lose this game?

** The first question is, what happened yesterday? Why did we lose? The answer to that is easy: fumble recovery. The Saints and Cardinals fumbled the ball a total of 6 times yesterday, and the Cardinals recovered 5 of those 6. More than anything, that determined the outcome. Recovering fumbles is primarily luck, with a little bit of skill thrown in. If the Saints had recovered 5 of 6, they almost definitely would’ve won the game. If they had split them, then I still believe the Saints would’ve won the game, because I don’t think the Cardinals offense could do anything against our defense (2.82 aYPA).

Not that our offense was any better. In fact, it was worse. If you look at the adjusted yards per attempt (remember, counting sacks as attempts with lost yardage and subtracting 60 yards for each interception), then the Saints’ offense had it’s worst performance of the year yesterday, averaging 2.33 aYPA, compared to 2.82 for the Cardinals. That’s really quite bad. Even if you ignore the last drive, with Brew’s desperation heave that got picked, you’re still looking at an aYPA of less than 3. That’s not going to win many ballgames.

So, the Saints lost this game because of bad fumble luck and a completely inept offense. As such, they were unable to beat a completely punchless Arizona team starting a rookie quarterback. Not so good.

**What does this mean going forward?

** The more important question, in my mind, is this: why Arizona was even in this game? Why didn’t we blow them out of the water? The fact that we didn’t is a bad sign for the rest of the year.

Why is it a bad sign? Because the best teams in the NFL tend to blow out inferior opponents. Football Outsiders did a study a few years back and found that it’s much more important to beat bad teams by big scores (say, 14 points or more) than it is to gut out victories over good or bad teams. Great teams tend to destroy crappy teams, and the Saints haven’t been able to do that. They’ve played 2 crappy teams (Carolina and Arizona), 1 team that’s probably crappy (Minnesota), and 1 team that’s good (Atlanta). The Saints played a nice game against Atlanta, but have played not-so-nice games against the other folks. That’s not a sign of a great team.

Here’s another way to put it: great teams in the NFL don’t tend to rise and lower their level of play to that of their opponents. They tend to play at a consistently high level throughout the year, dominating inferior opponents and having closer games against stronger opponents. This year, the Saints have reverted to their Ditka-Haslett era tendency to play to their opponents’ level. That’s not a good sign.

So, what’s going on? As I see it, there are three primary areas in which the Saints are struggling this year: offense, special teams, injuries, and luck. We’ve covered luck before, and the injury issue is self-evident (and probably underestimated as a contributor to the Saints’ inefficacy). Let’s look at offense and then a brief note on special teams:

Offense

The Saints’ offense has been bad this year, and is getting worse with each game. In my opinion, the primary culprits have been dropped passes (especially on key downs) and lack of big plays. These factors (and others) have led to some really bad aYPA figures for the Saints this year. Remember, aYPA is directly correlated to winning, which is why we look at the stat. This year, the Saints’ average aYPA is 5.11. There’s no nice way to put it: that’s terrible. If you want to get more depressed, look at the trend line in this graph:

Saints' aYPA through Week 5 2010

Remember, the trend line indicates the general pattern or direction of a set of numbers. In the Saints’ case, that direction has been straight down.

For grins, let’s look at the Saints opponent’s numbers:

[Opponents' aYPA through Week 5 2010][3]

They aren’t much better, averaging 4.72 aYPA per game. So, the saving grace for the Saints this year is some combination of good defense and crappy opponents.

_Special Teams

_ While the Saints’ special teams struggles are well-documented, I’d just like to point out how difficult it is to judge kickers. In most years, a kicker will attempt between 20-40 field goals, an extremely small sample. So small, in fact, that it’s impossible to tell in any given year whether a kicker’s success (or lack thereof) is due to skill or luck. Let’s look at a quick example to show what I mean.

Let’s say that we have a robot a kicker that is 80% accurate on field goal attempts (we’ll ignore the effects of field goal distance for this example). That’d be a very good kicker in the league.

If that kicker attempts 30 field goals in a year, then the kicker has about a 51% chance of making 23, 24, or 25 of those field goals and a about a 76% chance of making between 23 and 30 of the field goals. However, the kicker also has about a 24% chance of making 22 or fewer field goals, and about a 6% chance of making 20 or fewer field goals.*

*Statistical note for nerds: I’m considering kicks to be Bernoulli trials here with n= 30 and p=0.8. Disagree? Tell me what I’m doing wrong in the comment thread.

In other words, in any one year, there’s about a 1 out of 4 chance that even a good field goal kicker will miss a whole bunch of field goals. And, even if a kicker is having a good year, he may miss several field goals in a row. That’s just the way that probability goes. While probability works out in the long run, in any given year, you may just have bad luck. That’s why judging a kicker is very tough, and I’m a bit indifferent on the Hartley-Carney debate. I do wonder about kickers’ confidence levels and whether they influence field goal percentage, but, given the small samples, there’s no good way to study it.

So, as one of my dissertation committee members put it: Probability’s a bitch. As a result, it’s really hard to tell if a kicker’s good or bad. The real secret is to score touchdowns and let someone else worry about their kicker.

**Going Forward

** Fortunately, the crappy schedule continues for the Saints. We still have time to become dominant, lucky, or both. We’ll see what happens when we get a few injured players back, the coaches go back to the proverbial drawing board, and so on.

Overall, though, it doesn’t look good. The team isn’t playing well, hasn’t been lucky, and is getting injured at an alarming clip. Maybe it’s the Super Bowl Hangover, maybe something else, but this just isn’t a great team right now. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s a good team. However, as a buddy reminded me last night in a text message, it just makes you realize how special last year was.

[3]: http://www.whodatreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/2010_week5_opponents_ypa1.png

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Who Dat Report 2010 Week 5

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Today’s guest is Watt Cross, who brings a great sense of 1980s and 90s Saints history to the show. We also have Saints trivia and the Josh Levin Random Saints Memory. You can hear me for the first 16 minutes, then Watt comes in from there.

Here’s a link to what I believe is Watt’s Random Saints Memory. Ahh’John Fourcade. [Here’s a link to a John Fourcade on Facebook][2], although I don’t know if it’s THE John Fourcade.

Thanks again for listening. Please leave any comments below this post, and don’t forget to guess this week’s trivia!

[2]: http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Fourcade/782668056

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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.

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Where's last week's show? (an apology)

I was traveling last week, and a typhoon of technical difficulties prevented my from posting last week’s show. I do have a recorded interview that I’ll post later today (hopefully!), and will resume our regularly scheduled shows this week. I’m sorry for not getting last week’s show together, hopefully it won’t happen again.

Until then, go Saints!

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Falcons 27, Saints 24

I’m traveling this week, so I wasn’t able to pay my usual attention to the game. So, this’ll be a relatively short post.

I used to think that NFL teams had to play well enough to beat the the other team as well as and 2 other opponents: (1) bad luck, and (2) bad officiating. If you don’t play well enough to overcome the other team, bad luck, and bad officiating, then you don’t deserve to win. Today, I’m officially adding a new item to the list: kickers.

Yesterday, the Saints didn’t play well enough to overcome bad kicking. You can lay most of the blame at the offense’s feet. Let’s look at our adjusted Yards Per Attempt measure, which is a good proxy for offensive efficiency:

Matt Ryan was 1930 for 228 yards with 2 sacks for -13 yards. His total adjusted YPA was 6.72, which is solid, but unspectacular. This implies that the Saints’ defense did a good job containing the Falcons’ offense, especially given the fact that the Saints’ offense kept giving the ball away.

Brew Drees was 3038 for 365 with 2 interceptions and 2 sacks for -10 yards. Those interceptions really killed the Saints offensive efficiency, and it shows in Brew’s adjusted YPA of 5.88.

Simply put, you can’t turn the ball over 3 times and expect to win. Turnovers saved the Saints last week, but the team wasn’t so lucky this time. While Hartley’s missed chip shot prevented the team from winning, it was really their offensive performance that cost them the game.

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Who Dat Report 2010 Week 3

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This week, Stuart previews the huge Saints-Falcons game with Adam Schultz of The Falcoholic blog and a Falcons podcast called Courage and Fight. You can also [follow Adam on Twitter][3]. Adam and Stuart also play a rousing version of Yes Or No, and both the Saints Trivia Question and the Random Saints Memory return with a bang. Enjoy.

If you know the answer to this week’s trivia question, you can leave it in the comment thread below this post.

As always, thanks for listening. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a minute to rate us on iTunes or like us on Facebook.

[3]: http://twitter.com/adamlschultz

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