View Full Version : View from New Orleans: Saints pass to emulate the run

11-01-2010, 07:37 AM
View from New Orleans: Saints pass to emulate the run
Monday, November 01, 2010
By John DeShazier, The Times-Picayune

NEW ORLEANS -- On paper, the Saints ran the football Sunday night against the Steelers about as well as a high school team might have run it, their paltry total of 32 yards on 18 attempts before their final, kneel-down possession being a reflection of their continued inability to run the ball effectively.

In reality, the Saints sliced the Steelers apart with their alternate running game, which proved to be their primary and most efficient mode of transportation in a 20-10 victory in the Superdome.

Drew Brees completed 34 of 44 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers, an average of 9 yards per completion. Extract connections of 50 yards to Robert Meachem, 27 to Marques Colston, 18 to Lance Moore, 14 to Jeremy Shockey and 13 to Devery Henderson and Julius Jones, and it was 28 hookups for 170 yards, an average of 6 yards per catch.

In other words, it was a torrent of short tosses that basically served as the running game for the Saints (5-3) on a night when the actual running game was bound and gagged by the Steelers (5-2).

The Saints, on the other hand, drew a fresh breath. After playing a game worthy of an apology the previous week -- a 30-17 loss to pitiful Cleveland that featured two defensive touchdowns by the Browns -- New Orleans went bare-knuckle to bare-knuckle with the Steelers and emerged victorious.

"It was a good win for us," Saints coach Sean Payton understated by about six times to the nth degree.

It was a therapeutic win.

Sure, no one in the organization publicly would've pushed the panic button if the team had dropped to 4-4. The outward projection would've been of calm, of correcting errors and moving on with half a season left.

But there's a world of difference between 4-4 and 5-3. The former would have pushed visions of last season farther in the rearview mirror, and would've allowed Atlanta and Tampa Bay to advance even farther ahead in the NFC South Division.

Instead, because of the win, the Saints are a half-game behind the Falcons and Buccaneers, both 5-2. And the win came courtesy of the "running" game.

The Steelers, like most Saints opponents, weren't inclined to give the Saints anything deep, cheap or quick. Meachem's long catch was the result of a busted coverage and Colston's a nice catch-and-run.

For the most part, Brees dinked and dunked and the Saints moved the ball down the field and scored when they had to. It was the only way the Saints could run Sunday night.

"Drew found his rhythm [in the second half]," Payton said. "I thought it was important to still have the ability to rush the ball some."

And the Saints did, at least, strive to keep the Steelers honest. After posting just six rushing attempts in the first half they added 15 in the second.

But the act of placing the ball in the hands of an actual running back and creating an opening for him in the run game, pretty much proved futile.

That's where Brees, and the alternate mode, came in.

Nine Saints caught passes. Five of them averaged 7.7 yards per catch or less. Yards were grudgingly yielded by Pittsburgh.

"We had some pretty good runs," Brees said. "But after that two-minute drive [in the first half], coming out in the second half we felt pretty good about the pass game."

The pass game that effectively substituted as the run game.
John DeShazier is a columnist for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

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