Sunday, December 30, 2007

Armchair QB: And so it ends...

The same way it began -- with an ass-whipping. Sure, there was only a touchdown difference in the final score, but the game wasn't that close. It was another Saints special. Putting the ball on the ground, getting stupid penalties, even the incredible night that Pierre Thomas had couldn't overcome the boneheaded mistakes.

Thomas is about the only bright spot to take out of this game. I've been a fan since preseason, and I was very pleased to see him get a chance to show what he can do this week. What can he do? Well, over 100 yards rushing and over 100 yards receiving is definitely not a bad first start. The best performance of a Saints running back this year. I don't want to discount the great play of Aaron Stecker over the past few weeks, but I do wonder what we might have done with Pierre Thomas in the game all those games when we were trying to get Reggie Bush to be the man.

Another disappointing end to a disappointing year. While I'm upset at the way the season went, I still feel like there's a bright future for this team. I'm just having a little trouble seeing it tonight.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Armchair QB: SOS

That would be Same Old Saints.

How many times have we been here, especially in the last few years. We've got to win to get in, and we can't get the job done. In fairness, the Eagles played very well today and our sideline looks more like a hospital ward than a football field, but we still had the chances.

The twist of the knife, of course, was the fact that Washington beat the Vikings, meaning that if we had found a way to win, we would control our own destiny. Now, we're hoping for the stars to align and planets to collide. We have to win, Washington has to lose to a Dallas team that's clinched home field and likely won't play any of its starters, and the Vikings have to lose to Denver. Mathematically, we're not eliminated, but in the real world, we blew it.

Of course, when the game starts on the crazy note today's did -- a fumble rolling around for 30 yards and ending up in the end zone under an Eagle -- you know what kind of day it's going to be. I felt pretty confident after our first drive and then the forced fumble that ended in a touchdown, but after that, it just seemed we couldn't do anything until the end of the first half. That last-second Grammatica field goal turning a disaster into three points has to be one of the top plays of the year. We go into the second half with a great drive and three chances to put the ball in from the one, and we can't get the job done. Give the Eagles defense credit, they whipped us up front. I don't disagree with the decision to go for it on fourth and goal, but as much as I like what Aaron Stecker has done for us, I question giving the ball to a guy with a bad wheel after we've been stuffed on the two previous running plays. Then, of course, came the questionable roughing call and the downward spiral.

As disheartening as yet another home loss in a key situation was, there were a few good things to talk about. I continue to be impressed with Stecker's performance. He looked like a monster in the early going, then came back after being carted off to finish the game strong. The guy has shown nothing but heart since replacing Reggie Bush, maybe more than anyone else out there in black and gold. He deserves a shot at earning a starting job somewhere, and as much as I'd like to keep him in New Orleans, he may just get it after this performance.

And what about Martin Grammatica? Sure, it's only four kicks, but after what we went through with Olindo Mare early in the season, it's pretty exciting to this Saints fan -- especially the 55-yarder under pressure at the end of the first half.

So, there's still hope, but getting to the playoffs at 8-8 isn't exactly an exciting proposition. It's almost like cheating in a way when you get in because someone loses instead of because you won the right. It feels like a recipe for one and done.

Don't get me wrong. Next weekend, I'll be in front of my TV, screaming for the Saints. I'll be back there cheering for Denver, and even though I'd rather have my fingernails ripped out than cheer for the Cowboys, I'll even hope they win. At this point, though, I think it's time to start talking about getting our key players healthy, the draft and fixing our defensive problems for next year.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Armchair QB: Hype

The hype is back on. I guess, as long-suffering fans of the Saints, we're just too eager to latch on to any kind of hope. It seems that some fans and analysts already have us pencilled in for that last wild card spot. Let's not forget, though, that some of us had the NFC South championship pencilled in a few weeks ago.

I was definitely pleased with the Saints' performance today. We did what we should have done and took care of business in a must-win situation. Drew Brees is looking great again, and how about Aaron Stecker? As strange as it sounds, perhaps Reggie Bush going down might be the best thing that could have happened for our playoff hopes this year.

I think too often since the loss of Deuce, the Saints have tried to cram Bush into a hole where he doesn't fit, as a head-down, plowing through the defense kind of runner. But Bush really needs a guy like Deuce to be the workhorse and give him a chance to get out in space and make the kind of plays he can make. Bush is not a guy that can carry the load himself. Stecker's shown over the past two games that, with a little relief from Pierre Thomas, he can. It gives us a solid running attack, and the coaches don't feel pressure to get the ball into Stecker's hands if the run's not working the way they do with Bush. It simplifies the gameplan.

As far as playoffs go, I have just as much hope as any Saints fan that we can finish 9-7 and sneak in, but I temper that hope with reality. First, we have to take care of our end of the deal, which includes beating Philadelphia and Chicago. That's not a given, particularly since we'll be going to Chicago on December 30, where it's likely to be snowing and cold. I don't need to remind anyone about that NFC Championship game last year. And even if we take care of our end, the Vikings have to lose, and they've been hot lately. It's definitely possible, but I wouldn't be making my plans for a playoff tailgate party just yet. For Monday night, all I can say is "Go Bears."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Armchair QB: Playoffs? Are you kidding me?

So with all the announcers' talk about the Saints climbing back into playoff contention and the team looking fantastic in blowing out Atlanta last night, they almost got me amped up again. Then I remembered that we were playing the Falcons, and there are some high school teams out there that might have a legitimate shot at beating the Falcons this year.

Still, it was a satisfying victory for me. I've always said, no matter how bad the season, it can be redeemed by sweeping the Falcons (or beating the Cowboys in a year that we play them.) So, yeah, I'm happy. But playoffs? I'm not ready to go back down that road yet. That's three straight wins away and a little help from some other teams, and I remember a couple of years when all the Saints had to do was win one of their last four games to get in, and they couldn't do it. I'm not buying into it yet. Impressive wins over Arizona and Philadelphia could get me back there, though.

I wasn't going to mention the Vick thing, but I have to say that I found it annoying to see players and fans paying tribute to him as though he were the victim of some tragedy. The only thing Vick is the victim of is his own stupidity. He knew what he was doing was illegal, and it follows that he should have known he was risking his freedom and livelihood in doing it. Sorry, but to me, dogfighting is a pretty stupid thing to gamble a multi-million dollar NFL contract and even more in endorsement deals on. The guy did the crime, he's got to do the time. End of story.

I also found it somewhat annoying that all the post-game talk was about Vick and Reggie Bush, two guys who didn't play a down last night and one that may never again. How about a little thumbs up for Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas who combined for the best rushing game of the season? Sure, it was against the Falcons, but it's nice to see the two-back attack again -- even if it wasn't the two we planned.

New mag

Just passing along a little info on a new magazine that the metalheads here might be interested in. It's being done by metal folks for metal folks. Looks like it might be cool -- and the price is definitely right for the first year. Check it out.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Armchair QB: WTF?!?!?!

I'll be 35 next Saturday. I've been watching football for at least 25 of those years, probably a few more. On Sunday, I witnessed what might be the absolute worst play call that I've ever seen in my life.

We've just sacked Luke McCown for a safety and gotten the ball back with a three point lead. There are three minutes left in the game. Momentum is with us. All we need to do is get first downs and eat up clock. Why are we running a trick play? I understand we're missing Deuce, who is the go-to guy in this situation, but give the ball to Aaron Stecker behind Mike Karney and run the damned clock out. But not the Saints, we try a reverse, put the ball on the ground and lose the game. We effectively blow our season on a trick play that made no sense. Even Jim Haslett wouldn't have made a call that boneheaded.

All I can do is shake my head.

There's a point when even the most optimistic fan has to admit that his team is going to miss the playoffs, and even my rose-colored glasses are starting to fog up from the steam coming out of my ears after that play. This team is far too inconsistent and makes way too many mistakes to get there. Their best shot was winning the NFC South, and I think Tampa pretty much has the conference wrapped up now. They'd have to lose a lot of games to weak opponents and we'd probably have to win out. I don't see either of those things happening.

Here's hoping Deuce gets healthy and we can somehow fix our defensive problems in the offseason. There's always next year.