Monday, September 29, 2008

Armchair QB: Deuce returns

Maybe Sean Payton isn't as dumb as I thought. His comments last week after we failed on more crucial short yardage situations had me scratching my head and thinking we had another Jim Haslett in the house. He said he couldn't bring Deuce McAllister in because Deuce hadn't practiced in short yardage situations. Does anyone really believe that Deuce needs to practice to take the ball and get a yard?

Finally, on Sunday, Payton turned Deuce loose, and no one can deny that he provided a big spark for the team. The Superdome roared when he took the field, and he gave the crowd what they wanted on his first carry, pushing the pile ahead for about six yards. After that, Deuce did what he does, averaging about four yards a pop and providing a real North-South running game for the Saints.

There were lots of positives in Sunday's game. Lance Moore continues to be impressive. It seems that all he does is make plays, and in the absence of Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey, he's shining. Even the defense looked good, getting to former Saint J.T. O'Sullivan early and often, and even Jason David made a few good plays in coverage.

I realize that the 49ers aren't exactly the cream of the crop in the NFL, but it did feel good to see the Saints looking like the team we expected them to be. And 2-2 beats the heck out of 0-4.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Armchair QB: The sequel

First off, I'd like to thank coach Sean Payton for not making me create a new graphic this week and allowing me to be lazy and ask the same question in a different way. How many times do we have to be stuffed on key short yardage plays before we give the ball to Deuce McAllister?

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Pierre Thomas. I thought it was the right choice to keep him over a draft pick last year, and I love the upside. But the bottom line is that he's not getting it done on these plays. Reggie Bush, as good as he's looked this year, is not the smashmouth between the tackles runner. That's No. 26, who has been on the sideline every time we've needed him the past two weeks.

I can't figure it out. We gave him the ball twice last week and he busted off five yards on each carry. Then he disappeared. Why? If he's still hurt, why is he dressed out, stretching, staying warm and looking like he's itching to get into the game on the sideline? If he's hurt, why could he carry a couple of times last week but not on a third or fourth and one? Why are we dressing him out if we're not going to use him? Does Payton have some sort of problem with Deuce? I had hoped with Payton we were past these hard-headed, frustrating coaching decisions, but apparently not.

I can't understand having a weapon over there, a weapon that's perfect for the key situations that we've been in and not using it. Obviously, I can't sit here and say that I'm 100 percent sure that Deuce would have gotten the yardage, but no one else is making those plays, so I don't see the downside to giving him the shot. Quite frankly, I'd feel much more confident lining up with him in the backfield in those situations, and he definitely couldn't do any worse than the other guys.

Are we in for another long season? I'm not sure yet. Despite the moves we made in the offseason, our defense still stinks. It was nice to see Mike McKenzie back in there making a few plays. But when it comes down to it, when it counted, the defense gave us a chance to win. The offense couldn't convert ... that's turning into the story of the season.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Armchair QB: Where's Deuce when we need him?

On the sideline for no good reason, apparently. How you can justify leaving Deuce McAllister on the sideline when your run game is anemic, I don't know. I can understand wanting to rest him and make sure he's healthy for the stretch run. But you've got to win to get to the stretch run, and 46 yards from your running backs ain't gonna get you there.

Let's look at it, Reggie Bush had 28 yards on 10 carries. Pierre Thomas had eight on six carries. Deuce touches the ball twice and rips off five yards on each carry, then he's back on the sideline. Even on third and one late in the game, when we were trying to hang on -- no Deuce. In that situation, he's got to be your guy. At the very least, you line him up back there to make the other team think about it. I can't figure it out. Maybe if he'd had more plays, Washington would have shut him down, too, but you can't know that if you don't try.

Admittedly, 1-1 is much better than 0-2, where we were at this point last year, but we should be 2-0. We've been sloppy, with a lot of mental mistakes over the first two weeks. I know our defense was decimated today, but where's that ballyhooed offense?

I know it's early and there's no need for panic, but I'm starting to feel a little of that old aggravation sneak back in.