The in-between theory on the Saints this season still applies. They aren't as bad as we fear, but they aren't as great as we hope. The team showed flashes of playoff execution and heart against the usually gutsy Baltimore Ravens. They also made some bad plays as well. The good news is that the Saints came out and had the kind of back-to-wall, playoff heart that every one of the team's fans hoped and wanted to see. This was a game the team can and should build on for the rest of the season.
HAVING SAID THAT
The Saints defense remains too vulnerable to the run. Replace the "F" with a "D" and Ravens running back Justin Forsett looked like Justin "Dorsett" because of his big long runs on Monday. Saints quarterback Drew Brees also remains too prone to throwing the heart-breaking interception. Playoff teams usually stop the run and avoid killer turnovers.
THEY DID WHAT?
The Saints play calling on the first possession of the game when they got a first and goal at the Baltimore 3 after a 67-yard run on a reverse by Joe Morgan was mindboggling. Three runs and one pass. The runs were up the middle or within the hashmarks. Has the team ever heard of Baltimore Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata, one of the best middle run stuffers in the past five years? The pass turned out to be a run, because everyone was covered and quarterback Drew Brees had to scramble for five yards. The percentage play was for the Saints to kick the field goal, take the easy 3-0 lead and have the fans get a little happy, but the team went for it on fourth down and running back Mark Ingram lost two yards to end the possession.
YOU COULD SEE IT COMING
After stuffing the Saints on a fourth and goal play on the first possession, the Ravens drove 97 yards on nine plays for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. The touchdown came when receiver Steve Smith caught a 15-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco while falling on his back in the corner of the end zone. Credit Smith for making a great reception, but it came against man coverage from cornerback Brian Dixon. Obvious question: Why was Dixon covering solo on the noted Saints killer Smith, who is in the midst of a career-renaissance season, in the first place?
Credit Morgan for putting some life into the Saints and the Superdome. Two plays after he caught a 62-yard pass, Brees hit Jimmy Graham for a 2-yard touchdown reception to tie the score at 7 in the first quarter.
A GUTSY FIRST HALF
In spite of the miscues, give the Saints credit for leading 17-14 at halftime. It was arguably the team's best half of play in the last month. The defense did decent damage control. The offense found a way to make plays.
The Saints play at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at 12 p.m.