There are a number of words that I could type for the world to see that could properly define the Saints’ recent contest against the previously winless St. Louis Rams. Instead of doing that, though, I’m just going to sum up this game with one adjective: disgusting. Now that we’ve had a couple of days to think about the catastrophe that occurred for New Orleans on the Rams’ home turf this past weekend, it is hard to not remain appalled by the performance of the Saints in every facet of the game. Whether it was a missed field goal, a blown defensive coverage, or simply a sack on QB Drew Brees, everyone had a taste of the blame for Sunday’s loss.
Regardless, there is one issue with this current Saints’ roster that continues to irk me; that issue is the play of the offensive line. With the return of Chris Ivory, many fans had expected to see a rejuvenated rushing attack, as the Rams ranked last in the NFL in pass defense heading into their contest against New Orleans. However, when the St. Louis offense jumped out to an early lead, the line was asked to forget about their run blocking duties and begin to protect their franchise QB. Sadly, they were unable to do so. At the end of the day, Brees was sacked six times, three of which were via Rams DE Chris Long.
The O-line play was so bad, that the frustration actually spilled onto the sidelines, as Guard Carl Nicks and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer reportedly got into a “heated exchange” near the Saints’ bench. In other words, it was an ugly day.
So you may be telling yourself, “Ok Barreca, we’ve heard the same story for the last three days.” Trust me, I have more to tell. Today, we’re going to go above and beyond the stat line. To do so, we must take a look at each of these six offensive line mishaps and see exactly where things went wrong. After, I’m going to offer a possible solution to the problem that is the Saints’ O-line. Hopefully I now have your attention.
The first sack for the Rams’ defense happened with 5:46 remaining in the first quarter. On the play, the Rams sent three men into the backfield (LB James Laurinaitis, DE Quintin Mikell and LB Chris Chamberlain), and the Saints were unable to successfully hold them back. James Hall, the Rams’ DE, ultimately help to set up the successful blitz using his presence alone. At the snap, the Saints’ LT, Jermon Bushrod, quickly shifted his focus to Hall, leaving a gaping hole for the Rams’ defenders to burst through. With Bushrod occupied, both Brian de la Puente and Carl Nicks moved to block Chamberlain, who blitzed hard towards the left side of the LOS (line of scrimmage). Finally, Pierre Thomas, Brees’ lone guardian in the backfield, picked up Mikell blitzing through the hole left by Bushrod, and Laurinaitis followed behind Mikell to clean up the Saints’ QB. Overall, either a miscommunication or a false read lead to the sack, as both the Saints’ LG and C found themselves blocking one man, leaving two unguarded defenders to make their respective ways into the backfield.
The second sack of the game for the Rams occurred with 5:05 left on the game clock in the second quarter. Here, Robert Quinn, St. Louis’ rookie DE, was lined up opposite Bushrod. At the snap, Quinn exploded off the ball, getting to Bushrod before the LT was able to effectively get his hands near Quinn’s chest. Due to the miniscule amount of time taken for Quinn to reach Bushrod, only a slight swim move to the inside was needed to beat the offensive tackle, and what resulted was Brees being planted into the turf. The worst part? Bushrod had decent positioning to make a block on the rookie; however, once Quinn took the LT’s arms out of the equation, he was able to effectively turn Bushrod around en route to Brees. All in all, it was a well-timed jump from Quinn, and a poor use of the hands on the part of the Saints’ O-lineman.
For the Rams’ third takedown of Brees, we look to St. Louis’ former first-round pick, Long, with 1:50 left in the first half. This is a play that RT Charles Brown would probably like to forget. When the ball was snapped, Long simply put his hands up, took Brown’s arms and shoved him out of the way before making his way to the QB. Instead of getting his hands under Long’s arms, Brown played “patty cake” with the young DE and lost. In the end, it was a poor job of blocking by Brown.
Once again, Long wreaked havoc on the Saints’ offensive line, as he was the man responsible for the team’s fourth sack of the contest. With 13:10 remaining in the third quarter, Long made a fool out of Brown for the second time. In what must have been a deja vu moment for Brown, Long once again went toe-to-toe, or should I say arm-to-arm, with the Saints’ RT, and Brown was left staring at his helpless QB lying under a Rams’ defender. On the snap, Long simply put his hands up to counter Brown’s block attempt, shoved his (Brown’s) arms out of the way, and proceeded into the Saints’ backfield. Once again, just a terrible job of blocking by Brown.
The fifth sack of the game came with 1:40 left in the fourth quarter. Can you guess which Ram made it into the backfield this time? That’s right, Long. Once again, the right side of the O-line had trouble containing the St. Louis pass rush, as RT Pat McQuistan could not stop the Rams’ top DE. At the snap, Long exploded off the ball and was successfully able to get his hand onto the chest of McQuistan. Using his strength, Long made a move to the inside of the LOS, and McQuistan was left trailing the DE behind the line. Honestly, like the last two, there isn’t that much analysis to be shared here. The simple fact is this: McQuistan was beat off the LOS at the snap, and once Chris Long wins that battle, there’s no stopping him.
Finally, the final sack of the contest came with around 35 seconds remaining in the game. With the Saints hoping for one last-ditch effort in the fourth quarter, the Rams’ defensive line once again put a stop to the Saints’ passing attack. After the snap, Brees scanned the field for a short time; however, he was unable to find an open receiver. Seeing that, Brees decided to try and run for the first down, only to be met by the Rams’ Fred Robinson at the LOS. Robbins, who first matched up with De la Puente at the snap, soon shifted his focus to both De la Puente and Jahri Evans. Once Brees began to make a dash to the line, Robinson made a move to the inside, and he was left to freely land a blow on the Saints’ QB. Granted, this sack meant little to the final result of the game, though it is unfortunate to see such a breakdown on the O-line once the QB went on the move.
So let’s recap.
Who were the main culprits on the Saints’ O-line? First and foremost, Charles Brown had no answer for Long, who ultimately dominated him from the Saints’ first offensive play. Also, Jermon Bushrod had trouble with his assignments, leading to other members of the O-line having to attempt to clean up the defenders he missed, which would open up multiple holes for the Rams’ “D” to burst through. So what does this mean? Easy; the Saints have a problem at the “Tackle” spot.
At the moment, the “T” spot on the roster may be a tough one to fill. At th
is point in the season, many of the top free agent names at the position have been signed, so we’re basically looking at the scraps left by the remaining 31 teams in the league. The first namewho comes to mind for me is former Cowboys’/Steelers’ OT Flozell Adams. Adams, who was cut by the Steelers this past offseason, remains jobless during the 2011 season. Honestly, I can’t say how much he could/would help the Saints’ O-line issues, but anything is a start.
Regardless, one thing is for certain: the Saints better find a quick fix to this problem ASAP; otherwise, it’s going to be a bumpier road to the postseason than “Who Dat Nation” could have ever imagined.
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