Saints look surprisingly terrible

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are off to a disastrous start to the season. (AFP)

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are off to a disastrous start to the season. (AFP)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:41 PM ET

Who dat?

Who dat masquerading themselves as the mighty New Orleans Saints through the first two weeks of the 2012 NFL regular season?

Surely that band of stumbling bumbling fumbling men in black and gold must be impersonating Drew Brees and his teammates.

After all, who would possibly believe that this high-octane team could look so bad, so disorganized, so chaotic in dropping its first two games of the season, including a 35-27 setback at the hands of Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers on Sunday?

In dropping to a shocking 0-2, the Saints and the rest of the football world must come to grips with a couple of harsh realities.

1. First off: Since 1990, only 12% of NFL teams that have started a season 0-2 have gone on to make the playoffs.

2. Secondly: Maybe we all underestimated how much the one-year suspension of coach Sean Payton would affect the Saints moving forward.

Payton, of course, is on a 12-month league-mandated hiatus from the team for his part in the now-famous Bounty Gate scandal. He is known throughout the NFL for being one of the top motivators and best-organized coaches in the game.

In the end, there is no doubt his absence is being felt.

At the same time, you can’t just put the blame for the Saints struggles on the fact that Payton’s fingerprints are not smeared all over this 2012 team.

In reality, the Saints woes have as much to do with bad decision making and a porous defence that is being shredded for 30-plus points per game.

With Payton not on the scene, the Saints are looking to Brees to supply even more leadership than usual. In order to do that, the veteran quarterback can’t make bone-headed plays like he did early in the game against the Panthers when his off-target toss from his own end zone was picked off and returned all the way for a Panthers touchdown.

We’ll say this much for the New Orleans players: They are not using Payton, Bountygate or any such related issues as excuses for their horrid start out of the gates.

“It has nothing to do with anything with the offseason,” safety Roman Harper told reporters after the game. “That’s just a built-in excuse that you’re trying to throw out. And it’s not going to happen.

“We don’t want it. We’re professionals. This is what we do for a living. And we’ve got to go out and play like it.”

Right tackle Zach Strief said it would be “poisonous” to claim that Payton and/or Bountygate was to blame for their two consecutive losses.

“I think it’s dangerous as a team to point fingers at why this is happening,” Strief told a post-game media scrum. “It’s just dangerous from a team perspective.

“At the end of the day, the cards have been dealt and we have to play them as best we can. So obviously that’s gonna be the story line — you know, ‘No coach, no this guy, no Vilma, the uncertainty, the weird offseason.’

“But what we have to start doing is everyone has to start pointing thumbs at themselves.”

Including Brees.

“Hey, it’s going to test us,” Brees said of the 0-2 record. “But I’m confident that we’ll stay strong and we’ll battle through this and we’ll overcome.”

Easier said than done.

The ‘Stach has Spoken

It didn’t take Jeff Fisher very long to flex his muscles and show his players who is the boss.

At least that’s what most of the fans at the Edward Jones Dome thought anyway.

When Steven Jackson, bitter that replacement officials didn’t award him a touchdown against the Redskins, was slapped with a personal foul penalty for subsequently spiking the ball in disgust, Fisher seemed to nail Jackson’s rump to the bench for costing the Rams 15 yards.

No matter that Jackson arguably is the Rams most talented player. Fisher seemed to be making the point that everyone must adhere to team rules.

That was the public perception of the incident.

However, during his post-game press conference, Fisher said that wasn’t the case at all, claiming that Jackson was held out of the game because of a groin injury.

Whatever you say, coach.

The Next RG3?

While Robert Griffin III’s second regular-season NFL start was impressive (two rushing TDs, one passing TD) despite a 31-28 loss to Fisher’s Rams on Sunday, it also brought back memories of his brilliant beginning to the college season with Baylor a year ago. In his first two games of the 2011 college campaign, RG3 had as many touchdown passes as incompletions — eight. Twelve months later, West Virginia QB Geno Smith has a similar run going, tossing nine TDs and just nine incompletions through two games. No wonder Smith is moving up the draft charts of many scouts.

‘Goat of The Day’ Award

This dubious distinction goes to Redskins WR Josh Morgan, who took his Redskins out of range for the tying field goal when he chucked the ball in frustration at a St. Louis defensive back in the game’s final minute, earning a 15-yard penalty in the process. In the end, it cost the Redskins a shot at forcing the game to overtime.

Rough stuff

Can’t we all just get along?

Obviously not.

A year ago, we witnessed a post-game skirmish between coaches Jim Schwartz of Detroit and Jim Harbaugh of San Francisco after the Lions boss felt he was shoved away while attempting to shake his colleague’s hand.

On Sunday, there was another brouhaha among NFL coaches when the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin got in the face of Tampa Bay’s Greg Schiano after the final gun of the Giants’ 41-34 victory at the Meadowlands.

Coughlin was upset that the Bucs tried to bullrush Eli Manning on the final play of the game, leading to the Giants quarterback being knocked on his rump while attempting to take a simple kneel down. A livid Coughlin got into Schiano’s face at the final gun and, if you lip-read, seemed to utter the word “bush.”

“I don’t think you do that,” Coughlin said after the game. “You jeopardize the O-line, you jeopardize the quarterback. Thank goodness we didn’t get anybody hurt.”

Manning added that “it was a little bit of a cheap shot.”

For his part, Schiano saw nothing wrong with his team’s actions at the end of the game.

“What I do with our football team is we fight until they tell us ‘game over.’ There’s nothing dirty about it,” Schiano said.

Play nice, boys.

Gotta be good to be Luck-y

When it comes to late game dramatics, Andrew Luck seems to be following directly in Peyton Manning’s cleats.

Having been overshadowed in Week 1 by the heroics of fellow rookie Robert Griffin III, Luck used Sunday afternoon to show the football world that the 1-1 Indianapolis Colts had good reason to pick him first overall in the 2012 draft this past summer.

Leading the type of last-minute drive Manning would be proud of, Luck marched his team into position for the winning field goal in a dramatic 23-20 victory over the 1-1 Minnesota Vikings at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Having already tossed a pair of touchdowns earlier in the game, Luck set up kicker Adam Vinatieri for the winning 52-yard three-pointer with just eight seconds left.

Not even the great Manning was able to win his regular season home debut in Indy, a feat Luck accomplished against the Vikings. In the process, he collected his first NFL victory.

“To get a win was something I really wanted for this team,” said Luck, who went 20-of-31 for 231 yards. “I’m very proud to be associated with this franchise.”

It was the first victory for Chuck Pagano as Colts head coach.

Never write off Eli

Haven’t we learned not to doubt Eli?

Haven’t we figured out that, having already twice smeared his fingerprints on the Vince Lombardi Trophy, this guy is money at crunch time when games are on the line?

Obviously thousands of disgruntled New York Giants fans forgot that simple fact when they booed Eli Manning and his teammates off the field at half time of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

Shame shame, oh ye of little faith.

Having been picked off three times in the first half, Manning responded by throwing for 295 yards in the second half, part of a career-best 510-yard performance that helped his 1-1 Giants post a come-from-behind 41-34 win over the 1-1 Bucs.

In compiling the eighth-most single-game passing yards in NFL history, Manning fell just three yards shy of Phil Simms’ franchise record of 513. But the only numbers the two-time Super Bowl champ cares about are the three touchdown passes that helped overcome Tampa Bay’s 11-point lead at half time.

“He didn’t get discouraged ... He waited for his spots and then he took them,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of Manning.

Giant wideouts had a field day with the Tampa secondary. Victor Cruz finished with 11 catches for 179 yards while teammate Hakeem Nicks had 10 catches for 199 yards.

Bush chews up pitiful Raiders

For the 1-1 Miami Dolphins, Bush stands for Reggie Bush.

For the 0-2 Oakland Raiders, Bush stands for Bush League.

The Raiders certainly have looked like bush leaguers through the first two games of the regular season, one-sided losses to the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.

After a series of botched snaps and bad penalties cost the Raiders in their 22-14 season-opening loss to the Chargers, it was Bush’s turn to humiliate the Raiders on Sunday afternoon in Miami.

Showing he deserves to be an every down NFL running back despite his diminutive size, Bush stomped over, around and through the Raiders for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns en route to a 35-13 Dolphins win.

While Miami was able to give Joe Philbin his first victory as Dolphins coach, Raiders rookie coach Dennis Allen remains winless, thanks to a sloppy underachieving Raiders squad that has been outscored 57-27 through its first two games.

Such mediocrity can’t be going over well with those rabid Raider fans in the Black Hole. The type of people whose toothpaste comes out of a beer can, they must feel the Raiders got ripped off last year when they surrendered a 2012 first-round pick and a second rounder in 2013 to the Bengals for underachieving quarterback Carson Palmer.

They aren’t alone.

 

 


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