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GUT-CHECK TIME: Every Saints Defensive Player Needs to “Do Their Job” vs. Cleveland

Marcus Williams’ missed tackle in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Minnesota last year was a memory that all Saints fans would like to forget. 

It was a brutal end to the Saints attempted run at another Super Bowl title; and during the past  off-season, one could say that most Saints fans were eagerly anticipating seeing the team return to the field — in hopes of making another championship run with Drew Brees at the helm.

If Marcus Williams’ missed tackle was a nightmare to him, then surely this Sunday’s dreadful performance by the defense versus Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should keep every Saints defender up at night. 

Unfortunately, we’ve seen this same scenario play out before in seasons past.

Just last year, the Saints defense put up the kind of performance that made Sam Bradford look like Joe Montana and immediately followed that up by getting TORCHED by Tom Brady on their own home turf at the Superdome. 

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Fitzpatrick’s performance was nothing short of spectacular. It is hard for me to recall another showing by a quarterback that was as close to perfect as one can be.

Each throw he made was precise, no matter how small the window.  Saints’ cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley exhibited their worst showing in a Saints uniform, surrendering 293 yards and three touchdowns combined to Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. 

Mind you, these two receivers are very talented, yet, Lattimore was able to keep Evans in check, and Jackson was pretty much a non-factor in both games last season.

So — what has changed this year versus last?

Sean Payton revealed his thoughts in his post game interview:

“Take your pick. We did not hurry the passer. Guys were open. Third downs were awful. They had over 500 yards. We didn’t disrupt the timing to any element of the passing game and too many penalties. I can’t think of any positives.”

Photo courtesy of Butch Dill, The Associated Press

Just as Marcus Williams vowed to work hard and improve following his mistake, its time for the rest of the Saints defense to join him.

No one — and I do mean NO ONE on the defensive side of the football for New Orleans — played a good game.

Heck, I can’t even really think of ONE positive play on defense.

Fitzpatrick was pretty much making a sandwich all day in the pocket, with very little pressure. Tampa Bay’s receivers were running any route they wanted with very little resistance from Saint defenders. 

This whole scenario was eerily similar to Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2017 season. Particularly, when the New England Patriots came to town and demolished the Saints defense. Fitzpatrick was even more impressive than what Tom Brady was able to do. 

Having your defense torched by Tom Brady, is nothing uncommon for NFL teams nowadays. He’s been doing that for 17+ seasons. Most fans anticipate their defense having a hard time slowing down Brady.

But this performance last Sunday? This was Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

I mean the man no disrespect, but Fitzpatrick can’t hold Brady’s jock.  Fitzpatrick was drafted by the Rams (back when they still played in St. Louis) in the 2005 NFL Draft. He is now on his 7th team.

Make no bones about it, Fitzpatrick is a quality NFL quarterback. However, NEVER would I expect him to come in and embarrass the Saints defense for a tune of 417 yards and four passing touchdowns in addition to one rushing touchdown.

Simply put, the man was unstoppable. But he shouldn't have been. 

It is even more particularly disturbing to lose a game in which Drew Brees was equally as dominant. Notice, due to the monumental Season Opening loss, no one talks about what a great game Brees had.  He was his typical, surgical self, carving up the Buccaneers’ defense with ease. He still isn't showing any signs of decline, whatsoever.

Drew’s excellent play needs to be accommodated by the defense, which thus far, has failed to hold up its end of the bargain.

Photo courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times

Do I believe they are capable of a turnaround? Yes, I do.

Why so, you ask?

Because they've already proven previously to all Saints fans, that they were capable of making the necessary corrections last season

And with 15 Regular Season games still left to play, there's still plenty of time to right the ship, so to speak.

Additionally during the off-season, the Saints were also able to sign a few free agents that were considered upgrades over previous players on the roster.

Demario Davis, the free agent from the New York Jets brought excitement to fans particularly for his ability to stop the run.  Kurt Coleman was added from the Carolina Panthers to replace the inconsistent Kenny Vaccaro (now with the Tennessee Titans) at safety.  

Patrick Robinson, a past Saints player, was welcomed back to the Black and Gold after he rebuilt his reputation as an outstanding slot corner and was signed away from the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Last but not least, the Saints traded away their first round pick this year along with 2019’s first round pick to trade up and select Marcus Davenport, the raw yet promising defensive end out of the University of Texas-San Antonio.

I feel that I can speak for a majority of Saints’ fans in thinking that this year’s defense was only going to improve upon last year. 

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

With a busted coverage on the first Tampa touchdown, it was easy to understand and forgive the defense for a mental lapse. However, with each continuing touchdown (6 in all) It became more and more evident, that lack of communication and familiarity between Saints defenders wasn’t there.  

This has to change in 5 more days from this morning, when the Browns — who have only won 1 game in the past 2 years but are gaining confidence after their tie last Sunday with the AFC Super Bowl favorite Pittsburgh Steelers — come to invade the Superdome this Sunday.

This team simply CANNOT afford to drop another home game that so many of us had already counted as a “W” on our calendars.  So often, one hears the term "must win” game. This game is filed under that category.

The Saints MUST WIN this Sunday's contest against Cleveland, or their hopes of reaching the postseason will take a disastrous turn.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Long story short: it's "gut-check" time.

Every Saints fan can remember back to the 2012 NFL season when New Orleans were being penalized and punished for the alleged "Bountygate" scandal; when the organization hung a huge banner on the wall of their Indoor Practice Facility in Metairie that featured Payton (who was serving a 1-year suspension) and his likeness.

The banner itself features "The Look"  — which perfectly captures Payton's piercing and intense glare that he gives whenever he's pissed off about his team's or an individual player's performance — with a massive "Do Your Job" message in bold capital letters right beneath it.

This Sunday, every single one of the Saints defenders need to show up and simply just "do their job".

Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Failure is not an option, with a 2018 Saints schedule that only gets harder and harder this season with each passing week.

It's already an early "must win" situation now for a team whose early inability to "do its job" defensively, is in danger of turning their Super Bowl dreams and championship aspirations into a nightmare......

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I was born in Metairie. I've been an avid Saints fan for as long as I can remember. I bleed black and gold. I look forward to covering the Saints with passion and optimism.

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