November 15, 2009

Escape from St. Louis: Bush lights out as 9-0 Saints survive 28-23

  • The Saints survived an inexplicably tough game with the Rams, entering the game 1-7, on the strength of a resilient defense and a pacing running game. It is inexplicable because the Rams had little going for them except for a crafty Marc Bulger at quarterback, a hard charging Steven Jackson at runningback, and a pair of solid defensive ends in Leonard Little and Chris Long who made plays.

  • The Saints are 9-0 for the first time in team history, and their nine game win streak is the third in team history. With the Falcons losing to Carolina, the Saints have opened up a four game lead on Atlanta in the NFC South with seven games left to play.

  • Was this the breakout game for Reggie Bush? A career-long 55-yard rush, two touchdowns, 83 yards rushing on six carries for a 13.8 yard average, another 15 yards receiving on two catches. Even if its not a breakout game, Bush is coming on strong for the Saints. This offense has so many good runningbacks.

    Strangely enough, for as good as Bush was, the Saints didn't give him the ball at all in the fourth quarter, opting instead for five touches for Mike Bell and four touches for Pierre Thomas.

  • The Saints offense must get control of the turnovers. Two interceptions by Brees were bad throws to Jeremy Shockey. Colston's fumble in the third quarter took seven points off the board.

    Sure, the Saints took points away from the Rams with a red zone interception, but consistently losing the turnover battle will not keep a win streak alike.

  • Bush, Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas paced the Saints offense today with 150 yards on the ground. The Saints got another six from fullback Kyle Eckel, and then Robert Meachem and Marques Colston each had end-arounds, picking up 41 and 6 yards respectively. 203 yards on the ground total is the best output for this offense since week three in Buffalo.

  • Saints surrendered a 30-yard run to Steven Jackson on the opening drive but forced a punt from midfield. LSU product and Baton Rouge native Donnie Jones is one of the best punters in the NFL, but on his first attempt against the Saints he doinked a 21-yard punt out of bounds. He averaged 41 yards per kick on his next three punts.

  • The Saints' first drive got off to a good start with a big run by Reggie Bush on a toss for 16 yards that also knocked Rams LB Paris Lenon out of the game. But a good reaction by former Mr. Irrelevant LB Danny Vobora on a quick pass for Jeremy Shockey popped the ball in the air for S OJ Atogwe to pick it off. That pass is probably on Brees, as the ball grazed Vobora's back before Shockey had a chance to make the play.

    The Saints got the ball back right back; after a few good runs by Steven Jackson, replacement free safety Usama Young collected his first interception of the season in the end zone, and brought it out to the 22.

    Rams WR Keenan Burton, former SEC star at Kentucky, suffered a broken right leg on that play. The Rams only activated four wide receivers on the day. That translated into 26 attempts for 131 yards, the fourth straight running game to gash the Saints badly.

  • The Rams won the time of possession battle with 17:19 in the first half and 32:02 overall, the turnover battle 3-1, first downs 23-19, total yards 434-420, yards passing 298-223, and penalties with 4 to 6 for New Orleans.

    Both teams had 11 possession and the Saints scored on three of them, the Rams scored on four possession. The difference in this game came down to a big third down and 3 inside the Saints' red zone when Bulger's throwback pass to TE Randy McMichael was broken up by safety Roman Harper, and the Rams had to kick a field goal.

  • Following the Young interception, the Saints went on a methodical drive that must have been very frustrating for the Rams. The Saints converted four straight third downs on the arm of Drew Brees, and Reggie Bush punched it in with a draw up the middle, leaping high into the end zone over a defender that Marques Colston had leveled. That drive ate up 7:24 of the clock in the first and second quarters, Brees was 6/6 for 58 yards on the drive and only one of those completions was to a receiver.

  • The Saints got heavy doses of Steven Jackson in the first half. Bulger would take advantage of play action for a completion here or there, but otherwise it was Jackson, Jackson, Jackson.

  • Will Smith sacked and forced a fumble on Bulger in the second quarter, and guess who was there to recover the fumble? Steven Jackson.

    On the next play, Bulger hit Donnie Avery on a fade to the corner of the end zone on 3rd and 15. Randall Gay was badly beaten, alone deep with one-on-one coverage.

  • First play after the Rams' first touchdown - end around to a hard-charging WR Robert Meachem for a 41-yard gain. That drive was capped with another sparkling play by Reggie Bush, taking a shallow crossing pattern across the left pylon from 15 yards out. That capped a six-play, 72 yard drive that took 2:32 off the clock.

  • The Rams picked on Randall Gay, and Gay obliged. He allowed a touchdown over the top to Avery in the first quarter, fell down in coverage against WR Brandon Gibson for a 16-yard gain on 3rd and 7, and then barely contested Avery's fourth quarter touchdown.

  • The Saints burned all three timeouts during the Rams' final first half drive, hoping that the defense would hold and give Brees some time. Steve Jackson punched it in two yards out to cap a drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock.

  • Interesting game for Brees. At the end of the second half, Brees spiked it on third down, having apparently lost track of the downs. Brees argued briefly with Payton upon the decision to punt, and Payton dismissed the argument quickly by saying "it's fourth down!"

    Then at the end of the third quarter, he nonchalantly lead his team up to the line of scrimmage and was in shotgun formation as the final seconds of the quarter ticked off the clock. Uncharacteristic gaffes by Brees.

    Few complaints about his day passing, however. Both interceptions were poorly timed throws, but his fourth quarter touchdown to Meachem was gorgeous. Brees found Meachem from 27 yards out, dropping the pass between the back of the end zone and two Rams. That was a world class throw.

    Brees finished completing 18 of 26 passes for 223 yards, two touchdowns, to Bush and Meachem, and two interceptions. A third touchdown was fumbled just before the goal line by Marques Colston.

  • The 7-7 halftime tie lasted only 1:15 of game time. WR Courtney Roby finally cashed in on a long kickoff return, scoring on the second half's opening kickoff with a 97-yard return.

  • The Rams got the ball back and Bulger hit WR Brandon Gibson on a six yard quick stop. He shook free Tracy Porter, then Usama Young, before Roman Harper brought him down after a 20-yard gain. Porter injured his left knee when a diving Young leg-whipped him. Porter had to be carried off the field.

    That forced rookie Malcolm Jenkins into the starting lineup, with only CB Leigh Torrence left at cornerback, and a once deep and once fast secondary has been worn down to the bottom of its lineup, with one remaining healthy starter, strong safety Roman Harper. Jenkins and Gay are not in the same heat when it comes to the speed of Greer and Porter. The Saints also appeared to move Usama Young from free safety to cornerback during the game, with Malcolm Jenkins lining up deeper.

    Jenkins was beaten and unaware of the ball on a long pass with 25 seconds left, but luckily the ball hit Jenkins in the back.

  • Got to hand it to Marc Bulger for a big play in the third quarter. With Will Smith at his ankles, Bulger broke free got up and hit TE Daniel Fells for a 19-yard gain.

    The Saints stiffened on that drive, forcing a field goal from the Rams that made the score 21-17.

  • Marques Colston's third quarter fumble was brutal. A potential seven points was turned into a touchdown. Additionally, Colston was folded over when he landed on the back of his neck in the fall. Bush was in the back of the end zone but couldn't fall on the ball to prevent it from rolling out of bounds. The Saints forced a punt on the next possession.

  • Both teams exchanged fourth down stops in the fourth quarter. The Saints initially punted on fourth and seven, but a running into the kicker penalty put the offense back on the field. Brees tried to draw them offside, and called a timeout, then Kyle Eckel got his second carry of the day and couldn't convert.

    The Rams got the ball at their own 32, suffered a bad drop on a long-gainer by WR Danny Amendola, and then DE Will Smith stuffed Steven Jackson for a loss on fourth and one. The Saints went three and out after Chris Long pushed Jermon Bushrod into Brees for the sack, and ended up punting again. The whole exchange took nearly six minutes off the clock and resulted in no real ball movement as the Saints lead 28-17.

  • After having problems with covering onside kicks against the Falcons, the Saints did glowingly against the Rams today. An onside kick attempt with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter was caught and covered up by Marques Colston.

  • This game went down to the last play, as with a 5 point lead, the Saints were witness to a last gasp drive by Bulger, who with no timeouts, inexplicably went over the middle again and again, chewing up valuable time. The final play was snapped with :01 left on a running clock and ended with a jump ball incomplete in the back corner of the end zone.

  • Tracy Porter's injury appears to be the most serious and could be damaging to the Saints' title hopes this season. Hopefully the injury will not be season-ending, as his substitutes Gay, Jenkins and Torrence just do not measure up.

    The diagnosis on Porter's injury was unavailable at the end of the game.

    Bobby McCray also limped off the field but that appears to be only cramps.

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