Bernie Bits 11-11-07
The Sunday Sass
By Bernie Miklasz
NEW ORLEANS — Another serving of Sunday Sass:
Saints DE Charles Grant said earlier this week that the Saints defense was challenging N.O. offense to score 40 points on their former head coach, Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Right now the Rams are up 34-7, on the way to winning 37-29, and as I type this the Saints are running around in circles, unable to stop anything. So perhaps Grant should have spent more time worrying about the results on his side of the ball. The Saints were cocky all week. Not sure why a 4-4 team (coming in) would take any opponent for granted. Even the previously winless Rams. But it’s obvious that the Saints felt they had this one locked up after taking an early 7-0 lead.
I really don’t understand why is Haslett despised in New Orleans so much. He was the first coach to lead the futile (until recently) franchise to a playoff victory. He had a winning record as HC through five years and then Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and the Saints were displaced, and the situation rapidly deteriorated. Haslett brought some good, entertaining pro football to a city that hasn’t experienced much of it. Haslett was able to smile a bit as he walked off the floor of the Superdome today following the Rams’ upset win over the Saints.
After the game, a humble Haslett spoke to reporters (usually Rams assistants are unavailable after games) and was clearly emotional as he discussed returning to Nawlins. “This is where my kids call home, this is where they grew up,” Haslett said. He talked about the emotional ups and downs of the week and said he never wanted to return to New Orleans, because his heart was still hanging heavy after Katrina, and because of the sadness of being fired. Haslett’s wife, Beth, couldn’t bring herself to make the trip; it was too difficult for her. “But she probably wishes she was here now,” Haslett said after the Rams’ win.
The Rams started three “street” free agents on the offensive line today against the Saints. They held up very well, considering, according to HC Scott Linehan, “some of these guys don’t even know each other yet.” Marc Bulger got off to a super start. He had zip on the ball, got rid of it quickly and is playing with a renewed sense of determination and purpose.
After a sizzling Bulger completed 27 of 33 passes for 302 yards, I asked Linehan: was Bulger’s improved performance in Sunday’s game a reflection of improved health? “I think it was just improved play,” he said. Linehan added that it was up to everyone to improve, including the coaches, after that hideous 0-8 start.
I love the city of New Orleans and its people. After arriving late Saturday morning I spent about two or three hours driving around in my first visit here since Katrina. Everything is slowly making a comeback, including the spirit of NOLA’s gregarious citizens. But there’s an emptiness here, with neighborhoods and streets that don’t quite look right, feel right, seem right. The F.E.M.A trailers still dot the landscape, a symbolic reminder of the devastation. Much progress has been made, but still, the heart aches…
Haslett’s strategy: on passing downs he often went with a three-man rush, and used LB Will Witherspoon as the rush end. That ploy blew up an early Saints’ drive, after the long kickoff return. The Saints were caught flat-footed by Haslett’s tactics in the first half, and into the third quarter. Two other Haslett blitzes forced INTs that led to 10 first-half Rams points. The Saints were confused. Haslett turned up the aggression in this game – something he’s needed to do with this defense this season. The Rams defense has played hard for him all year, but the Rams had to take more gambles, and stir it up. That’s what they did for three quarters Sunday.
Unfortunately, Haslett stopped blitzing once the Rams went up 34-7, and the Saints were able to move comfortably in the fourth quarter to make the final score deceivingly close (37-29). The Rams should never back off. Haslett said the Saints’ change in pass protection was the reason why he switched up.
Reggie Bush: my choice for captain of the NFL’s All Overrated Team. He doesn’t run well between the tackles and doesn’t pass protect. He’ll make a dazzling play here and there, and ESPN will show it 500 times in 24 hours, but what the world wide leaders of hype don’t show you are the many holes in Bush’s game. Anyone who likens Bush to Marshall Faulk can’t be feeling well. Bush can’t carry Faulk’s Nike swoosh, at least not yet. Maybe some day.
Sean Payton, the Saints’ vastly overhyped head coach, got aced by Linehan and Haslett. They completely outcoached Payton. Just embarrassed him. As I type this it’s 34-7 Rams and Payton is absolutely clueless on the sideline. His decision to go for it on 4th and 1 in the third quarter made little sense, as did the decision to hand the ball to Bush for an inside run. It took Payton and his staff three quarters to figure out what Haslett was doing on defense. And the Saints’ defensive coaches were apparently asleep for three hours. Payton has a 4-5 record with one of the most talented teams in the league. He’s won three more games than Linehan this season. That ain’t saying much.
An example of the Saints’ coaching incompetence: On the first carry of the day, RB Aaron Stecker gained 13 yards. His next carry didn’t come until five minutes before halftime, and he gained 11 yards. Two carries, 24 yards. And then Stecker didn’t touch the ball again until his 2-yard run for a TD with 2:10 left in the game. They kept giving the ball to Reggie Bush, who did nothing.
Uh, so why did New Orleans cut Antonio Pittman — and after drafting him in the fourth round? Nice run (43 yards) by the Rams rookie RB against the team that dissed him.
The NFL officiating crew led by Scott Green which worked Sunday’s game in New Orleans: I hope they’ve been better than this in the other games they’ve called this season. Wow, was this one a stinker. The word “bumbling” comes to mind.
Mike Martz vs. Kurt Warner in the late Sunday afternoon game … who you got?
I’ve concluded that the 2007 Rams were cursed by Howard Balzer singing “God Bless America” before the first preseason game at The Ed. Richie Incognito got hurt after that, and that set off a cruel run of injuries.
Let’s see: 27 of 33 for 302 yards passing, 133 yards rushing, 409 yards overall, eight of 13 on third-down conversions, and a time of possession of 39:42. That’s what the Rams did at New Orleans. This pretty much shoots down the theory that you can’t play well or win with a battered offensive line.
To update a stat that Bill Coats offered the other day in his “Around the Horns” blog: Torry Holt’s numbers are surprisingly vibrant, considering that he’s been playing on a sore knee and in a troubled offense. Sunday in New Orleans, Holt caught 8 passes for 124 yards. He’s on pace to finish the season with 96 catches for 1,244 yards. Quite surprising, because the perception is that Holt is struggling, slowing down, all of that.
Miami lost again Sunday, to fall to 0-9 … right now the first pick in the 2008 draft belongs to the Dolphins.
That’s all today for my Bernie Bits on Steroids…. have a nice evening.
Re: Bernie Bits 11-11-07
"Let’s see: 27 of 33 for 302 yards passing, 133 yards rushing, 409 yards overall, eight of 13 on third-down conversions, and a time of possession of 39:42. That’s what the Rams did at New Orleans. This pretty much shoots down the theory that you can’t play well or win with a battered offensive line."
Might it be that the offensive line played better this week with extra time to prepare?
Could it also be that we had a full complement of skill players back together?
Quite how does a single game, albeit a good one, possibly detract from the evidence of the first nine games? Lets ask Bulger how he feels about the importance of a healthy line.
Re: Bernie Bits 11-11-07
dear god, the sky is falling ............. Bernie the Dolt is quoting figures ??????
ah well ...... go figure ;)
Re: Bernie Bits 11-11-07