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Knowing the enemy – 5 Questions with Saints Gab

Here at Steelers Gab, we try to get to know the enemy of who we are playing Sunday. So with that, we present 5 questions with editor Sheletha Jones.

1. What has happened to this team and why have they struggled this season compared to last year?

That’s the million dollar question, Matt. But I will say this, turnovers and penalties have really plagued this usually disciplined team. There has been such a lack of focus by certain players that it almost doesn’t seem like the same team. Interceptions being returned for touchdowns are killing us. Couple that with the fact that Gregg Williams’ defense has become more conservative and isn’t creating turnovers (or more importantly, scoring off turnovers) to help the offense out. I’ll also add that for whatever reason, it seems like Sean Payton has completely thrown out his playbook and is trying to do something new. You hardly see any screen plays, which were staple plays last year, particularly in games where the run was limited. From where I sit, Payton and company have become so worried about trying to win differently than they did last year, that they’ve gotten too far away from what made them such a success in the first place–they’ve lost their identity. That’s much like what happened after the good run they had back in 2006 and opted to “bury” those successes. I see the same thing happening here except without the actual “funeral”. I’d like to see the Saints build on their successes rather than trying so hard to bury them all the time.

2. How surprised were you at the loss to Cleveland, and could it end up being a good loss at the end of the day?

I was very surprised by the loss. It wasn’t as if I expected them to just run all over Cleveland because I said in my pregame article I thought it was going to be another tough one. But I expected a better performance from the Saints, especially after the way they played in Tampa Bay. I don’t see how any loss can be a good one when a team is struggling the way the Saints are right now. And with the tough schedule they’re facing, losing these games that they should’ve won is going to make things just that much tougher for them down the stretch. I guess the only consolation is that it was an AFC loss, so it isn’t quite as devastating as if it had been an NFC team–yet. But it’s still one that could come back to haunt them. I hope not though.

3. Biggest issue you see going into Sunday against the Steelers and their #1 ranked defense

Well obviously they aren’t going to be able to run the ball–period. Payton is going to have to bring back the screen or something else to try to extend the run. In games where Drew Brees has had to throw because the run was limited, the Saints have not performed well offensively. Maybe they should try looking at the brilliant gameplan Mangini had on Sunday. That’s how you stay in it with a team you didn’t have a prayer of beating to start with.

4. The Saints have the 26th ranked run game, do you think Reggie Bush or Pierre Thomas will play, and if so, will either have a big impact?

Several reports say that Bush will play Sunday. I do know that he was cleared for practice. Thomas’ status is still up in the air. The return of Bush might have an impact (and I stress the word might) because teams never really know if he’s about to be an active player or just a decoy, so he does create some matchup problems that way. But there has been very little success by any team to run on that Steeler defense. I really don’t see that changing. I thought at the beginning of the year that the combination of Evans and Nicks would be the difference for whomever was running the ball, but even they haven’t been playing as well as expected. Plus, Payton seems to have gotten more pass-happy for some reason since last year. I don’t know why either. The Saints are not that type of team that can have the QB throwing the ball all day long. There simply has to be balance for them to be successful.

5. Final score prediction and why?

Ooh, I was so hoping you didn’t go there! I’ll say that depending on which Saints team takes the field on Sunday, the game will either be close or it will be a blowout. And when I say close I mean within a field goal or touchdown; by blowout I mean 17+points. I’ll be nice by predicting that the disciplined Saints team will come out ready to play. With that said, I can’t pick against the Steelers who are playing extremely good football right now. And to my Saints fans, please don’t get me wrong on this. I have faith that if the Saints bring their A game, they can keep this one close and could possibly pull an upset. But with a limited run game, this team will be forced to become one dimensional with Brees throwing all day long–that is if Payton opts not to employ the screen again to open things up. My prediction: Steelers 38–Saints 31. I say that with lots of love, Saints fans. But, you just never know. Remember–any given Sunday!

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



  1. The Tony

    October 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    wow this is the first time that another “Gab” writer picked against their own team

    • Sheletha Jones

      October 29, 2010 at 8:50 am

      No disrespect was intended, but I’m just trying to keep it real. I’ve seen other Saints writers pick against them, even in the SF game (which I thought at the time was ludicrous). But the team simply hasn’t been consistent this year. Does it mean that they can’t win Sunday? Of course not. I’m just saying that with their current level of play, the mountain becomes even tougher to climb.

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