From the Saints press.....
Mike Triplett, The New Orleans Times Picayune, published 17 September 2007|
This probably doesn't come as much comfort to the mystified and mortified Saints fan base, but you can at least rest assured that you're not alone.
The Saints are just as surprised as you that they're 0-2 for the first time since 1997, with one of the league's most anemic offenses, one of the league's most penetrable defenses and one of the league's shakiest special teams units.
Never once did it cross their minds that they could be outscored by a combined 48 points in their first two games. Their expectations were just as high as yours heading into the 2007 season.
And maybe that's part of the problem, quarterback Drew Brees said after a stunning 31-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Maybe the Saints were just "expecting things to happen, expecting big plays to happen."
"We know how good we can be as an offense. We know how good we were last year. And coming into this year, we felt like we were even better. But maybe we were all just feeling like we had it figured out, and obviously we hadn't," Brees said after completing 26 of 44 passes for 260 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
"We're used to going out there and making a lot of plays. But we have to allow those plays to come to us. We have to just do what we've been coached to do, take it one play at a time, not try and force anything, and those plays will happen. You do the right thing long enough, good things will happen to you. And I think unfortunately we're trying to maybe force things right now."
The best the Saints have finished after an 0-2 start is 8-8 -- in 1979 and 1990.
When asked if he had an explanation for the offensive woes, Saints Coach Sean Payton was at a loss.
"I wish I did. I wish I did," he said, more rational than raging in his postgame press conference. "You know, I wish I had something specific that I can say. The first thing I know is you can't turn the football over, though. I mean, you can't. It starts with that. That won't change 10 years from now. You turn the football over, you get one less possession, they get one more, field position changes, etc."
The Saints turned the ball over twice Sunday -- a fumble by Deuce McAllister in the first quarter with the game scoreless, and Brees' interception in the third quarter. Both times, Tampa Bay responded with a touchdown drive.
Fellow tailback Reggie Bush also fumbled twice in the first half, but he recovered one of them and Saints tight end Eric Johnson recovered the other.
Still, it seemed like the mistakes were contagious as the Saints' offense continued to sabotage itself with dropped passes, errant throws, missed blocks, penalties and another missed field-goal attempt.
"If you want to be quote-unquote the 'No. 1 offense,' you've got to put the work in," said McAllister, who gained 49 yards on 10 carries. "That was last year. We're 0-2 (this year). That's what we have to look at. The numbers don't lie. You can either change it and deal with it, or you're going to get your butt burned every week."
The second game of the Saints' season was awfully reminiscent of the first -- a 41-10 loss at Indianapolis.
It would have felt like the movie "Groundhog Day," except that it came on a scorching late-summer afternoon, with the on-field temperature pushing toward 120 degrees.
Once again, the Saints' defense played OK at times -- forcing five punts on the Buccaneers' first nine possessions. But they were put in too many precarious positions and broke down too often.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia needed just 10 completions on 16 attempts to bury the Saints. Receiver Joey Galloway -- a longtime Saints nemesis -- caught four of those passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Tailback Carnell Williams, who ran for 61 yards, scored the other two touchdowns on 1-yard plunges.
Late in the third quarter, Tampa Bay led 28-0. It might as well have been 100-0.
By the time the Saints' offense finally scored its first touchdown of the season -- a 1-yard run by fullback Mike Karney in the final minute of the third quarter -- it was way too little and way too late.
"I'm concerned defensively, offensively and on special teams," Payton said. "We've lost the first two games of the season, and it hasn't been pretty."
Bush, who gained 27 yards rushing on 10 carries and caught six passes for 43 yards, said he hasn't been impatient like he was early last year.
But he, too, couldn't put his finger on what has been holding him and the rest of the Saints' offense back.
"Maybe (we're pressing), maybe not. I just know that we're not playing like ourselves," he said. "And we're really putting pressure on our defense by not scoring points."
One thing nobody seemed to do in the Saints' locker room was panic.
They have 14 games left this season -- beginning with their Superdome debut next Monday night against Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans. And they're just one game back in the NFC South standings, where no team is undefeated through two weeks.
"I feel like we've got the right group of people, and that's the most encouraging thing about where we're at right now," Brees said. "Yeah, we're very disappointed. We're sitting here at 0-2, neither of these games have been very close, we've played terrible. But we have the right group of people and the guys who can fix this thing.
And we will fix it. We will get back on track."