Talk about a coincidence. We have a sportswriter that tried out as a kicker for the Denver Broncos on last week's Scuttlecasts and how he was called "Martin Grammatica's dad" by Denver players...and look who ended up with the fate of the game on his toe.
Though it didn't have to be so. Coach Sean Payton should pull his best Tony D'Amato, because despite the 502 total yards, this game was decided by a matter of inches. They needed just inches to score a touchdown at the end of the half and just inches more to get a first down in the fourth. They didn't. As a result, Martin Grammatica missed two field goals by inches.
But, as always, let's look first at what went right this game:
Drew Brees. Drew Brees. Drew Brees. Oh and this other thing. I think his name is Drew Brees. The man was 39-of-48 for 421 yards, a touchdown and a 110.2 passer rating. He was making throws all over the field and nine different players had at least two catches for the Saints. It is not that far-fetched to think that Drew Brees is in the top-three when it comes to quarterbacks in the NFL this season. Unfortunately, that doesn't change the fact that Brees still has never won in Denver.
Reggie Bush. Reggie Bush. Reggie Bu-OK, you get the idea. Doubters and those who used to say "Reggie Bust" are few and far between nowadays. Though losing is always painful, Saints fans can take solace in the fact that it does seem that they have the goods on offense to compete with anyone in the league. Ignoring that atrocious first-quarter, Reggie Bush was nothing short of spectacular yesterday. He had 158 yards from scrimmage plus one receiving touchdown and one rushing touchdown. Yet again, he was multi-dimensional and he couldn't be stopped. So why wasn't he in during all those short-yardage situations?
The Saints defense was not as bad it the stat book would have you think. Considering one of the Bronco's TD's came off a fumble recovery, they only let up 17 points after the first quarter. Also, when you consider the Mike McKenzie interception led to a touchdown, that the defense scored a safety and the Jason David fumble recovery put this team in a position to win at the end, it's hard to blame the defense for this one.
After being down 21-3 to open the game, the Saints rallied back and out-scored the Broncos 29-10 for two and a half quarters. Not too shabby.
As always, some video evidence of everything I just said:
And now onto the bad:
Like I said before, this game came down to just mere inches. The Saints had two opportunities within three feet to score at the end of the first half and it resulted in a Drew Brees fumble and Pierre Thomas getting stuffed. The Saints ended up getting a safety on the next play, but when the offense marched down field to get one more field goal at the half, Martin Grammatica missed by less than a foot.
On the flip side, the Broncos seemed to make all the plays the Saints could not. Jay Cutler's touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall being so close that the refs on the field called in incomplete before a challenge proved that he did get his feet inbounds. Also, if you take a second look at that Reggie Bush fumble and you'll notice he caused it himself after his arm collided with the Denver player's helmet.
20. That's the number of points the Saints left on the field in Denver. That includes the failed goal-line stand, both of Martin Grammatica's field goals and the Brees-to-Bush touchdown that was called back on a penalty. Suddenly that last missed field goal doesn't seem so huge.
The video evidence:
So what can you take away from this game? Well as much as Saints fans may want to blame the kicker (and boy, are there a lot of people putting it on him), I'd argue that the Saints should never have been in the position to win the game at that point in time. No, they should've won that game long before that. Say Drew Brees doesn't fumble that snap at the goal line and gets in for a touchdown. Or say he still fumbles but Sean Payton decides to kick a field goal on fourth down. Then the Saints would've tied the Broncos on their last touchdown with an extra point, not a two-point conversion.
Then there's the biggest question is why Pierre Thomas got the call on so many short yardage plays. There were the two plays at the goal line where he was stuffed at the end of the first half and, of course, the failed third-down conversion that left the Saints one yard short of a made field goal. Why was Deuce McCallister watching the whole time? Why not have Reggie Bush, who's proven to have a nose for the end zone, have a crack once or twice?