Five wins and five losses may not seem like much and under normal circumstances it may even be a disappointment. For the New Orleans Saints however being able to reach the .500 mark is a pretty solid accomplishment after going the entire opening month without a win.
Sunday’s 38-17 win over Oakland was more resembling of the team many members in the media, fans and members of the team thought we’d see. The offense was a one two punch. Pass. Run. Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw it 28 times. Running backs Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas combined for 134 yard rushing. That is what you call balance. Defensively, players were flying around to the ball, being opportunistic with two interceptions with one being returned for a touchdown. The defensive line is getting pressure now and picked up three sacks Sunday, bringing the total up to 11 sacks in the last three games.
So how did this all happen? How did a team that blew an 18-point lead to Kansas City (1-9 by the way), manage to look now like a team that is as good as any in the NFC? The Saints will tell you that it’s happened because the locker room managed to stay together and continue to work hard.
“We made a concerted effort to bring guys in here that have character and integrity that winning was important to and had the innate ability to put the team above their own personal goals.,” Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt explains. “When you have a group of guys that are like that, there are a lot of guys in this locker room that have played together for five, six and a half years. There’s a true accountability to each other in that locker room. When you’re able to get the right people, each and every year to go on this journey, with that gives you a pretty good chance.”
There are still six games left in the season and nothing has been clinched or accomplished as of yet by the 2012 Saints but clearly it is a team that feels, felt that if they could just climb out of that 0-4 hole then the rest of the league better watch out.
“It’s been a long grind, especially starting 0-4, but we never pointed fingers,” safety Roman Harper says. “We stuck together as a locker room and as a team, and we knew that we could achieve great things if we just stuck together, continue this grind and long season together. We are right back where we need to be, at .500, and we got to continue to grind and we will be in the playoff race.”
“Nobody thought we were going to get back to .500. Nothing’s going to change,” says left tackle Jermon Bushrod. “We’re going to go into each week with the same mentality. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to try to find a way to win more. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to be any other place than with these guys here, sitting at 5-5.”
The key now is to keep the momentum going and still play with the determination that has the Saints playing winning football.
“We go out now, we practice the right way, we prepare the right way,” says linebacker Jonathan Vilma. “We watch film. We do all the little things that we need to do to find ways to win games. I think we are doing a good job of that now.”
The Saints return to practice on Wednesday.
LEFT MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO
It took place back in January of this year but to many Saints fans the 36-32 loss in San Francisco in the second round of last season’s playoffs still stings. Five turnovers by the Saints put the team in a big hole on the road, still they managed to climb out of it and take a 32-39 lead with 1:37 to play in the game.
49ers quarterback Alex Smith would engineer a game-winning touchdown drive however culminating in a 14-yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis with 9 seconds to play.
“They eliminated us in the playoffs last year. At the end of that game, our hats were off to them. They won 15 games,” Vitt reflected on Monday. “Take a look at them statistically as to where they were a year ago when they beat us. I had never seen numbers like that in how they stopped the running game and the way they were forcing turnovers. I think at the time they were like 30. Special teams were ranked first in the National Football League. We ran into a buzzsaw last year and they beat us. This is a new season. This is a new set of challenges. This is a new week and this is our next opponent.”
San Francisco takes on the Bears on Monday Night Football without starter Alex Smith who suffered a concussion in the game prior to Monday night. The 49ers are in first place of the NFC West Division.
Right tackle Charles Brown told reporters in the locker room following the game on Sunday that he likely injured his right MCL ligament in his knee. Brown left the locker room in crutches and on Monday assistant head coach Joe Vitt said he was still being evaluated.
Asked if the team would be looking to bring in lineman due to the injury the response was, ““Yes, once we get the evaluation.” Vitt said. “We usually bring a group of athletes in on Tuesday and look at them and see if they can help our football team. We’re waiting for the evaluation to see where that is.”
Wednesday is the first day teams are required to submit an injury report into the league and so we should get a better indication about the extent of Brown's injury then.