Saints final report card — 2012: Bounty suspensions, bad defense

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(US Presswire)

Interim coach No. 1 Aaron Kromer insisted nothing had changed from a year ago in the week before the ’ season opener, saying practices and meetings and everything else were exactly the same as they had been under suspended coach Sean Payton. It took about one quarter of the first game against Washington to prove otherwise. Without Payton, who missed the year because of his bounty-related suspension, the Saints were rudderless at key moments under Kromer and interim coach No. 2 Joe Vitt, who returned from his own bounty suspension after six games. And they were utterly helpless on defense. That’s how a 13-3 team in 2011 turned into a 7-9 team in 2012.

Although the Saints finished third in yards and points, they were nowhere near as brilliant as in 2012, when they shattered the record for total yards and passing yards. The only significant player loss was All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, who left for Tampa Bay. But free-agent pickup was a capable replacement. The problem was execution rather than personnel. , nearly flawless a yeas they need to improve their aerial game in attack.Victor Lindelof managed to head home in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, but Solskjaer acknowledges they should be doing better.With players like Harry Maguire (194cm), Nemanja Matic (194cm), Scotr ago, had some bad outings, including a disastrous five-interception performance at Atlanta, two killer pick-6s against San Francisco and another terrible pick-6 at Carolina. , who had the second-highest p Guardiola insists Liverpool can be caught – and not just by his own team.Chelsea are one place above Manchester City after 12 games of the season ahead of their clash with the Premier League champions at the Etihad on Saturday evening.But even thouyardage total for a TE in NFL history last year, was bothered by a bad wrist all season and led the league in dropped passes. RB , incredibly dynamic as a runner, receiver and kick returner in 2011, dropped off considerably. The passing game was as prolific as ever, but the Saints weren’t as consistent. They finished fourth in third-down conversions percentage at 44 percent, which sounds good until you compare it to their record-setting 56.7 rate a year ago.

Granted, the defense was not as bad as suggested by the NFL-record 7,042 yards it allowed. Tennessee actually allowed more points per game (29.4) than New Orleans (28.4). Still, the Saints were shockingly awful early in the year while adjusting to new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme, and just winish is within their grasp.United are at high-flying Sheffield United today.Despite being off the top-four pace, Solskjaer hasn’t given up on the Champions League.“I don’t agree the top four won’t change,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves in a diffhen they finally appeared to be comfortable at the end of year, they allowed two TDs in the final 3:35 of regulation to Dallas and were shredded for 530 yards by Carolina. Not good. Also not good: the 200-plus rushing yards they allowed to Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles and Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams, or the fact they allowed season-high point totals to Washington, Kansas City, the New York Giants and Carolina. Payton needs to determine how much of the problem was a lack of  playmakers and speed –legitimate issues — and how much was Spagnuolo being a bad fit.

and the coverage unit deserve an A for almost breaking the NFL record for net punting, but the Saints were average everywhere else and had an epic collapse in kickoff coverage against the Giants, costing them a pivotal late-season game. Kicker put up solid numbers (18 of 22 overall, 3 of 4 from 50-plus), but he had few significant opportunities for an offense that either scored touchdowns or went nowhere. Sproles, a tremendous kickoff and punt returner a year ago, was mediocre in both departments, losing his kickoff returning duties to rookie after a hand injury against the Broncos. Although Sproles and Cadet averaged more than 26 yards on kickoff returns, those numbers were misleading because they regular ran kicks out from deep in the end zone.

The entire staff was put in an unprecedented situation with Payton’s enforced absence. The Saints were down two coaches (Payton and linebackers coach Vitt) for the first six games and one coach for all 16. The coaches clearly thought they had a better handle on it entering the year than they actually did, but after the dismal 0-4 start, the team went 7-5 with a nice home win against Atlanta. Kromer and the assistants kept the Saints from splintering early, and Vitt added a needed dose of energy when he returned. With the defensive issues, the season easily could have spiraled out of control into a 4-12 flop. That it didn’t says something about the togetherness Vitt and company instilled in trying circumstances. The coaching was not good enough to get the Saints to the playoffs, but it could have been worse.

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