AFR: Five takes from the tape, Saints vs. Patriots - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

After Further Review: Five takes from the tape, Saints vs. Patriots

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The Saints are 5-1 at the bye. And that's okay. In fact, it's pretty darn good.

It hurts right now because of the way they lost to New England. But in the grand scheme of things, the Saints will be better because of this game.

Here are my five takes from the tape.

1.) The Final 3:35

As I said Sunday in my post-game entry, the Saints simply gave Tom Brady too many chances to win this game. It's still amazing to me that within the final 3:35 of the game, the Patriots were able to get three separate possessions. And on the game-winning drive, Brady still had 1:13 left to play.

The Saints offense had six chances to get one first down and couldn't do it. By my count, those six plays netted four yards and killed just 1:13 off the clock.

Great players make great plays in big-time situations. That's what Brady did with his throw to Kenbrell Thompkins.

He had the ball last and made the Saints pay.

2.) Phantom Timeout

Sorry Saints fans, the Patriots only used three timeouts in the second half. The ‘fourth' timeout was simply a FOX error on screen. I was able to pinpoint where it exactly happened. With 3:14 left in the fourth quarter the Patriots had three timeouts and completed a pass to Michael Hoomanawanui. The Saints tackled him in bounds and with the clock ticking, the Patriots lined up for their next play.

The problem came when FOX, for whatever reason, thought a timeout was called and put a graphic in the top corner indicating so. But if you watch, the play the clock never stopped. The light for timeouts inaccurately showed the Patriots to have two left when they actually had three. It appeared the network didn't catch it until the next time the Patriots called a timeout at the 2:36 mark. After it was called, the network originally showed they had one left but then realized their error and added a second light back on. That's what most fans saw and thought there was some issue.

I've had a couple of people tell me the discrepancy came in the third quarter with the Saints inside the 20-yard line. When I watched the tape it was clear to me that Drew Brees called a timeout, not New England. Unless I'm completely missing something I thought it was pretty obvious on that one.

No one who was at the game thought there was a problem with timeouts. Coach Payton would have addressed it if there was one.

3.) Graham Slammed

Wow!

That's all I can say about Bill Belichick's plan to take out Jimmy Graham. The Patriots put Aqib Talib, their best cover cornerback, on him and had him jam Graham off the line. Graham was never able to effectively get off the jam.

It was abundantly clear the Saints game plan was heavy on Graham and when he was shutdown, they looked a little lost as to what to do in the first half.

To the Saints credit they found a way to adjust, but I don't think they believed the Patriots could completely take Graham out the way they did.

By the end of the half it appeared Graham was not only shut down but Talib was in his head. He wasn't same player the second half, even after Talib was injured.

The good news is not every team has Aqib Talib. But the Saints will face some talented corners (Richard Sherman) the rest of the season and I have to believe they will use this tape as reference of how to slow down Graham. The Saints must adjust.

4.) Dismal Officials

The officiating Sunday was horrendous and unfortunately the Saints were on the wrong end too many times.

The two most egregious penalties came in the second and fourth quarter. In the second quarter, the Saints were trying to draw an offsides penalty and appeared to have done so when the Patriots lineman came across the line. The officials (inaccurately) saw differently. The Saints were having success moving the ball on that drive and that five yards could have cost them at the very least a field goal.

The other came in the fourth when Brees clearly called a timeout as the play clock was nearing zero. One of two things should have happened on that play. Either it's a timeout or a penalty. Neither occurred and as we saw the Patriots intercepted the ball and eventually kicked a field goal. The only (weak) explanation I could come up with was that the umpire behind the play didn't see Brees throw his hands up and they didn't see the delay of game.

Also in the second quarter on a 2nd & 19, Stevan Ridley caught a pass and was taken down clearly a yard short of the first down. The referee awarded the first down without measuring and the Patriots were able to run a quick play afterward before the Saints could challenge.

Other questionable calls included a personal foul call on Malcolm Jenkins where it looked like hit the receiver with his shoulder, a holding call on Brian de la Puente just before the Saints final touchdown pass and of course on the final play of the game, Nate Solder clearly hooked Junior Galette. Holding should have been called but I'm not at all surprised it was not in that situation.

It certainly was not the officials' best effort Sunday and that was disappointing.

5.) Rookie Respect

Welcome to the show, Kenny Stills and Khiry Robinson. Both players stepped up big when the team desperately needed them too.

Robinson had a big touchdown and two big first down carries. His second one was the best when he broke a tackle and gained twenty yards. Robinson has made himself impossible to ignore and even when Mark Ingram returns, I don't see how the Saints can go back to keeping him inactive.

Stills showed why the Saints drafted him with his go-ahead touchdown catch. He got behind the corner and went up and got the ball. His two other catches resulted in first downs as well. Early on in the season Brees didn't quite have the chemistry with Stills. It appears they've found it now and I expect more big plays out of this combination.

Other Observations

-         The Saints offensive line played their best game of 2013. This unit has played well the last three weeks and it appears their early season struggles are behind them. Brees had a clean pocket for most of the game.

-         Rob Ryan played more three-man defensive lines than in any other game this season. The majority of their 83 defensive snaps came out of this alignment.

-         Ryan also continued last week's blitzing trend by the Saints defense. I counted 17 blitzes Sunday, with feast or famine results. Those blitzes produced three of the Saints' five sacks but it also gave up six first downs. 

-         The Saints offense struggled with three and outs Sunday. When you combine that with the Patriots no huddle attack you get, in my opinion the most telling stat of the game: total plays. The Patriots ran 83 plays to the Saints 63 for a plus-20 edge.

-         The run game was at its best on Sunday. But I still stand by my original take that the Saints don't run to win, they run to finish. There's a stark difference. Sunday's running was out of necessity. They weren't running the ball with the lead in the second half; they were doing it while trailing most of the game. It was one of the things that sparked their second half comeback. But in the end they couldn't put the game away on the ground. Their official rushing stats were 26 carries, 131 yards and a touchdown for an average of 5.0 yards per rush. Their ARS (adjusted run stat) was 32 touches for 187 yards, two touchdowns for an average of 5.8 yards per touch.

-         Drew Brees seemed to be off target all day against the Patriots. I counted nine passes that Brees usually makes where he missed badly. The biggest may have been his third quarter misfire to Nick Toon where he overthrew Toon at the goal line. Toon should have gone up with two hands where he may have had a better shot at coming down with it but it was just a bad throw by Brees.

-         Another player who's having a great contract year for the Saints is safety Malcolm Jenkins. He had 1.5 sacks on Sunday. For the season, Jenkins has 29 tackles (fourth on team), 2.5 sacks (third on team), an interception (tied for second on team) and two forced fumbles (first on team). This year Jenkins has become what the Saints envisioned him becoming when they took him in the first round in 2009.

Predictions

The Saints return from the bye week with two very winnable games then the schedule gets real with Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle during the third quarter of the season.

My final prediction for the season is 12-4 with the Saints winning the NFC South and in contention for home field advantage.

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