What's Wrong with the Saints?
It may seem like a strange question to ask at this point in the season. However, when you’re the defending Super Bowl champions and have yet to win a game in convincing fashion some people start to wonder.
Last season the Saints exploded out of the gate. The offense scored 40 or more in four of the first six games and 30 or more in nine of their first 12. Through four games this season the offense has only scored 79 points. Last season they scored 93 in the first two.
Luckily the defense has come up big and kept the Saints in the win column despite poor offensive output. In their only loss, they still had a chance to win -- but missed a field goal attempt in overtime.
In all, New Orleans has won by five twice and by two. Of the four games they have played, only the Vikings were expected to be any good, and they looked nothing like the dominant team they were last season. For some reason the team is struggling to get it done against some of the lesser quality teams in the NFL.
Going forward, the Saints must put some more points on the board if they are going to have a chance at defending their title. Losing Reggie Bush does hurt, but in the first four games last season he was not a significant factor so he cannot be the missing link.
The biggest change is clear—the team is simply not running the ball. In 2009 they averaged 131.6 yards on the ground, good enough for sixth in the league. So far in 2010 they are only doing about half of that (73.2 yards a game; 30th in the league).
Mike Bell was the second leading rusher on the team last year with 654 yards (behind Pierre Thomas who had 793) and had the most carries. He is now with the Philadelphia Eagles. Rookie Christopher Ivory looked good in the pre-season, but did not play the first two games. Against Carolina last week he ran the ball 12 times for 67 yards. Ladell Betts added another 47 on the ground in 13 carries to give the Saints their first game with more than 100 yards on the ground.
Indianapolis is proof that wining can be done without a running game, but it was the Saints, their incredible passing game and a good running game that won it all last season. At least at this point they still have time to make whatever corrections that are needed.