Ever’body gotta calm down ’bout Teddy Bridgewater. This is all going to work according to plan.
In 1990, the New York Giants, then coached by Bill Parcells, who later actually gave birth to Saints HC Sean Payton (you had to be there, and my paw-paw was actually in the delivery room, but look at some of those old pictures of Parcells’s belly), were in a late-season dogfight in the NFC for playoff advantage with the 49ers and Bears, while the Bills, Chiefs and Raiders were scrambling for AFC supremacy.
In week 14, in mid-game the 11-2 Giants lose starting (and borderline HOF) QB Phil Simms to injury for the season, and in comes 29-year-old journeyman backup Jeff Hostetler, with two career starts and a career passer rating of AAACCKK. The Giants lose that game to the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills, and while the Hostetler Giants eked out a 24-21 win against the 5-11 Cardinals and a 13-10 win against the 1-15 Patriots to finish the season and secure the #2 seed in the NFC heading into the playoffs, to say that Giants fans were feeling a tad adrift is an understatement.
History knows the rest. The Giants beat the Bears soundly in round one of the playoffs, went to SF and beat the Montana 49ers 15-13 with five field goals (he’s been dead for years, and I still can’t stand Bill Walsh), and then won the Super Bowl over the heavily-favored Bills with great defense, Hostetler, OJ Anderson and Wide Right.
Here were the passing and rushing yards for the Giants in the last two regular season games and the three playoff wins:
Yes, this is 1990, not 2019, with a million rule changes in favor of the passing game since then….but it’s still football. And a perfect example of world-champion game management. In those last five games, Hostetler had no turnovers and only seven sacks (remember, different era, that’s a good number for sacks allowed).
They made sure they stayed in every game, and their coaches and best players damn well knew how to finish. And there was a ring at the end of it.
The 2019 Saints, too, have one of the top 2-3 defenses in the league. We don’t have a big two-back tandem like Rodney Hampton and OJ Anderson, but we do have Alvin Kamara and a strong OL, and meanwhile Michael Thomas is light years ahead of what Mark Ingram Sr. was. We also have comparable punters (Sean Landeta was the Thomas Morstead of his era), and both teams had good kickers, and….you don’t think Sean Payton is dying to show Parcells what he can do here?
We don’t need Teddy to be a top 10 quarterback and go on a Super Bowl run. We need him to be Teddy Hostetler for a 5-6 game run. Take sacks if you must but don’t fumble. Incompletes are better than interceptions. Punts are fine. Any drive that starts inside our 30 and gets us a field goal is fine. We have four very winnable games in the next four weeks before the bye (home vs. Tampa, @ Jacksonville, @ Chicago, home vs. Arizona) with a chance, a chance, to be 7-1, 6-2 at the worst, at the halfway mark and a perfectly-timed bye week. And we’ve seen the bottom of LA’s bag of tricks, and all we need is a no. 2 seed.
If you don’t think Payton’s channeling that Parcells font of wisdom the next four weeks, go find a message board and have at it, but otherwise get that shit outta here.
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Kudos to Saints DC Dennis Allen in the win over the Cowboys. The GOAT rightly had him in the “On The Spot” slot last week, and he came through like a boss.
There was a lot of Bill Belichick “don’t let their best player beat you” in the game plan, which meant suffocate RB Zeke Elliott at all costs, and take their one good WR (Amari Cooper) completely out of the game. And it worked perfectly: Elliott had his third-lowest total yards in 44 games as a pro, and Cooper was worse than invisible: if you account the offensive PI calls against him, he had 10 targets with five catches for a net 28 yards. That’s 2.8 yards a pass play. They may as well have called 10 read options.
Now, it helps to have the players that can execute for you (LOOMMISSSS!) and to face a mirror-image team (one great RB, one great WR, and a collection of supporting skill position players you found at a Home Depot that morning), but damn our defense looked well-coached on Sunday night.
And this was just balls: on the last play of the game, the Cowboys Fail Mary, they had spiked the ball and were lining up with 0:02 left, and we called time out. While it may be counterintuitive, really, all they can do is heave it, and meanwhile we realigned the defense to set up the slot blitz that blew up the play and ended the game. That’s just great coaching, because from all the timing of the TO call, etc., it sure looked like we had a specific plan, pre-game, to stop a hail mary play, and the presence of mind to call a time out, and set it up, and pull it off, and still the Cowboys never saw it coming. Another week of outcoaching the opposition.
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Just a word on the beastly pass rush. Although there was only the one sack, the defensive pass game plan was perfectly drawn and executed. Now particularly with DTs Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata back, this pass rush is just sick, as DE Cam Jordan is…Cam Jordan, and DE Marcus Davenport continues to improve every game. UDFA DT Shy Tuttle is making himself felt, and FA Malcom Brown (from New England) is not doing what fat guys who sign new contracts generally do – he’s actually playing like he wants to prove Bill Belichick should have paid him instead.
[Side note: Brown, who took the place of the jettisoned former Saint DT Tyeler Davison, had two tackles for loss Sunday night, which is as many as Davison had all last season. Meanwhile, Davison, who would not have made this roster, signed a FA contract and has two starts and has played 60%+ of the snaps at DT for….the Falcons. Heh, heh.]
Normally, sacks are the biggest stat for a pass rush, but more important this week was Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s 73.2 passer rating, no TDs and exactly one rush for seven yards. (Career-wise, he runs for about 3-4 times for 20+ yards and two first downs a game, and six TDs a year.) Step one was always to keep Elliott in check and stop the run, but along the way the Saints were able to (1) generate substantial pressure with just a four-man and often a three-man rush, (2) have tremendous rush discipline to maintain rush lanes and keep Prescott from scrambling either for first downs or to create coverage breakdowns, and (3) keep LBs and corners in coverage.
In Prescott’s first three games this year he had rushed 11 times for 88 yards and a TD. QBs who run like that often convert first downs and those can be back-breakers mentally. Instead, we bet that we didn’t need the sacks, but that if we took away Elliott and just made Prescott stay in the pocket with just a titch of pressure and be more than a one- or two-read QB, they’d stall in their tracks.
In the immortal word of Pee-Wee Herman: AAAUUUUUPPPP.
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Shout-out: Jammy. The rest of you will know soon enough.
RIP: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. What we wouldn’t give to have him among us right now.