The NFL regular season has come to a close in what has been one of the craziest seasons of all time. The Saints were able to clinch the #1 seed and home field advantage in the NFC. They did so by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16 in a very close game which would allow them to rest some starters in the final game against the Carolina Panthers. In this edition of Coach From The Couch, I will examine some moments from both games that caught my attention and give some feedback. First I will kick things off with the victory over the Steelers.
Too Early For This
Taysom Hill got the play call to throw it deep to Ted Ginn Jr. However, the ball was underthrown and picked off by Sean Davis. I like the play call but not in that situation where the team was driving and building momentum. If we were up two scores then it would be ok but not that early in a game with a lot on the line.
Not Once But Twice
Have to give credit to Thomas Morstead, who has to be one of the greatest punters of all time. He was able to down the Steelers at their own 8 yard line but a penalty was called to force a re-kick. So what does he do? He punts it out of bounds at their own 3 yard line. If that wasn’t Pro Bowl worthy, I don’t know what was.
We knew the Steelers would be coming in with a lot to play for but I did not expect the Saints defense to falter as much as they did. Whenever Pittsburgh went 5 wide, the Saints rarely had an answer. They allowed a wide open touchdown as well as a wide open 2-point conversion that tied the game at 14 a piece. Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster were both able to get over 100 yards each and make big plays late in the game. Not the performance we expected after several weeks of not allowing second half points but they can’t dwell on it.
Nowhere To Run
Neither team was able to get their run game going at any point in this matchup. The Steelers were once again without James Conner and it should with Ben Roethlisberger having to throw 50 passes. The Saints were in the same boat as they got away from the run game at times but even so could not generate much yardage when trying to do so. Credit has to go to both defenses knowing how stingy they had been against the run this season.
Not How You Start But How You Finish
Even with the Saints’ defensive struggles, they were able to showcase why they have been so dangerous in recent weeks. They forced a huge turnover when the Steelers were driving with the lead and forced the game sealing fumble when they were driving to at least tie the game. This defense may give up some yards and points but they know how to make plays happen when they matter the most.
In a game that did not matter for each team, the atmosphere was of a preseason game so you cannot take much away from it. There were a few players that caught my eye and should be evaluated with future expectations.
It was Teddy Time as Drew Brees was inactive and once again set the single season completion percentage record. Bridgewater got his first start in almost three years and show some good and bad throughout the game. Knowing that he was playing behind a second string offensive line with both tackles being signed this week, he gets some slack for his performance. Nonetheless, he showed some good passes, a few that were high and outside but most impressive for me was his mobility to extend plays and rush for yards. He was able to connect with Tre’Quan Smith for a touchdown and also threw an interception that was undercut by the defender. Overall, it was an ok performance for not having game action in a long time. Hopefully he stays with the Saints and can potentially be the future after Brees.
Washington has been the 3rd running back all season but has never been a factor in the offense. But when his number has been called this year, he has shown some good flashes. He was able to get over 100 yards on just 11 carries, all of which came in the second half. This could be a potential move to get him more involved in the playoffs or next season if he decides to re-sign since Boston Scott was signed by the Eagles a few weeks ago. Only time will tell with this action.
I would say that trading those two first round picks were worth trading up for Davenport. Every time I watched him in this game, he was constantly getting pressure to force the quarterback out of the pocket. He was able to get half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. This kid is still very raw but he has been impressive in spot duty all season. I would love to see this translate into the playoffs and have him become the X-Factor in a close game.
In a game that did not matter from a team perspective, it definitely mattered for Ken Crawley who has not seen a lot of action since the Eli Apple trade. You would think knowing this is a contract year for him and practically an audition for the rest of the league, he would go out there and put up his best effort. Sadly, that was not the case as he showed the reasons why he was benched. He got called for a pass interference and never turned his head around. He was able to make up for it later in the drive with a very nice pass breakup. However, he made a horrible foul when the defense got a big stop on third down but was called for a hold that extended the drive and led to a field goal. When you get the opportunity to play, you have to show out and give your best. For Crawley, he will have to make some major adjustments to his game to garner any interest in the offseason.