Saints not at their best against reigning champion

Ed Daniels    Saints head coach Sean Payton has quoted his mentor, former Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells, many times.
    One of his favorites is, “Each week in this league, it is either a catastrophe or a carnival.”
    And, this week, the former is the mindset of New Orleans football fans.
    So, what happened to the Saints in a 42-34 loss to the Packers?
    Yes, safety Roman Harper was a step slow in pass coverage. I have been asked several times why the Saints re-signed Harper to a big contract? The answer is because in Gregg Williams’ scheme, Harper is effective as a sure tackler in the box and a blitzer.
    Is cornerback Patrick Robinson a bust as a first-round draft pick? The answer is, it is way too early to tell. On more than one occasion, Robinson was beaten on precision back-shoulder throws by Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
    Is defensive tackle Shaun Rogers a bust? He did not play well against Green Bay, but it is crazy to try and make that evaluation after four quarters on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs.
    Rogers wasn’t the only Saint who was off his game.
    Payton clearly did not have his best outing. He botched a pair of short-yardage calls.
    Late in the third quarter, on fourth-and-inches from the Green Bay 7, Payton should have run the football.
    At the Green Bay 1-yard line, with no time on the clock after a Packer penalty, Payton should have put the ball in Drew Brees’ hands and thrown a play-action pass. Handing the ball to rookie running back Mark Ingram with a full yard to make should not have been Payton’s first option.
    But, here’s the flipside of an eight-point loss.
    Without their best pass rusher (defensive end Will Smith) and without one of Drew Brees’ favorite receivers (wide out Lance Moore), the Saints came within a yard of scoring and having a chance to go for a two-point conversion that could have sent the game into overtime.
    There’s a reason why NFL champs opening at home the following season are undefeated. One, they are the champs. They are confident and talented. Two, they are at home. And, three, the champs always seem to get a little extra juice when they unfurl that championship banner. Remember last September at the Superdome?
    The bottom line is this: The better team (right now) won Thursday at home. But to push the panic button now is silly.
    This Sunday, the Saints will come up with a sellout effort against the Bears at home. It will likely be good enough to win.
    But, if it isn’t, Payton understands what’s coming next. And, a carnival it isn’t.
    Ed Daniels is sports director at ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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