Payton’s presence cannot mask Saints’ deficiencies

daniels    Moments after the Saints’ 31-24 win over San Diego, a veteran Saints watcher said the following: “I think this club is at least 3-2 if Sean Payton is here.”
    I disagree.
    The Saints’ comeback win over the Chargers was vital heading into the bye week. But the quality of that victory cannot mask the Saints’ many problems.
    San Diego averaged 6.5 yards per rushing attempt. The Chargers had 288 yards of offense in the first half.
    The Saints have many defensive deficiencies, and those are fixed in the offseason via the draft and free agency.
    As he watched the game from a Superdome suite, Payton got an eyeful.
    What is most troubling about the Saints’ 1-4 start is the lack of quality of the opposition.
    Kansas City failed to score a touchdown at home in a loss to Baltimore last Sunday. The Chiefs are 1-4. The Panthers lost at home to Seattle. Carolina is now 1-4.
    The Packers suddenly look old on defense. They couldn’t hold a late lead and lost to rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts. Green Bay is now 2-3.
    The Redskins are 2-3 after falling at home to Atlanta.
    You look around the NFC and realize the playing field has suddenly tilted to the defense.
    The Vikings and Bears are both 4-1. In five games, Chicago has allowed only 71 points. The Bears’ point differential is plus-78.
    Only one team in the league has a better differential; the San Francisco 49ers, at plus-81. The 49ers have allowed 68 points in five games. The Saints have allowed a whopping 154.
    The St. Louis Rams, pedestrians on offense, appear to have a much better chance of earning a playoff berth than the Saints. Under new head coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams are suddenly winning battles on the line of scrimmage. The Rams are pressuring the quarterback and running the football with success.
    As Payton watched his team in person for the first time all season, he had to be alarmed by the gaping holes in his defensive line and by the fact that the Saints rushed 21 times for only 53 yards against the Chargers.
    For Payton’s team, the toughest part of the 2012 season is ahead. Six of the last 11 games are away from the Superdome. The Saints must play Atlanta (5-0) twice. Also on the schedule are trips to San Francisco and the New York Giants.
    Drew Brees was headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame before he broke Johnny Unitas’ record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass. But breaking the record only enhances Brees’ sterling credentials.
    Brees gives Payton much credit for his accomplishments, as he should. What Payton can now do for Brees is this: work feverishly in the offseason to give Brees another shot at a Super Bowl title while his Hall of Fame quarterback is still at the top of his game.
    Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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