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Saints ain't totally perfect
This is two weeks in a row now that they've rushed for under 100 yards. You know I'm old school. Championship teams have to run the ball at the end of the season and New Orleans managed only 95 yards on 26 carries against the Falcons on Sunday.
Yes, I understood that the Falcons played inspired Football. Even though they were minus Matt Ryan and Michael Turner, their two offensive weapons, this was a division game. The Falcons still have a pretty good defense, but more importantly they were playing at Home. Coach Mike Smith has done a great job with that team and that's only his third loss at home in two years now. Don't forget the Falcons were in the playoffs last year. They know the Saints well, but more importantly they weren't afraid of them. New Orleans being 12-0 meant nothing to the Falcons.
I know the Saints have been balanced all season, but I'm a little concerned about these past two games. I know that Drew Brees has to throw if the defense is stacking the line against the run, but this was a team that was fourth or fifth in the league in running the ball. I know that Sean Payton threw a lot because the Atlanta secondary has been a mess and beat up, but still you have to keep your balance because it is good for your running backs and your offensive line.
With the kind of talent that the Saints have, I think we all know that throwing the football is never going to be a problem. And why keep giving the Falcons an opportunity with the football? Why not control the clock a little bit more? That clock becomes huge in games like these.
But still this was a big win for the Saints to keep them unbeaten. But, golly, that's four games they've had to pull out at the end. You learn from this and chances are that they will have that really good game in the final three regular-season games left where they do really well on offense.
I do think fans in Louisiana have to understand that they are still waiting on some key starters in their secondary to get healthy. They need them to be ready for the playoffs.
I tell you, I didn't like Sean Payton going for that fake field-goal attempt at the end, either. It goes back to the criticism we fired at Bill Belichick a couple weeks ago after his decision in Indianapolis.
If that's what you think you have to do to get your team a win, I'm fine with it. But would I have done it? No! That's always a political answer. If that's what you think is best for your team, you know your team better than I do, and I'm fine with it. Is that what I would have done? Definitely not? None of my guys up here on the set of FOX NFL Sunday would have done that at the end, go for a fake field goal. Take your points when you have them.
An ugly win, but Pats can build on it
The New England Patriots didn't really play well against the Panthers, but they are now 7-0 at home. They kept that home record intact. Even though they didn't look good, they did win. Any coach or player will tell you that you have to build on that.
It only takes a good win and then next week they have a chance to go to 9-5. It doesn't take much for teams to rebuild their confidence even when you are a good football team.
I think what New England fans have discovered is that they are not watching a great football team this season. I have to think that their confidence was shaken by losing two straight and losing ugly like they had. And big plays are not happening for you and they aren't running the ball like they want to, either.
I have to believe that the Patriots were starting to doubt and question where they were at. They weren't playing defense like they should. And then Belichick shakes things up and sends four players home. It's all part of breaking things up for a while without destroying the season. It's all about all these messages that you are sending.
But I've always thought that if a coach has to start sending message to his players at this time of the year it doesn't necessarily work. Your team should have enough leaders to keep everybody in place. But maybe not.
Maybe that's not the case in New England. They sat down Adalius Thomas and, I guess, he hasn't been playing that well. And, No. 2, he questioned the authority of the man in charge. And so the man in charge said, "Oh, you want another good example here? It's going to be you. Go sit down."
Now, the Patriots are going to have to move Thomas. Obviously, he is not a fit there and we all thought he was a great player. When they got him, I thought the Patriots would turn up their defense another notch and it simply hasn't worked out that way. For whatever reason, it hasn't worked.
Pack gets big ground game from Grant
The Packers almost blew that game in Chicago. But they came back to win on the road, and once again, that was a divisional game in bad weather, and they didn't play their best on offense, but they got it done.
The Packers' defense was excellent once again. And Green Bay did what I thought New Orleans would do — try to run the ball. Aaron Rodgers threw for only 180 yards, but they got Ryan Grant 137 yards rushing and that's great.
They will need Grant to run like that in the playoffs. You know me, I'm old school. This time of the year, you need that running game, that kind of balance. Run and pass, run and pass, that's the key. But too many teams are too quick to give up on one phase of their offense when it doesn't work in the beginning.
The Packers will be trouble for someone in the playoffs, but not New Orleans.