BAYHAM: A Season Gone Awry

The Saints fans showed up. Too bad the Saints players did not.

AT&T Stadium was packed with the Who Dat Nation as black and gold jerseys were plentiful, especially in the upper reaches of Jerry Jones’s football palace.

In fact so many fans were on hand that they were able to even launch into the pre-game “Who Dat!” cheer without being led by one of the players, as what happens prior to games in the Superdome.

Unfortunately, they came a long way to see their team’s most embarrassing performance yet in what is still a young season though one that is not getting any prettier.

Perhaps one of the great mysteries of the game was that the Saints were actually the favorite going into the contest, leading one to ask the question, how dat?

While the margin of the Saints’ pre-Dallas losses were by a combined 5 points, there was nothing in the past three games, including their lackluster victory against a freshman quarterback and a team missing its best player, that indicated that things were going to magically be set right in north Texas.

Yes, Saints head coach Sean Payton seems to have (had) a knack of confounding the Cowboys, especially when he aggressively reached for the brass ring last season in breaking the NFL record for most first downs in a game.

Though it may have been yellowed by ten months of aging, I would not have been surprised if the local sports section from the 2013 game had been thumbtacked to the Cowboys’ bulletin board.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, whose inconsistent Cowboy defenses led to his termination in the Big D two seasons ago, has to be feeling the heat, burdened with motivating and preparing his squad in September to not only save this season but maybe even his job.

That the rest of the NFC South is spiraling downward is of little solace unless you are hankering to own another $20 Saints division title t-shirt. Right now the Saints are one and a half games behind Atlanta in a demolition derby of bad teams to determine which is the least awful of the four.

So what is- scratch that- are the problems?

Where are the sacks and quarterback pressures from last season? The front seven is the same as last year with the only thing different is that some of them are getting paid substantially more this season.

And where are the takeaways that were supposed to come with the addition of pricey free agent free safety Jairus Byrd? While everyone knows the Saints have a gaping hole the cornerback position opposite of Keenan Lewis, not even the hapless Corey White and P-Rob can be blamed for all of the shortcomings of the defense.
The good news is the Saints have stuck with the ground game, though there’s no question that it took a major hit when running back Mark Ingram went down with an injury.

And then there is the question lodged in the frontal lobe of many Saints fans’ minds, how much of the offense’s frustrations can be attributed to the elusive Darren Sproles no longer being on the roster.

One thing I have noticed is that quarterback Drew Brees has not really been stretching the field this season.

Is the offensive line not providing the franchise player the protection he needs to get the ball down field or dare I ask the ultimate heresy, is Brees on the decline?

And is the sudden recommitment to the 2009-era running attack due in part to Brees not being the same quarterback he used to be?
Or is it a matter of good talent lacking spirit?

Do the men on this team’s roster just lack the drive to win after being rewarded with fat contracts for previous outstanding service? The drops by Saints receivers have been like a death by a thousand cuts, each one stalling a drive.

The Saints will have their last best chance to salvage their season and a few people’s jobs on Sunday when they return to the Superdome to face the perpetually rebuilding Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s not going to get any easier than that.

Though there’s a lot of football to play in the 2014 season, opportunities to turn things around are drying up.

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