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Saints have the right stuff

New Orleans has struggled, but team is getting better

  • Quarterback Drew Brees has led the Saints to a 6-3 record this season.

    Associated Press

    Quarterback Drew Brees has led the Saints to a 6-3 record this season.

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By John Boyle
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Quarterback Drew Brees has led the Saints to a 6-3 record this season.

    Associated Press

    Quarterback Drew Brees has led the Saints to a 6-3 record this season.

RENTON — When the Seahawks travel to New Orleans this weekend, they won't be playing the same team that won the Super Bowl last season, but they'll certainly still have their hands full.
“It's a very, very good football team with just all of the right stuff,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “This is really a big time challenge to get ready for this team and this quarterback, this head coach, this defensive coordinator, all of these guys have just all the expertise in the world here and it makes it a great challenge for us.”
At 6-3, the Saints are certainly one of the best teams the Seahawks have faced this year. And the fact that the game is on the other side of the country in a raucous dome won't help, but New Orleans hasn't rolled over opponents like it did last season on the way to a championship.
The Saints began last season 13-0, advanced to the franchise's first Super Bowl where they knocked off the Indianapolis Colts. This season, the Saints matched their entire 2009 loss total (3) seven games into the season. The offense, which was nearly unstoppable last season, has been pedestrian at times. The Saints are averaging 22.3 points per game this season, down from a league-best 31.9 last year. Dynamic running back Reggie Bush has missed several games with a broken leg and quarterback Drew Brees already has more interceptions this season than he did last year.
“I think we did some things uncharacteristically early on — just some mistakes that we wouldn't normally make — and it cost us to lose some games, mainly to turnovers, myself included,” Brees said in a conference call. “Stuff that we have addressed and continue to address and I feel like we're starting to hit our stride now, though, with a two-win win-streak and obviously coming off the bye week and we're fresh and ready.”
So no, it hasn't been a repeat of last year so far for the Saints, but as Brees points out, things appear to be getting better just in time for the Seahawks to head to town. New Orleans is getting healthier after a bye, and could get Bush back this week, and convincing wins in the last two games show the Saints could be returning to their 2009 form.
And this time they're doing it with a better defense. While the offense got all of the attention last season, the Saints this year have a defense that ranks third in total defense, fourth in scoring defense, and is the No. 1 defense in passing yards allowed.
“It is a huge challenge facing this defense,” Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “They've got a great defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams, they're very aggressive on third down, they empty the middle of the field, their corners go for interceptions. You saw it in the Super Bowl last year against Peyton Manning. They ended the game basically with an interception for a touchdown. ... It'll be a challenge and we've got to do it on the road at their place with the crowd noise. So I can't imagine a tougher scenario, but it's OK. I think we're excited to try.”
And the offense may be ready to catch up to the defense, particularly if Bush returns from the broken leg that has kept him out of seven games. Bush's numbers may not always be spectacular, but his ability to move around the field and the fact that he is a threat to make a big play every time he touches the ball changes the way teams defend the Saints.
“He's a huge factor,” Carroll said of his former USC running back. “When Reggie played this year they won the first two games and they've been 4-3 without him. I know they want to get him back. He's just a factor. They use him in so many different ways and he's so explosive that you have to take guys to him and utilize your plan accordingly, because they do the same. He's a fantastic player and he's going to help special teams as well. So he certainly will help those guys.”
Hasselbeck “not in much pain.”
Hasselbeck practiced without incident for the second straight day wearing a brace on his fractured left (non-throwing) wrist. The team is still taking some precautions to limit the chances of Hasselbeck aggravating the injury in practice, but he said there is nothing he won't be able to do in game situations.
“I can do everything, there's no limitation,” he said. “I didn't take active snaps yesterday, just to let the swelling go down or whatever, but I'm really not in that much pain at all. I actually feel like I dodged a bullet. I'm not concerned at all. ... The setup that I'm going to be playing with, I think I'll be OK. Honestly, I'm OK. It's really not an issue.
Seahawks vote to decertify
After meeting with NFL Players Association officials Wednesday, the Seahawks became the latest team to a vote to allow the union to decertify if necessary in the event of a lockout. Teams throughout the league are voting to decertify to give players another bargaining chip in the face of a potential labor battle with the league. If the union decertifies and the league locks out players, they could sue the NFL under U.S. antitrust laws.
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog

Story tags » Seahawks

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