Dec 4, 2007

Placing Blame

There are two people who are to blame for the Saints latest debacle, a fumble on a reverse pitch that gave last Sunday's game to Tampa Bay: Coach Sean Payton and Reggie Bush.

First of all, football is a team sport and you win and lose as a team. One player usually doesn't cost you a game, but in this case, the game came down to one bad play call. With a little more than three minutes left in the game and Saints holding onto a three point lead, New Orleans was looking to milk the clock. The defense had come up big on the previous two series -- first with an interception return for a TD, then a safety by Will Smith. The momentum was in the Saints favor. All they had to do was run some clock, then punt the ball to Tampa with little time left. With the Bucs having no time outs, the victory was definately there for the Saints.

On second down, the team lines up for the play. Drew Brees takes the snap and gives it off to Bush who is running toward the left side. Tampa pursues Reggie and defenders are there in full force. Bush then pitches the ball to a crossing Devery Henderson, but the pitch is a bad on and Henderson can't handle it. The ball hits the turf and the Bucs jump on it. Momentum is back in Tampa's favor. They drive down and score the go-ahead touchdown with only 14 seconds left on the clock. Game over, division championship out of reach and wildcard berth becomes a long-shot.

With Coach Payton, fans love his aggressive style, but sometimes the basics are what win football games. Bill Parcels has said that he would sometimes have to pull back the reigns on Payton, as he would get too cute in situations that didn't warrant it. In this situation, a couple of runs up the middle would have killed some clock, then a punt inside the 20-yard line would have backed up Tampa enough that it would have been a difficult task just to get in field goal range. Payton even admitted that it wasn't the right call.

With Bush, it was poor execution. The timing seemed off and the pitch was terrible. Henderson had no shot of grabbing a ball thrown behind him while running full speed from defenders. Bush should have realized that the play was shot and just fell to the ground. Reggie's has taken plenty of heat this year for his play. He hasn't lived up to expectations after his solid rookie year. He isn't finding running room and hasn't broken the big play this year. Mental errors and poor play execution shouldn't be happening at this stage of his professional career. After Sunday's game, he showed that he's not quite the professional yet, as he started to head to the locker room before the game ended and then refused to speak to reporters afterwards. Reggie needs to be a man and own up to the play. Sure one player didn't lose the game Sunday, but one player acted like he did.

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