Saints learn how opposing defenses must've felt

Saints learn how opposing defenses must've felt

METAIRIE, La. (AP) The New Orleans Saints are learning how opposing defenses must've felt the past few years.

Picked apart.

Run over.

Beaten down.

The Saints' defense is on pace for a truly historic season, and that's not a good thing. They have already become the first team since at least 1950 - maybe ever - to give up more than 400 yards in seven straight games. On average, they've surrendered 50 yards more per game than the NFL's next-worst team. If this keeps up, the defending NFC South champions will obliterate the record for most yards allowed in a season.

Not surprisingly, the Saints (2-5) are in a truly desperate state heading into Monday night's game against Philadelphia (3-4), knowing they must turn things around - and quickly - if they want to have a shot at a fourth straight playoff appearance.

``It's very frustrating,'' linebacker Scott Shanle said Thursday. ``Everybody is trying to put their finger on what's wrong. How can we change it so we're more effective? You get millions of different people with millions of different suggestions, whether it be teammates, coaches, family, friends. Everybody thinks they have the answer.''

But don't expect a major overhaul. According to interim coach Joe Vitt, there's only so much the team can do to turn things around, and it's not exactly eye-catching stuff. Better tackling. Improved fundamentals. More awareness of what the other team is trying to do.

``If you have dramatic change, radical change, that's when the panic sets in,'' Vitt said. ``The players can smell the match burning before the match is ever lit. We've just got to play better, coach better, execute better.''

Those sort of comments can't be of much solace to a fan base that already was reeling from the bounty scandal that cost former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams his job and resulted in head coach Sean Payton being suspended for the entire year. Williams was replaced by Steve Spagnuolo, who has caught much of the blame for what's gone wrong this season.

And, boy, have things gone wrong.

In the very first game, rookie Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins ran wild in the Superdome, shredding the Saints for 459 yards in a 40-32 upset that was an ominous sign of what was to come.

The yards just kept on coming. Carolina and Kansas City won their only games against New Orleans, ripping off 463 and 510 respectively. Green Bay put up 421, San Diego 427. Tampa Bay - hardly an offensive juggernaut - tore through the Saints for 513. Last Sunday night, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos looked like they were going against a scout team, piling up 530 yards in 34-14 blowout.

That averages out to 474.7 yards per game, which is 50 yards more than the next-worst team on the list, the Buffalo Bills (424.6). The Saints are on pace to give up 7,595 yards for the season, which would easily take down the record of 6,793 set way back in 1981 by the Colts (when they were still in Baltimore).

STATS LLC, which has records dating back to 1950, says this is worst seven-game stretch that it can verify. Given the limited state of offenses before then, it's highly likely that no team in NFL history has ever been this bad.

All over the Big Easy, the Saints faithful are grumbling about Spagnuolo's scheme, which abandoned much of the blitzing that Williams did with such abandon, and berating a group that did its part the last three years in support of Drew Brees and a record-setting offense.

Sure, Brees was the star of the show, running up and down the field with opponents in futile pursuit, but there's no way the Saints go 37-11 during that span and win a Super Bowl championship without stopping the other team every now and then.

Just look what's happening now.

Brees and the Saints know they have to put up a bunch of points to have any chance of winning, and when the offense stumbles - as it did in Denver - things can get downright ugly.

``You get what you deserve,'' linebacker Jonathan Casillas said, referring to the criticism that has reached a fever pitch. ``It's going to keep coming if we don't improve. We are all are very prideful guys in here. We all want to do better. We don't want to be playing as bad as we're playing, both statistically and out there on the field.''

Brees and his offensive teammates are careful not to criticize the defense, always turning those sort of questions to look at their own shortcomings. The offense is certainly not without its faults, most notably an NFL-worst running game.

``Our job on offense is to score one more point than them,'' Brees said. ``We've won games around here 14-9. We've won games 40-to-30-something. The way I look at it is we're a 30-to-40-a-game offense. Regardless of what's happening on the defensive side of the ball ... we have the attitude on offense that we should score each time we get the ball. If we don't, it's not good enough.''

Certainly not the way the defense is playing now.

Notes: The Saints re-signed WR Greg Camarillo, who has been on and off the roster all season. They cleared a spot by waiving TE Daniel Graham, who missed last week's game with an injured left knee. ... RB Darren Sproles (hand) did not practice Thursday. WR Courtney Roby (left shoulder) was also out.


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Clarifying the confusion about the Redskins' Week 16 game at the Titans

Clarifying the confusion about the Redskins' Week 16 game at the Titans

There was some confusion about the Redskins’ Week 16 game in Tennessee when the NFL schedule dropped. The schedule pushed out by the Redskins said that the game date and time are to be determined. Other versions that went out, including the one on, says the game will be on Sunday, December 23 at 1 p.m.

So what’s the story? Well, if you’re thinking of making reservations to go to Nashville to watch the game you just might want to hold off for a while. Like, until early November. 

In an under the radar move, the NFL has established flex scheduling for its late-season Saturday games. Here are the details from the schedule press release from Redskins PR:

“Flexibility for Saturday games in Weeks 15 and 16 is also part of the 2018 schedule. In Week 15, there will be two games played on Saturday on NFL Network, with the game times of 4:30 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. to be determined. In Week 16, two of four possible matchups will be scheduled for Saturday. Start times and Saturday games for Week 15 and 16 will be announced no later than following Week 8, with the non-Saturday games to be played on Sunday.”

The way it sets up, if the Redskins and Titans are playing well in midseason there is a good chance the game will be played on Saturday, December 22 at either 4:30 or 8:20. If one or both teams are struggling, the league and networks could choose to flex two of the other four matchups to Saturday. 

This is taking flex scheduling to a different level. It’s one thing shifting a Sunday kickoff seven and a half hours from 1 p.m. to 8:30. It’s another to shift a whole day. The visiting teams can’t make travel arrangements, not knowing if they need to come into town on Friday for a Saturday game or on Saturday for Sunday. Fans who want to travel to the game are in the same boat. 

Of course, if you can afford it, you can just add a day to your Nashville excursion. There are worse things in the world than spending an extra day or two in Music City. 

If you have to wait to make your plans, as the Redskins do, you will find out no later than October 29, which is when Week 8 ends. 

Do you believe in trends? Then you should hope that the game does get flexed to Saturday. The Redskins have won three straight Saturday games, beating the Eagles in both 2014 and 2015 (the latter game clinching the division title for Washington) and the Bears in 2016. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.