Shep's Blog: Saints' ugly win is still a victory

By Jeff Shepard – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They say there's no such thing as an ugly victory. Well, the Saints certainly tested that theory Sunday in St. Louis.

In case you missed it, New Orleans beat the Rams 28-23 to improve to 9-0 on the season. That 9-0 start is the best in the 43 year history of the franchise.

The game was tied 14-14 at the half, and the Saints opened up a 28-17 lead at one point in the 4th quarter. But the Black and Gold were never able to deliver the knock-out punch, and former Saint qb Marc Bulger, now an NFL veteran, was able to make it a 5-point game late in the 4th. A last-second 'Hail Mary' sailed out of bounds, preserving the 9th straight win of 2009 for the Who Dats.

For the third week in a row, the Saints offense struggled.

Now, I know it sounds weird to say an offense that put up 217 passing yards and 203 rushing yards struggled, but I guess it's more of a 'flow' thing.

For the first 5 or 6 weeks of the season, it seemed like Drew Brees and his offensive weapons could do no wrong.

And now, although they're still putting up big points and gaining lots of yards, it almost looks like they're working out there!

But hey, this is the NFL, and no matter how bad a team is (ex. St. Louis), it's tough to win games in this league, and it's even harder to blow teams out week after week.

There are two big issues that the Saints and their fans should be concerned about: turnovers and injuries.

On the turnover front, Drew Brees has thrown one more interception (seven) than touchdown passes (six) in his last four games after throwing 13 scoring passes and just two interceptions in his first six games.

After Sunday's 2 TD, 2 INT performance, Brees told the media, "We're just not content with where we are. And not content with how we've played over the last two weeks. Really just talking specifically about turnovers. You know, they were able to get it away a few times. It's still a problem that we've got to get fixed. And we need to get it fixed quickly too."

Brees is right. With upcoming games against New England and Dallas and at Atlanta, turnovers will cost you victories. And victories mean home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

On the injury front, the Saint defense has been decimated recently.

Sedrick Ellis injured his knee at Miami. The defensive lineman, who's expected to be back in action in the next week or so, has been sorely missed as a run stopper up the middle.

Darren Sharper, the biggest free agent acquisition of this past offseason, missed the Rams' game with a knee injury. Don't expect Sharper to be out much longer. He and Jonathan Vilma are the anchors of the defense, and Gregg Williams' scheme runs at its best when Sharper's out on the field jumping routes and intercepting passes.

The biggest injury from Sunday's game was cornerback Tracy Porter's in the third quarter. Porter, who broke his hand in the middle of the year last season, injured his left ACL and was taken to the locker room on a cart. Porter will have an MRI done on his knee on Monday and if he's lost for the year, that will be a huge loss for this team.

Add to that Jabari Greer's injury, and the Saints are down 3 of 4 starters in the secondary…YIKES!

Up this week for New Orleans, a visit to NFC South rival Tampa Bay. The Bucs have been downright awful this season and once again, the Saints will be favored on the road.

It's tough to win on the road in the NFL, even when one team is 9-0 and the other is 1-8.

And of course, after that, the Patriots come to town for Monday Night Football. If the Saints don't get caught looking ahead, they should take care of business in Tampa and enter MNF at 10-0.

And that brings me back to the first sentence of this blog: There are no ugly wins.

I'll be turning 32 in January. And for the better part of 31 years, I've watched this franchise find ways to lose games like Sunday's in St. Louis.

But as I've been saying for two months now, this isn't the Same Ole Saints. This team, this group, this coaching staff is different.

After Sunday's win in St. Louis, I wasn't upset that the Saints almost blew it.

I was happy they held on - something that's been a rarity through the years, and I'm not going to dwell on what could've been.

I'm going to enjoy what is, and that's the fact that the Saints are finding a way to win, every week, for 9 weeks.


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