Cha-ching! Seems a little counterintuitive to assert that a 10-3 team that's riding a 6-game win streak "doesn't know how to win (…in this league)" don't you think? It's true though. They're doing it wrong.

Last week's entry in this year's excruciatingly long list of things that are gonna bone the Saints right in the ass eventually if they don't cut it out is, I have to admit, something that never would have occurred to me to consider a problem. The issue? Way too much offensive competence. Specifically, the return of the big play (mostly via the pass) and the corresponding scoring binge. Unfortunately, the Saints did little to remedy that problem Sunday. Fortunately, they somehow continue to figure out ways to win despite their inability to stop throwing so many damn touchdown passes.

Remember earlier in the year when the Saints weren't hitting any big plays at all, and people were wondering what happened to the "explosive" Saints offense from last year? And they were scoring around 20 points per game, and they were escaping with wins over Carolina by 2 and San Francisco by 3, and they were losing every odd-numbered week, and people were all "what the fuck?"

At the time, it was explained thusly: Opposing defenses were playing two-deep and forcing the Saints to beat them underneath. The theory was that the more plays you could force the Saints' offense to run, the more chances there were for the drive to stall. The better chance you stood of keeping the Saints from scoring on any given drive, and your chances of keeping the game close and having a chance to win it in the end increased. Not only did it seem to make sense, the Saints' relatively paltry scoring output (by their standards) and the razor-thin margins of victory (in even weeks, at least) seemed to bear that out.

That's all changed since the calendar flipped to November. The Saints have scored 163 points over their last 5 games, 32.6 points per game. They've all been wins, by the way, and the average margin of victory in those 5 games has been 14.2 points.

Bet it never would have occurred to you that that's a bad thing, but it is. Because they're doing it wrong. Because everybody knows that the only correct way to win football games (…in this league) is to run the ball(!!!!!). And, by golly, all those long pass plays and passing touchdowns and all the winning and whatnot are creating the illusion of awesomeness, when really they've been winning in spite of that. What this team really needs is far fewer 30/40 yard touchdown passes and far more 3 yard runs.

Hey, it sounded downright insane and/or intentionally contrarian to me too. After all, when Message Board Guy finds himself with precious little to bitch about, he can always fall back on playcalling. It's an easy go-to, because no matter how well the team might be doing, you can always assert that they'd be doing even better if they did less of this and more of that.

The downside is that you often find yourself insisting that scoring points isn't nearly as important as possessing the ball, and saying crazy shit like "A 3 or 4 yard run is inherently more valuable than a 40 yard pass." Last time I checked, the winner of an NFL game is still determined by who has the higher score and not by who possessed the ball for the greater amount of time.

But I have to grudgingly admit that I'm now convinced. After all…
Seattle: 29 Saints rushing plays, Saints win TOP, 15-point win
@Dallas: 21 rushing plays, Saints lose TOP, 3-point win
@Cincinnati: 22 rushing plays, Saints lose TOP, 3-point win
St. Louis: 29 rushing plays, Saints win TOP, 18-point win

Science! Clearly if only the Saints had run the ball 29 times at Cincinnati and Dallas, they'd have won both of those outdoor road games (a holiday game and a cold-weather game) by two touchdown margins just as they won the two home games against NFC West opponents. Clearly the difference in the two road games, and what held the Saints back, was far too much explosiveness on offense. Too many big long passing plays, which allowed the opponents extra chances and more time to… uh… score touchdowns of their own. Which is kind of important. When the opponent does it, that is.

See, what sucks about scoring is that you then have to give the ball back to the opponent. It's pretty much the equivalent of a goddamn turnover! And you'd be pretty pissed if the Saints kept turning the ball over every couple of minutes, right? Of course you would. You'd prefer to turn the ball over as infrequently as possible. Therefore, you should also want to score as infrequently as possible. Science!

This is why running the ball(!!!) is the only correct way to run an offense (…in this league.) Because it gains fewer yards in a longer period of time. Which is what you want.

Furthermore, when you finally embrace this "philosophy" Reggie's value to the offense suddenly makes sense (for quite possibly the first time ever.) See, it's really just that the media has been wrong the whole time. It's not because of all the pretty much completely baseless "explosive, big play" bullshit they've unfairly saddled him with his whole career. Hell, living up to that rep would be the worst thing he could possibly do. No, Reggie's value lies in his inefficiency on a per-touch basis. Minimum yards in maximum time. It's fuckin' brilliant! REG-GIE! REG-GIE! REG-GIE!

This is why I was so unbelievably pissed off at Malcolm Jenkins taking that first interception back 96 yards to the house. Don't get me wrong, Deion Sanders said it best: "Dude is straight ballin'." But taking it back all the way was not only a dumbass rookie mistake, it was an unbelievably selfish prick move. Did he even bother to think for a second about the fact that he was leaving the Rams 47 seconds to answer his too-quick score? Or that his defense had already been on the field for a whopping 7:17 in the 2nd quarter?

Clearly the right thing to do would have been to take a knee at the 10 and let the offense run the remaining 47 seconds off the clock, rather than subjecting his defensive teammates to a third straight St. Louis drive.

On the other hand, Drew probably would have just passed the ball for the touchdown on the next play and run only about 3 additional seconds off the clock anyway, and that wouldn't have been Malcolm's fault, so perhaps I'm being a little hard on him. But hey, every 3 seconds counts! Get your head in the game, you catching motherfucker! The secret to winning football games (…in this league) is knowing when to decline an opportunity to score! I'm sure Malcolm didn't mean any harm though, and will gain that kind of football savvy with more experience.

Chris Ivory is posing similar problems right now. Not that he isn't doing a hell of a job overall, it's just that he runs for way too many yards per carry. In his defense, overproduction doesn't seem to be nearly as big a problem when it comes on rushing plays, for some reason. Still, perhaps he ought to throttle back a bit. After all, I'm pretty sure the Saints would have beaten Cincinnati by 3 touchdowns if Ivory had been heads up enough to take a knee at midfield rather than running it in for a 55-yard touchdown last week. They could have run another 10 minutes off the clock!

Then again, if it hadn't been for that damned hamstring, I'm pretty sure Ivory would have parlayed that 7 carries for 47 yards in the first quarter Sunday into 28 for 188 on the day (on the off-chance that Sean Payton would have let him, that is.) And the Saints would have won by 10 touchdowns. Or by 3 points. Margin of victory doesn't really matter though. What matters is winning the correct way. And the correct way is to run the ball.

But hey, this is the kind of thing you have to deal with when you're playing talented young players. They don't realize when they're kicking too much ass and putting the team in a bad spot with all the unnecessary yardage and scoring and such.

They'll get it eventually though. I just hope they get it before it's too late and it costs the Saints a game, or worse yet, the season. Because if they don't get this straightened out pronto, we really are doomed.

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