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The other side of the ball: a look at the Saints

The Saints are an interesting team. Once hyped to lead the NFC in 2007, an 0-4 start threw fans and prognosticators into a furious reassessment of just what went wrong. Then, seemingly just like that, they started winning and once again look like they have a real shot to battle it out with the other mediocre teams leading the NFC when the playoffs roll around.

The Rams have their work cut out for them tomorrow, especially the defense. To get a better idea about the team we'll be seeing tomorrow, Sunil from Canal Street Chronicles, SBN's Saints blog, was kind enough to answer a few questions about his team.

He asked some great questions about the Rams too, so be sure to head over there for the other part of the discussion.

1. What happened over the first four games of the Saints' season? Explain the 0-4 start.

--What's the old cliche about teams that lose the point of attack lose the game? Well, whatever it is, that's what happened. The Saints couldn't protect Drew Brees -- it looked a bit like vintage, Joe Vitt-era-Rams ball, to be honest -- and they couldn't pressure the quarterback with their front four. Consequently, they got owned owned both sides of the ball.

There were also some dropped passes and missed kicks mixed in there. Those are killers.

They played some really good teams. Indy and Tennessee are fairly self-explanatory; you've seen Tampa, they can play; and in Carolina, well, see question four.

2. Ok, how about the 4-0 run since the 0-4 start, what happened?

-- First, they've been protecting Brees. When he has time, he's as good as it gets. Second, they began catching passes. Sean Payton switched Devery Henderson, who had an embarrssing number of drops, for the sure-handed David Patten. Lance Moore is making a name for himself as an Az Hakim/Wes Welker type (though without the speed). Third, the defense started to get some pressure, both with the front four and with some well-timed blitzes. This disrupted the oppositionrhythm and forced some key turnovers. Finally, they played some mediocre teams. Seattle is hot and cold; the Falcons and Niners are ... dreadful; the Jaguars started a quarterback named Quinn Gray.

3. There's been some talk this season that maybe Reggie Bush wasn't suited for a feature back role. However, since Deuce went down, he's been fairly solid. What do you make of that talk? Is Bush a marquee guy or more of a pass catching specialist out of the backfield?

- Reggie's been good since Deuce went down (4.2 yards per carry). I think he's learning how to run responsibly, to see a play to its logical conclusion, instead of always trying to freelance. I still think he needs to bulk up if he wants to be a featured back, but if nothing else, he's earned the opportunity to be evaluated over a longer time period.

He's never going to be a 20-carry guy, but he can get 17 carries and eight catches and be plenty effective over the long haul. Was he worthy of the No. 2 overall pick? That's more of a long-term question; ask me in another season. I mean, right now Devin Hester  (who doesn't even have a true position) may be the best player from that draft.

4. Is Olindo Mare done?

-- Well, he's still the Saints' kicker, though he sure does miss a lot of kicks (converting 50%, 1/4 from 40+). If he blows another game like he did week five against Carolina, it's hard to imagine them bringing him back. And, no joke, if any of the rest of us was this bad at our job, we would be fired. Problem is, there's nobody out there who's better. Jeff Wilking ain't walking through that door ... hell, John Carney ain't walking through that door, either.

5. Give us a run down on the Saints chances to win their next 8 games?

-- I hate to say it, because it will almost certainly jinx them, but
the best team the Saints play from here on out is either Houston or Tampa. They are capable of winning out, but I can see them getting a respectable 5-6 wins. Although with this team, there's no telling.

Thanks again to Sunil from Canal Street Chronicles. Be sure to head for more on this week's game.