Week 11 – Cincinnati @ New Orleans: Bengals crash the Superdome

In the Sean Payton era, the Louisiana Superdome has been a fortress for the Saints, a building that few visiting teams exit from intact. Their offense was nothing short of dynamic as they ran up and down the field in some of the most impressive passing displays you would have seen.

In 2014, however, their home field advantage has not been there, as Drew Brees has failed to operate at the same level we have become accustomed to. On Sunday the Bengals came into the Superdome and handed the Saints their second straight home loss and put their playoff hopes in real jeopardy.

As the driving force behind the team’s success over the past nine seasons (if you ignore the Bountygate debacle of 2012), the offense will bear the brunt of the blame for their lack of success. If you rely on just the box score looking at the numbers of their normally brilliant passing game, it shows they are still producing.

However, a deeper examination of the Bengals game in conjunction with last week’s loss to the 49ers paints a troubling picture for the NFC South powerhouses. Especially when a group of players that are supposedly so skilled can only put up 10 points in their home stadium.

Drew Brees has always been the driving force for the Saints’ relevance in the modern NFL, but this year he has been off the mark. While his throws are still in the direction of an open receiver, they have not had that same precision. He has set an impossible standard to live up to but it is what he is going to be judged against.

On the opening drive, he missed a wide open Brandon Cooks downfield going high by half a yard before missing a streaking tight end soon after. It may not seem like much, but when their offense is based on precision and timing, it does make a huge difference. Even when his receivers are making catches, they are having to work a bit more than normal and break their stride to secure possession.

Mark Ingram has evolved into a solid lead back in his third NFL season and is able to provide some balance to an offense that has been too pass happy in previous years. Against Cincinnati, he was bottled up by the Bengals front, and too often he would get to the line and be met by a large man in a white jersey. Down on the goal line in the second quarter, Ingram had several chances to punch it in and could barely get back to the original spot.

Conversely, the New Orleans defense acted like a beaten up sieve trying to stop Jeremy Hill running through the middle. Hill had a big 62 yard run right before halftime when it appeared as though the defense had just shut off and forgot they still had a job to do which wound up costing them 3 points.

The frustration in their unit was obvious, as Marcus Ball tried to jump the snap count on a safety blitz, only to get an encroachment penalty and several expletives from his teammates. It appeared as though they did not have an answer for the Bengals, who kept them on their heels all day.

While the defense failed to get a stop, the offense should have been able to match the Bengals output on the afternoon. The group surrounding Brees has undergone some modifications in the past couple of years, but the talent is still there and they should still be operating at a high level.

Thus far this year it seems like it is just not there against the tough, physical defenses.

Nov 16
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans LA (73,073)

Cincinnati 7 6 7 7 – 27
New Orleans 3 0 0 7 – 10

Passing: Drew Brees (NO), 255 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Jeremy Hill (CIN), 27 car, 152 yds
Receiving: AJ Green (CIN), 6 rec, 127 yds, 1 TD
Pigskin Almanac “Running through Bourbon Street” award: Jeremy Hill (CIN)

About James Caughlin

Growing up in Brisbane Australia, James got into the NFL during the 2000 season thanks to the Madden NFL video game. His cousins told him to use the Patriots (as a prank on him) but 3 Super Bowls and multiple winning season's later, he has had the last laugh. Now you will hear him yelling at the TV around 4am on a Monday morning watching every Patriots game live.

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