CLEVELAND: Glass half-empty or half-filled for Saints?By RICK CLEVELAND,
New Orleans Saints fans these days should decide whether they prefer their glasses half-empty or half-filled.
This is, of course, ignoring the fact that most New Orleanians will tell you straight-up they prefer their cocktail glasses filled to the brim.
The Saints have lost two of their past three games and, injury-wise, look more like a M.A.S.H. unit than an NFL football team. If Jackie Sherrill were giving the Saints injury report, he'd give it like this:
“Number 41 has a concussion. Number 82 has a concussion. Number 23 has an ankle. Number 43 has a groin. Number 72 has a thigh and a shoulder. Number 71 has an elbow. Number 67 has a shoulder. Number 91 has another elbow. Number 53 has a groin.”
We had to be careful in deciphering Sherrill's injury reports, matching numbers with names and body parts.
To give you a quick summation of Saints wounded at present: Both starting offensive tackles and a starting guard are hurt. Defensive rookie of the year candidate, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, is hobbled with a bad ankle. Offensive rookie of the year candidate Alvin Kamara, is coming off a concussion. We won't know their availabilities until later in the week.
With three games to play, the Saints are tied with Carolina in first place, a game ahead of the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.
OK, now then, glass half filled...
The Saints may have lost two of three, but they have won nine of their last 11. They will play two of their last three at home, including the New York Jets this Sunday. The Jets are a woeful 1-5 on the road.
The Saints play Atlanta at home on Christmas Eve before finishing the season on the road New Year's Eve against the fast-fading Tampa Bay Bucs. Yes, the Saints currently hold head-to-head advantage over the Panthers.
And let's be honest, Saints fans: If someone had offered you 9-4 back when the Saints were 0-2, you would have snapped that up faster than a healthy Kamara jukes a slow-footed linebacker. Finally, on the glass-half-filled list, the Saints still have Drew Brees at quarterback and his body parts are all intact.
We'll get to those last three games shortly, but first let's turn the page back to last Thursday night when the Saints played at Atlanta with a chance to put more distance between themselves and the arch-rival Dirty Birds.
To make long story charitably short, the Saints didn't catch a single break, not one, and still lost by 20-17 on a Thursday night on the road.
Start with this: The Saints lost Kamara to the first quarter concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit that was completely ignored by officials. Back in the bad old days, the Saints would have put some smelling salts under Kamara's nose and sent him back into the game. Thankfully, they don't do that now. Kamara was put on concussion protocol and never returned. I'm guessing he will be back Sunday for the Jets but that's no sure thing. The sure thing is this: The Saints are not nearly as explosive without Kamara in the lineup.
Meanwhile, the Saints were penalized once for roughing the passer against Matt Ryan, a penalty we wouldn't have called on the schoolyard playing two-hand touch. Ryan wasn't roughed up, he was shoved – sort of. The penalty extended a touchdown drive sent Saints coach Sean Payton into a, finger-pointing, fish shaking rage.
Before the night was done, the Falcons would be awarded nine first downs by penalty. Nine. Of 20.
We are always told these things even out over the course of the season. That being the case, the Saints should catch a lot of breaks these last three weeks. Considering their health, they may need them.
Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.