Tuesday, April 7, 2009

10 plays that killed 2008

Below you'll find some of the harshest memories from last year we can't soon enough forget. When you look at how many games come down to the final minutes in the NFL, you really have to play close attention to how you're losing games. For the Saints, it was missed field goals, poor pass rush, and bad pass defense. Seems like we've taken steps towards rectifying each this offseason. Here's to hoping we can avoid as many of these painful plays in 2009. Without further wait, I give you the 10 worst plays of 2008:

10. Week 7 @ Carolina: Reggie Bush fields a punt just before halftime, and runs around in circles trying to avoid getting tackled. It results in him getting chased harmlessly out of bounds for a 7 yard return -- but causes him to injure his knee. Bush misses the rest of the game, and the following 4 weeks. Upon his return, he makes almost no impact and is clearly not the same. While the offense performed fine in his absence (which is why I didn't list this higher), Bush was having a terrific season prior to this injury and seemed like he was finally starting to live up to his hype.

9. Week 17 vs Carolina: With the Saints leading 31-30 with about 3 minutes to go and the Panthers pinned at their own 17, a mighty Saints pass rush delivered a massive blow to Jake Delhomme. Just before he was sacked, Delhomme heaved a desperation hail mary type pass into triple coverage. Steve Smith, at 5'9", out jumped every Saint to haul in a 40 yard pass which would prove to set up the winning field goal heroics for Carolina. While the game was mostly meaningless, it epitomized the Saints season and was yet another painful reminder that Jake Delhomme owns us.

8. Week 5 vs Minnesota (part A): The score was tied at 27-27, after Reggie Bush miraculously got the Saints back in the game with 2 punt returns for touchdowns. Martin Grammatica missed a 46 yard kick with 2 minutes left that would have given the Saints a 3 point lead. We'll come back to this game.

7. All season?: Jeremy Shockey suffered from a misdiagnosed sports hernia. While perhaps one play cannot be associated to the injury, it was a source of frustration all season. Shockey tried to play through pain numerous times, and often the Saints would have been better off with him sitting out. He had costly fumbles, dropped passes, no speed and badly missed blocking assignments on crucial plays. Even more troubling, Shockey never found the end zone all season long. There were some patches here and there where you could see how good he can be when healthy, but overall he did more harm than good over the course of the season.

6. Week 13 @ Tampa Bay: With the score tied at 20, the Saints inherited the football on their 17 yard line with 2:33 to go. Inexplicably, the Saints ran the football 18 times all game in a driving rain storm (the Bucs ran 34 times). True to their gameplan despite being deep in their own territory, the Saints came out throwing once again, and Drew Brees was intercepted at the Saint 17 to set up Tampa's game winning field goal. Brees threw another bad pick for good measure on the ensuing drive.

5. Week 2 @ Washington: With the game firmly in the Saints grasp, up two scores with less than 6 minutes left, the Redskins pulled off an unlikely comeback. First the Redskins closed the gap with a nice long drive. Then, they stopped the Saints on a crucial 3rd and short to get the ball back. With the Redskins running out of time and deep in their on territory, Jason Campbell connected with Santana Moss for a 67 yard touchdown pass which would give them a 29-24 lead and ultimately the win. On that play, Tracy Porter was badly beaten with no help over the top. Saints fans around the world could be heard saying "just don't get beat deep" prior to that play.

4. Week 3 @ Denver: With the Saints trailing 34-32 with 1:55 remaining in the game, the Saints failed to covert on 3rd and inches. This forced them to settle for a 43 yard field goal attempt. Martin Grammatica set up to kick it, and missed it by a mile.

3. Week 1 @ Cleveland: A huge blow to the offense early in the season, as Marques Colston tore thumb ligaments in his right hand. He would miss 5 weeks, and return too early against Carolina in week 7 to look completely invisible.

2. Week 5 @ Minnesota (part B): I come back to this game because if you could pick one game that crushed our season hopes, this was it. Absolutely heartbreaking. Tracy Porter, a young rookie who had shown a tremendous amount of ability and promise at cornerback, broke his arm and would miss the rest of the season in this game. Later in the same game, with a depleted defensive backfield, Kevin Kaesviharn ran into Bernard Berian and committed an unforgiveable pass interference penalty on a 3rd down play 42 yards downfield. It set up Ryan Longwell's game winning 30 yard field goal that broke a 27-27 tie.

1. Week 15 @ Chicago: In overtime with the Bears facing a 3rd and 7, Kyle Orton threw the ball downfield and Roman Harper was flagged for a 38 yard pass interference penalty. That set up Robbie Gould's sudden death clinching field goal and ended the Saints chances at a playoff spot.