Haslett: Aggressiveness on field nothing new

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 6, 2000

NEW ORLEANS – As an inside linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, Jim Haslett was known as a tenacious, sometimes mean, player, best known for stomping on Steelers’ quarterback Terry Bradshaw’s throwing hand after a sack.

After Sunday’s 31-15 win over San Francisco, it seems the Saints head coach has grown even more aggressive with age.

Haslett went for the first three times on fourth down, once on the Saints’ 29-yard-line, and he attempted an onsides kick in the second quarter with a 14-0 lead.

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When asked about the source of the team’s aggressiveness, Haslett grinned and shrugged. Actions speak louder than words.

Two short runs and an incomplete pass left the Saints with a fourth-and-4 situation on the 49ers 33 on the first New Orleans drive of the game. Instead of opting for a long field goal attempt, Haslett called a pass.

Jeff Blake found Joe Horn for a 6-yard reception and a first down. The Saints scored six plays later.

After the next Saints touchdown, kicker Toby Gowin unexpectedly kicked short and high. The ball was recovered by special teamer Michael Hawthorne, but the Saints were forced to re-kick when Fred Thomas was called offsides.

But Haslett’s most daring call came during the next Saints’ possession. After taking over on their own 20, a sack forced New Orleans into a third-and-long. Blake hit tight end Andrew Glover for 15 yards, but the ball was spotted inches from a first down.

With the ball on the Saints’ 29 and a 14-point lead, New Orleans lined up in a goal-line formation. Blake gave a hard count and sent running back Ricky Williams in motion. After Williams was set, fullback Brian Milne went in motion, an obvious attempt to draw the defense offsides.

Then, as the play clock approached zero and 49ers defenders relaxed, Blake took the snap and dove forward for two yards.

&uot;We ran a no-play the week before,&uot; Haslett said, referring to a fourth down play against Atlanta in which the Saints let the play clock run out when Blake failed to draw the defense offsides. &uot;I considered it a gamble, but it worked.&uot;

It also boosted the confidence of the entire team team, according to defensive end Joe Johnson.

&uot;It let the offense know we trust them to get the job done,&uot; he said. &uot;But it also let the defense know that we have confidence they can come in and shut the other team down.&uot;

&uot;This team is no more aggressive than we were on the first day of mini-camp,&uot; Haslett said. &uot;We’ve been playing like this all year. We’re aggressive on defense, and we play smash-mouth football on offense.&uot;