Offense sputters as Saints drop fourth straight contest

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 31, 2005

BATON ROUGE &8212; Home, dome or just about gone, this sure wasn&8217;t what people had waited two months to see.

And it didn&8217;t matter who was in attendance. The governor, the commissioner, shoot &8212; Santa Claus may have been in attendance at Tiger Stadium Saturday, and he couldn&8217;t have helped.

While 61,000 welcomed back the New Orleans Saints with open arms Sunday afternoon, 53 players and one head coach asked for their forgiveness after a disappointing 21-6 loss to Miami. The loss dropped the nomadic Saints to 2-6 on the season, but it wouldn&8217;t have mattered if it was their first loss of the season.

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That&8217;s because head coach Jim Haslett drew a line in the locker room.

No more.

&8220;I&8217;ll promise you this &8212; if anybody on this football team quits or doesn&8217;t play hard, I promise you I will cut them. Period,&8221; Haslett said. &8220;We were awful. Terrible. We didn&8217;t play very well. We didn&8217;t stop them on defense, and offensively, you can&8217;t win in this league by scoring six points.

&8220;We weren&8217;t very good. That&8217;s it. Right now we&8217;re a bad football team.&8221;

The Saints were lethargic on offense after the opening drive, and they played well on defense for a good portion of the game until a sluggish Miami offense broke through and made some plays late. They finished the game with 203 yards total offense and had to stick with the pass attack as the game wore on.

The Saints put up a meager 90 yards offensively on 17 carries.

&8220;This is your job,&8221; said tight end Ernie Conwell, one of two tight ends who left the game early due to injury. &8220;You don&8217;t just show up on Sunday and play hard. You&8217;ve got to give your all every day. The work ethic you have and the pride you put into things all determines the outcome.&8221;

The Saints managed a field goal in each half and couldn&8217;t move the ball well after that first drive of the game. A fumble on third down on one drive killed that possession, and the offense was whistled for delay of game on another third down before Aaron Brooks threw incomplete.

Only late in the game did they nearly convert on third down when Brooks hit Joe Horn on a 15-yard gain. Problem was, it was third and 16, and Brooks threw incomplete on the next play.

The Saints camp up empty on all 11 third down situations today.

&8220;0 for 11 on third downs &8212; I don&8217;t think I&8217;ve ever been in a game where somebody was 0 for 11,&8221; Haslett said. &8220;I don&8217;t know &8212; Miami had some real pressure. It looked like (Brooks) was running for his life most of the time. Every time I turned around there some somebody breaking home free.&8221;

The biggest breakdown on third down came late in the third quarter when Brooks tried to break away from a Miami pass rush before being tackled in the end zone by Kevin Carter for a safety.

The Saints followed with the free kick that allowed the Dolphins to start at their own 49, and Gus Frerotte hit Chris Chambers for a 20-yard pass on the first play. Four plays later, the two hooked up again on a 12-yard touchdown pass for an 18-6 lead with 14:09 left in the game.

&8220;This is probably the best we&8217;ve played together all year as a team on both side. It was really a great team win. Both sides of the ball played extremely well. We had great balance on offense, in terms of our ability to run the ball. I think we&8217;re learning and growing on how we do that.&8221;

The first two drives of the second half set the tone for the rest of the game for the Saints. Brooks had a pass picked off on the first drive, and he fumbled on third down on the next drive before falling on it.

The defense set up the team&8217;s only score of the second half when Darren Howard recovered a fumble when Frerotte was hit in the backfield. Two incompletions sandwiched around an 8-yard run from Aaron Stecker forced the Saints to call on John Carney for a 49-yard field goal to trim the lead to 9-6 with 3:37 left in the third.

&8220;It&8217;s a number of things,&8221; Haslett said. &8220;We do the same things over and over. Dropped balls, no protection, missed tackles. I thought at times we played pretty good defensively, but when you&8217;re out there that long, sooner or later something is going to give.&8221;

The Saints looked their best offensively on their first drive of the game when they got inside the Miami 11. But Brooks threw incomplete on third down from the 8, and the Saints settled for a 26-yard field goal from John Carney.

The Dolphins got to the New Orleans 6 on their next drive, and on third down Dwight Smith came up with a tipped Frerotte pass in the end zone for the pick. But Smith fumbled when he was brought down at the 29.