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Broaddus: Health, Tackling Issues Plague Defense
I have to admit that I was surprised this game wasn't much closer, even with all the injuries that the defense has had to deal with. I am not making excuses for them, but when you are dealing with a team with a dynamic offense that puts pressure on you at all levels, if you don't get pressure, don't handle plays in the running game and don't tackle well on the back end, you are going to have problems.
I said it earlier in the week that I thought that Drew Brees was the most accurate quarterback that I had seen play since Troy Aikman, and he did nothing in this game for me to believe otherwise. With Sean Payton's offensive mind and Brees ability to not only get his offense in the right play, but to also execute them as well, it was going to be hard for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to slow them down. When this Saints offense is really rolling, it is a thing of beauty to watch.
My feeling was that the Cowboys would be able to move their defensive line and give the Saints offensive line some issues. When defenses made their linemen have to extend their blocks, the harder it was for them to finish. But to their credit, the Saints’ front was able to keep Brees clean the majority of the night, and when he can do that, then there’s going to be some trouble getting off the field.
It appeared early in the game that Payton was interested in trying to establish the run, and he went at defensive end George Selvie's side. When Selvie had issues holding up at the point and the linebackers were not able to get over, it put the Saints in some favorable down-and-distance situations and really opened the playbook up for them. What I thought the Saints did a really good job with during the game was mixing their personnel each and every play, which caused Kiffin to have to try and match. That caused even more problems with the health of his defense.
When we all have a chance to sit down and really break this game down on tape, what is going to bother me and these coaches the most will be all the missed tackles. There were opportunities at various points in this game where they just flat missed tackles at the worst times. I have been a champion this season for what Jeff Heath could do as a free safety, but on Sunday night, he played like a rookie free agent from Saginaw Valley. However, Heath was not alone in the way this defense tackled. Tackling issues plagued the entire defense, and when you play an offense like this one, you have to bring those receivers down in space.
Offensively, the Saints will be one of the best teams the Cowboys will face all season, and I even include the Broncos in this thought. There was not one time on Sunday night when I felt like this Cowboys defense was going to stop the Saints and that was a sick feeling. This bye week for the Cowboys, couldn't have come at a better time.