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franklin county times

Saints regroup from loss

By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Dec. 26, 2002
NEW ORLEANS Things can change quickly in the National Football League; just ask the New Orleans Saints and their beleaguered coach Jim Haslett.
Just two weeks ago, the Saints were in position to host a playoff game and clinch the division title.
Now, after perhaps the teams most untimely loss in franchise history to one of the worst teams in league history, the Saints and Haslett are left scratching their heads trying figure out where it has all gone wrong. And more importantly, how to make it right again.
And forget the division, the Saints (9-6), once controllers of their own destiny, have now dropped five of their last seven and need help from others just to make the postseason. That is, provided they beat last place Carolina this week in the Superdome to move to 10-6.
Their only hope is that the Atlanta Falcons (9-5-1) or the New York Giants (9-6) lose this weekend. The Giants are at home against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday and the Falcons visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The day after the 20-13 shocking debacle loss to the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, Haslett was once again under the spotlighted scrutiny of the media, and once again he had no answers for his squads poor performance, or why his team seems to prosper against powerhouses and falter against also-rans.
One thing he did seem to be sure about was the loss hurt the entire franchise badly. "I think it took a lot out of everybody, coaches included," he said. "It hurt. It hurt them, it hurt the coaches, and it hurt the fans. We'll come out and play hard and play well. We've got to try to regroup.
Regrouping? History says no. The Saints are 0-2 this season against last place teams. And Carolina (6-9) sits in last place in the NFC South.
But once again, Haslett was quick to say this year's collapse was not the same as the 2001 meltdown. "This is nothing like last year at all," coach Jim Haslett said. "Our guys played hard. They were trying to win the game. It's not like we gave up 40 points or anything. The guys played hard, we just didn't execute very well."
A big part of the non-execution could be blamed on the offense, namely quarterback Aaron Brooks, who started out strong, but fizzled out in the second half, completing 16 of 38 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown, but just 2-of-14 for 13 yards in the latter stages. The last 11 passes did not find a receiver.
The Saints denied his shoulder is still injured and Haslett said he did not consider brining in backup Jake Delhomme.
New Orleans only mustered two third down-conversions which translated to a mere 210 total yards, including a season-worst 36 yards on the ground. 52 markers came in the final three frames. When presented with those ominous numbers, Haslett finally had to admit what many have known all along.
Haslett reiterated what has become quite a regular sound bite heard here on Mondays, not worrying about the playoffs.
At least one player Sunday evening said the team did not deserve postseason play. The Bengals, please," wide receiver Joe Horn said. "I question sometimes if we need to go to the playoffs. I'm not watching to see who wins or loses next week. We shouldn't have let it to get to this point, where we need to watch and see who loses.
Perhaps not, but with Christmas a day away, their may be a lump of coal in the team stocking again this year.
I think for our football team the most important thing is to come back to work (today) and have a good days work, enjoy Christmas, come back and try to wi! n a football game and well see where were at,… Haslett said. At this point, many fans already have a good idea just where that is.