Worst sideline coach placement: When a coach is mentioned in the same sentence as Joe Paterno, that’s good, but when he receives the same treatment in reference to Mike Tice, that’s bad. Very bad.
Saints head coach Sean Payton has won a Super Bowl, so he’s much more Paterno than Tice. Regardless, after suffering an injury on the sideline today he now has something in common with both, as all three have been seriously injured while standing on the sidelines and coaching their teams.
A first-quarter play during the Saints’ loss to Tampa Bay ended with New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham getting pushed out of bounds by Bucs linebacker Mason Foster. Graham fell directly into Payton’s legs, and the picture above is the result of the collision.
Payton coached the remainder of the first half from a bench, and then summoned his inner Paterno by moving up to the press box for the second half. X-rays in the Saints’ locker room later revealed a torn MCL, and a tibial plateau fracture.
Worst luck: Somewhere there’s a disgruntled player with several holes ripped in voodoo dolls. On a day when Jim Harbaugh decided to be a frat boy after winning a football game and Payton shattered his knee, Wade Phillips, the league’s favorite coaching teddy bear, was accidentally run over and knocked to the ground by a ref.
Only pride was damaged, so really Phillips didn’t feel a thing because his pride has already been fatally wounded.
Oh, and as our grand finale, in the same game that Payton busted himself up Buccaneers defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake tore his patellar tendon while celebrating.
Turtle award: Here turtle means slow and awkward, not douchey.
The Saints are primarily a passing team, and the NFL has become a passing league. Over the past two seasons Payton and Drew Brees have established a consistently prolific passing attack, one that’s ranked in the top five for both of those years and has accumulated a combined 8,756 passing yards. In 2009 during their Super Bowl year Pierre Thomas was rolling and provided the necessary offensive balance, pacing the Saints to a rushing offense that averaged 131.6 yards per game.
But last year injuries and ineffectiveness caused that balance to vanish, and the Saints’ rushing offense plummeted to 28th in the league. The resulting pressure that shifted to Brees’ arm contributed to the highest interception total of his career (22). That same mediocre running game remains in New Orleans this year, but now injuries can’t be used as a crutch.
The three-headed monstrosity (Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Darren Sproles) combined for just 54 rushing yards on 17 carries from running backs today, a meager total against a young and maturing Tampa Bay front seven that’s allowing 123.4 yards per game.
Under Payton the Saints have always leaned more towards a platoon situation, or at the very least establishing two very different runners with very different styles. Previously, Thomas was the downfield runner while Reggie Bush was the explosive pass-catching presence in the flats. Now Sproles has become the new Bush, and Ingram the new Thomas, and Thomas has become…what?
Thomas had 11 yards on seven attempts today, the fifth game this year that the Saints failed to field a rusher who ran for at least 60 yards. Ingram has become the physical goal-line presence and has three touchdowns, while Sproles is easily on pace for a career-high in receiving yards (826). Thomas, meanwhile, seems lost, and in 2008, when he was receiving almost the same number of carries per game, his weekly yardage was nearly double what it is now (41.7 in 2008, 27.5 in 2011).