does the flying to the ball sound familiar?....lol
Almost five months have gone by since the Saints tied a ribbon to an 8-8 season, and in one way, one thing remains the same.
Ask Sean Payton to name his biggest disappointment about 2008, and it's the four games "we let get away."
At the end.
A play here, a play there.
When the head coach talked a day after one of those games, a season-ending 33-31 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the Superdome, one play was less than 24 hours old.
As Payton put it, it was one of those plays "made above our head that we were not able to make."
What made it painful is the play came after the Saints had come alive in the fourth quarter after falling behind 30-10, then taking a 31-30 lead with three minute remaining. It came when receiver Steve Smith of the Panthers, sandwiched between defensive backs Roman Harper and Jason David, came up with the football, a 39-yard pickup that sent the Panthers on their way to a winning 42-yard field goal by John Kasay.
The pass thrown by Jake Delhomme was anything but a strike. It was one of those "it's anybody's ball" lobs that Smith turned into the biggest play of the game.
"The ball seemed to be in the air three or four seconds, " Payton said the day after, "and we couldn't intercept it or knock it down. We have to decide, are we doing the right thing, and are we doing it with the right players?"
In that game, the defense gave up completions of 54, 39, 30 and 28 yards. But it would not be stretching the point to suggest the 39-yard grab Smith took away from two Saints was the kind of play that probably loomed largest in Payton's decision to make a change at defensive coordinator.
When the question was put to the head coach Thursday -- "What impresses you most about Gregg Williams?" -- the first words out of the mouth of the head coach was "he's a leader."
As he watches the defense "flying around" -- giving you the feeling "there is no gray area" when it comes to claiming loose balls, it's more "the ball belongs to me" -- Payton expects Williams' traits as a leader to translate into turnovers.
What did he see in that December loss to Carolina?
Payton said he saw Delhomme "take one hitch, two hitches, three hitches, and he was back there for an inordinate amount of time."
Now he's looking for a coordinator's leadership, more than schemes, to change an inconsistent pass rush.
What does linebacker Scott Fujita see in the new coordinator?
"Coach Williams is someone intent on getting you to maximize your talent, " he said. "It's more than Xs and Os. It's a matter of creating a new culture."
What about cornerback Randall Gay, the one-time New England Patriot?
"He wants you to have the mind-set that you can win every play, " Gay said. "His goal is to get you obsessed with the can-do attitude, that nothing's impossible if you believe in yourself. He wants you to go out there with the idea you not only can win every play, but you can take the ball away on every play. It's fun seeing the guys out there trying to do just that. The message seems to be there are only so many schemes you can run to do the job. It's how aggressively you run them. That's the bottom line."
Safety Roman Harper, a second-round pick in 2006, has been impressed with "the presence" of the new coordinator, how he sometimes gets his "message across in a loud voice, " how his mind-set is consistently one of "on the attack."
It's a defensive mind-set Drew Brees, the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,069 yards and play on an 8-8 ballclub, has watched from across the line, one the quarterback describes as "we're coming after you."
"For me, in a way, " he said, "every day is a game for me. I love it. It's great for the offense. We don't have the pads on, but the way the guys are flying around, it's like a padded practice."