Despite everything that went on during a tumultuous offseason, no one — not even their worst enemy — could have envisioned that it would take the New Orleans Saints five games to earn their first win.
With one of the NFL’s best offenses returning most of its key components and a defense that was expected to be improved with a new coordinator and new scheme, not even the suspension of coach Sean Payton could keep the Saints from being a force again, right?
It’s still early in a 16-game season, but with the Saints enjoying their bye week it’s not a bad time to look at the good and bad from the offense, defense and special teams so far:
GOOD: While his completion percentage of 58.9 percent is way off the NFL single-season record of 72.1 percent he set last season, Drew Brees is starting to heat up after a slow start.
That’s a good sign for the offense as Brees has 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions in his last three games after having four TDs and four picks in the first two games.
It hasn’t hurt that wide receiver Marques Colston, who battled a foot injury early in the season, has had two monster games in a row.
BAD: This one is obvious, as the running game that was so productive in piling up 132.9 yards a game last season, is struggling with only 75.2 yards per game in the first five outings.
Take away long runs of 48 yards by Pierre Thomas and 47 yards by Darren Sproles and the Saints are averaging just 3.0 yards per carry, which isn’t going to cut it.
GOOD: It’s not easy trying to find something the defense has done well, but there are a couple of positives.
One is the pressure the Saints put on Philip Rivers in Sunday night’s win over San Diego as they got to him five times after having just six in the first four games.
They also have eight takeaways so far — seven coming in the last three games — after having just 16 in 2011.
BAD: After giving up at least 400 yards in each of their first five games, the Saints rank last in total yards allowed at 456.0 yards per game and are last in rushing yards at 172.8 per game.
Of course, big plays are a big part of that as they’ve allowed long runs of 91, 40 and 40 yards and long passes of 88, 66 and 44 yards.
GOOD: Punter Thomas Morstead has had a big season in averaging 51.2 gross yards and 44.4 net yards with a career-long of 70 yards and is also a valuable weapon with his booming kickoffs.
The Saints have been good in the return game although Darren Sproles hasn’t broken free for a long one and are solid in covering kicks.
BAD: Garrett Hartley has been shaky with two missed field goals, including a 48-yarder that would have given the Saints the lead at Green Bay after making a 43-yarder that was wiped out by a holding penalty.