A trap game for the 11-0 Saints

NFL Notes

After Patriots, New Orleans can't let Redskins sneak up

December 06, 2009|By From Sun news services

Having achieved a signature franchise moment with a Monday night win over the high and mighty New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints now get to experience another unfamiliar sensation.

A December trap game.

At 11-0 for the first time in club history, the Saints are big favorites to knock off the Washington Redskins (3-8) today.

And for good reason. The Saints average 37 points; the Redskins can't even score 30 in a game. The Saints will clinch the NFC South with a win; the Redskins will clinch a losing season with a loss.

New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gets to unleash nearly two years' worth of fury, avenging his dismissal from Washington when he thought he was in line to become head coach after Joe Gibbs retired in January 2008.

But the Saints are coming off a short workweek. They're leaving the comforts of the Superdome for chilly, East Coast late autumn weather. The players are hearing talk of going 16-0, which makes it tougher to cling to the "one game at a time" mantra. The Redskins are playing as well as they have all season, beating the Denver Broncos before blowing late fourth-quarter leads against the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

Besides, there's no way around it: For the Saints, this game just doesn't have the same magnitude as that 38-17 victory on Monday night. For the Redskins, however, it's a chance to put at least one feather in the cap of an otherwise disappointing season.

"Every team is beatable," Washington running back Rock Cartwright said. "New Orleans has some weakness that we need to try to exploit."

Weaknesses? OK, the Saints don't cover punts and kickoffs particularly well. And Williams' defense, while a vast improvement over last year's unit, is a middle-of-the-pack bunch that can afford to take extra risks because the offense is so good. The Saints have a league-high 32 takeaways, but they rank 20th against the run.

But that's about like saying the Mona Lisa has a tiny smudge somewhere near the edge. The overwhelming fact is the Saints are beating opponents by nearly 17 points per game.

SEAHAWKS: Mike Holmgren wants to talk to team executives about coming back.

Seattle's former coach and one-time general manager said Friday during his semi-weekly radio show in Seattle that he would like to talk to team owner Paul Allen and chief executive officer Tod Leiweke about becoming the team's GM and perhaps president. Those titles became vacant Thursday when the Seahawks forced Tim Ruskell to resign weeks before his five-year contract was to end.

"Absolutely, I would like to talk to them," Holmgren said.

The 61-year-old former Super Bowl-winning coach with Green Bay is the Seahawks' longest-tenured and winningest coach. He spent 1999 to 2008 remaking Seattle into an NFC champion during the 2005 season and a perennial playoff team until its fall the past two years.

Holmgren conceded that it was a "weird" circumstance that finds him a candidate to return one year after he took 2009 off to fulfill a promise he had made to his wife and family, after his coaching contract with Seattle ended in January.

Cleveland and Buffalo are two other teams that have been linked to interest in Holmgren.

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