REPORT CARD AFTER 9 GAMES
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Even though it's been efficient at times, the Saints aren't exactly scaring anybody with their passing game this season. Aaron Brooks and Todd Bouman have combined to complete 53.6 percent of their passes and have a passer rating of 64.2. Averaging just 196.4 yards per game through the air, the Saints have thrown only seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In addition, the Saints also have allowed 28 sacks and are on pace to give up 50 -- the most since Brooks was dropped 50 times in his first season as a full-time starter in 2001.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Saints spent the offseason tailoring the offense to the skills of two-time Pro Bowl RB Deuce McAllister. But their plans were blown up when he was lost to a torn ACL in his right knee in a Week 5 loss at Green Bay. Still, Antowain Smith has done a good job of filling in, rushing for 287 yards and a 5.9 average on 49 carries in his four games as the primary ball carrier. As a team, the Saints are averaging 4.3 yards a carry as Brooks has tucked the ball under his arm more than in past seasons and already has gained 220 yards -- the most since picking up 256 in 2002.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- Despite injuries to cornerback Fakhir Brown and strong safety Jay Bellamy, the Saints are playing decently against the pass and ranked eighth in the league going into their bye week. Opposing teams have completed 58.6 percent of their passes, but the Saints are allowing just 167.8 yards per game. They've given up 11 TD passes in nine games and have seven interceptions -- including two by ball-hawking FS Dwight Smith, who has solidified the back end of the secondary.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Saints still can't stop the run, and every team in the league knows it. They have allowed 1,254 yards and a 139.3 average in nine games. But in the last two outings before their bye, it was really bad as the Dolphins rolled them for 188 yards and the Bears gashed them for 183 yards. While they've given up a long run of 43 yards, opposing running backs have regularly ripped off long gains with little resistance from the Saints' defenders.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-plus -- For years, the Saints have had one of the finest special teams units in the NFL. But they've been plagued by penalties and other crucial mistakes in addition to having former All-Pro return man Michael Lewis go down for the season with a knee injury in Week 2. They had two field-goal attempts blocked and also fumbled the opening kickoff away in back-to-back games. The return game has averaged just 21.1 yards on kickoffs and 5.7 yards on punts. Mitch Berger has been solid in averaging 42.7 yards per punt with a net average of 39.8. He's also had 18 punts downed inside the 20.
COACHING: C -- Jim Haslett and his staff have done everything they could to keep things together in trying times, but it's clear that their players -- for whatever reason -- aren't responding. Even though they try hard, they make the same mistakes over and over, as evidenced by the Saints' league-worst minus-13 total in takeaway-giveaway differential and 82 penalties in nine games. Having eight players on injured reserve hasn't helped either.