What I think they are thinking in the headquarters of the four teams of the AFC South…
It was one game against a great team. We’ll hardly be the only team that Drew Brees shreds this season. We have to make sure guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Jason Campbell and Joe Flacco don’t have a chance to do anything similar. Offensively, we will work and work and work on our red zone production. People talk about our lack of killer instinct and we’re sick of hearing about it, but when we kick so many field goals when we have a chance to run away from a team, it’s a fair topic. We need to get to the root of that fourth-quarter pick and the three-and-out series, which were real killers. Fullback James Casey was great playing like the tight end we know he really is. Can we get that out of him on a regular basis?
No, we’re not claiming any moral victory. But we sure showed we’re invested and determined and have some pride with the way we played against Pittsburgh on Sunday. There is enough there that we can turn it into winning efforts against the teams we’re about to face -- Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Cincinnati. We have to remind ourselves as we game plan and as we play, that we’re not conceding anything by handing the ball off more. And we need to dissect our run defense against the Steelers to make sure we know what we did so we can keep doing it. We’ve got other lingering questions. Does Kerry Collins’ concussion mean he’s out next week? If he’s healthy, do we have a quarterback controversy anyway? Does it mean anything that we played against the run so well with Fili Moala out of the lineup?
Coaches need to work to hold onto players this week. How much faith can we have right now when the offense was so conservative -- never mind the rookie quarterback and the rain, let’s go win the game. Then Jack Del Rio says to blame him over clock-management trouble that cost us a play at the end. If a player makes a comparable mistake, he can earn entry into Del Rio’s dog house. So does Del Rio go in there now? These other teams with rookie QBs are energized by the fresh start. We need that, but it’s going to be hard to find against the Saints. It’s time for all these new defenders to show up with a few big plays. If we don’t get some against New Orleans, it could be ugly.
Hate to harp on it, but boy does having a true leader at quarterback make a difference. Look how good Matt Hasselbeck is helping make guys like Nate Washington. We had some moments in the win over Denver that should carry over for us, starting with the big goal-line stand. You better believe we were making a statement with that. Talk Texans all you like, but we’re 2-1, too, and feeling good about ourselves. We ought to be able to win in Cleveland even without Kenny Britt. But without him, we’re going to be counting even more on pass protection and Hasselbeck. It would be a good time to figure out and solve our run struggles.