Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/26/12
It's appropriate here to pay tribute to TV's most famous coroner, Mr. Jack Klugman, who passed away Christmas Eve at age 90. Take care, sir, and remember: on those notes that Tony Randall left you in the beyond, "F.U." is nothing vulgar. In case you forget.This week's stuffing of the stiffs provides a challenge for the Football Nation ME's office, as a quartet of optimistic battalions fell just short of a chance at the postseason. While there may be some glaring issues with the teams in question, some that stand out as Achilles heels, truth is they're practically no better or worse than a few teams hovering around the wild card range.And so it is more due to overcrowding that these teams are eliminated, and not necessarily being outright awful. If the NFL had the expanded playoff bracket currently in discussion, a few of these bodies upon the slabs would still be upright.But expanded playoffs is just another chance for more injuries, right? And Goodell would certainly want to avoid that, even if it means more money for him.*sigh* A coroner's work is never done.Subject: New Orleans SaintsDate of Death: December 23, 2012Record at Time of Death: 7-8Contributing Factors to Death:1. A Painfully Slow StartConspiracy theorists in pewter and black held to the notion that Commissioner Roger Goodell, in doling out punishment over "BountyGate", was doing everything in his power to prevent Drew Brees and the Saints from playing in Super Bowl XLVII, which is to be held in their very own Superdome.While theories like the NBA's purported "Frozen Envelope" fiasco may hold more weight among the tinfoil crowd, those accusing Goodell of sabotage may have had a case during the month of September.The defending NFC South Champions not only stumbled out of the gate, but fell flat on their face, and were dragged by the horse in endless circles.The Saints started the 2012 season 0-4, losing the first three to teams with losing records in 2011, and 2 of which are long since out of playoff contention.First, it was a 40-32 loss to Washington, followed by a 35-27 defeat at the hands of rival Carolina. That was followed by an embarrassing 27-24 overtime loss in the Superdome to, of all teams, Kansas City.They nearly got Green Bay in Week 4, but the Packers edged them 28-27.The Saints had to do what only the 1992 Chargers had done: make the postseason after an 0-4 start.2. Dearth of DefenseYou may have noticed those obscenely high point totals given up by the Saints in those four games listed. While the Saints were no slouches themselves in the scoring department, thanks to Drew Brees and his high-powered "everyone participates" offense, the defense had trouble holding up their end.Call it a breakdown in coaching thanks to suspensions of Sean Payton and Joe Vitt, or call it changes in personnel (additions of Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne), but the Saints D just had trouble finding its groove.The Saints have the third worst run-stopping average in the league (5 yards a carry given up), and the fourth worst percentage of sack/interception plays (7.2 percent, 29 sacks, 14 picks).In 10 of 15 games this season, opponents have scored 27 or more points against the Saints. It's by some freakish miracle that New Orleans was able to shut Tampa Bay out 41-0 a few games back.The Saints 28.2 PPG scored on offense just wasn't enough to offset the 27.3 points a game given up, as for every convincing win, there was a skin-of-the-teeth defeat.3. Collapsed at Critical PassDespite the early slip-ups and sloppiness, New Orleans managed to dig themselves out of the hole and get to a 5-5 record. They even upset the then-undefeated Falcons in Week 10 to further the notion of "we're alive and kicking."After a 38-17 shellacking of the Raiders a week later, the Saints were poised to make a tally-ho charge toward the playoffs.And then the wheels came off.Three straight losses awaited: a 31-21 defeat to the 49ers, a 23-13 revenge win for Atlanta, and a 52-27 drubbing from the Giants (The David Wilson Game) dropped New Orleans to 5-8, meaning a miracle was needed to leapfrog others for a playoff spot.That chance would never come, as the Saints end an exhausting 2012 with no spoils whatsoever.For other autopsies, including the Eagles, Jets, Dolphins, and more, click here
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