You could say that last night's loss to the Seahawks was just one of those nights where the Saints just ran into a buzzsaw of a team with a solid fan support at exactly the wrong time, where they were simply ambushed by a great team that was well rested with a bye week and time to prepare. In short, the scheduling gurus of the NFL had it in for them by having them play back-to-back grinders in 5 days (Niners/Falcons), and they simply couldn't recover enough even with the longer layover to adequately prepare for the crucible awaiting them.
But...you could also say just as well that the Saints simply aren't the kind of team that is built to go on the road and win critical games outdoors on the road against really good teams. Without a credible consistent power running game or a running back that can break big plays and cause fear in the hearts of defenses; without the ability to strike deep in the passing game with a breakaway speed-burning wide receiver (as in Javon Jackson or A. C. Green or Julio Jones or Dez Bryant), and without any pretense of a kickoff or punt return threat...the Saints are now totally dependent on Drew Brees dinking and dunking and hoping that Jimmy Graham or Darren Sproles breaks off big plays or Marques Colston catches the tough pass that moves the chains. With the offensive line they have right now, that's a inevitable task.
The Saints may yet survive this year and rally to beat Carolina, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis, and retain the #2 seed and secure a bye and at least one home game. But, it is just as likely that they can lose one if not all of those games and get shut out of the playoffs altogether, or at least only sneak in as a #5 or #6 seed forced to go to Philly or Detroit or Dallas. I'm still optimistic for the former scenario, but something in my head tells me that the latter might be more to the truth about this team.
If so, then it may be time for Sean Payton to do some serious reassessment about this team at the end of this year, and what they may need to do in order to transition this team into the next level. Maybe it might be well to let Jimmy Graham ride the free agency road and use the savings on getting a more traditional tight end that can block people as well as catch..and maybe draft some actual wide receivers that can make plays after they catch the football? Or, maybe it's time to ditch the running back committee of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram and find a Monte Ball/Adrian Petersen-type running back that can actually threaten to hit the home run and not settle for 5 yard gains?? Maybe, even, begin to think about life without Brees and bringing in a QB that doesn't need to move around the pocket to read defenses, and can throw the deep ball when needed?
I'm not saying that the offensive scheme needs to be overhauled overnight, obviously. Brees and Payton's offense has done plenty of damage in its wake for the past 5 years, and there is no reason why they can't simply retool with different personnel. However...after what happened with Seattle in 2010, in Frisco in 2011, and what took place last night and earlier in New England, you could certainly make a point that the Saints are still not getting the fundamentals of the NFL on the road these days: if you can't run the football, defend against the run, or make or prevent big plays, it doesn't matter if you throw for 4,000 or 10,000 yards...you will still find yourself on the outside looking in.
Obviously, I'd much prefer Brees and Graham and the current system stay intact, and simply plug in better personnel to execute their gameplans, while Rob Ryan steadily improves his defense with better players. But, should last night's game prove to be only the beginning of the collapse rather than simply a really bad night, it's not beyond reason for Saints fans to begin asking these questions and reassessing the expectations for the team for the future.
But..that's for the end of the year. Right now, all eyes should be pointed like a laser towards Carolina on Sunday night. Time for the WhoDat Nation to blow off the MBS roof and rally around their team.