This was something Saints fan haven’t seen since week 14 of the 2016 season; the dark days of 7—9 mediocrity era. No touchdowns were scored by the offense or defense*, but much of that can be attributed to the loss of Drew Brees wit a thumb injury that could keep him out for an extended amount of time.
Much of the rest of the team still under-performed in what was a highly anticipated rematch of the NFC Championship game.
Here are some quick observations:
The typically staunch line looked confused at times and were overpowered by the Rams front seven led by Aaron Donald. The Rams limited Alvin Kamara to only 45 yards on 13 carries for a 3.5 yard per carry average and added five tackles for a loss. Brees and Bridgewater were under pressure for much of the day with the latter being sacked twice and hit four times, per ESPN.
The injury to Andrus Peat didn’t help matters either. Will Clapp would see his first significant playing time against the imposing Donald and garnered a holding penalty on what would be a long day for the former seventh round pick.
Without Brees and a rookie at center the line had issues with calling protections and identifying blitzes. This unit will need to rebound quickly, especially if Brees misses significant time. The Saints face tough slate of defenses going forward.
Eleven, to be exact. That was the amount of penalties that were accepted against the Saints that totaled 87 yards. Nine came against the offense which included the five holding calls and an egregious block in the back by Jared Cook which erased a 17 yard gain by Kamara. Michael Thomas and Bridgewater would both add one of their own.
The other two were both on Eli Apple, who struggled at times in coverage and got called for illegal contact and pass interference.
This is uncharacteristic of this team and will certainly be a coaching point this week as the team prepares in Seattle for their game against the Seahawks.
The injury bug showed up before the game even started when Keith Kirkwood aggravated his hamstring during pregame warm-ups. Unfortunately Austin Carr was already declared inactive which meant the team would be down two receivers. When you have a first-ballot Hall of Famer at quarterback you can work around these issues.
Then came the high-five heard around New Orleans when Donald slapped the hand of Brees as he was following through on a pass, injuring his thumb and taking him out for the game.
Things only got worse after that. Peat and Tre’Quan Smith went down with what appeared to be ankle injuries and did not return. A.J. Klein also went down and headed to the locker room, but did eventually return.
We should learn more soon on all the injuries. The most important question surrounds Brees’, thumb hopefully coming on Monday after he visits a specialist in L.A.
Saints are flying to Seattle tonight but QB Drew Brees is staying behind in Los Angeles to visit with a hand specialist on Monday, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 16, 2019
Its tough coming into a game as a backup quarterback, especially when facing a top defense with an experienced defensive coordinator on the other side. Its even harder when you’re constantly under pressure and two of your offensive weapons are missing.
Bridgewater made his fair share of mistakes that included inaccurate throws and appeared to hold on to the ball for too long.
Going forward Sean Payton will be able to game-plan around Bridgewater’s strengths and should be able to produce better results on the field.
While not ideal to lose Brees for any amount of time, the last time a backup quarterback had to start due to an injury, Luke McCown nearly led the team to victory over the Carolina Panthers in the 2015 season. McCown went 31-of-38 for 310 yards and nearly had a game winning touchdown on a pass he under-threw. He would be intercepted in the end zone.
Bridgewater is in a better position than McCown was in 2015. Has more offensive weapons around him, and if he can keep his mistakes limited the offense should be able to move forward and remain competitive until Brees returns.