The New Orleans Saints dropped to 10-3 on the season after a heartbreaking and baffling loss to the NFC East bottom-dwelling Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints had the opportunity to be crowned NFC South champions on Sunday with either a win, or a Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Neither occurred. Now, New Orleans will have to hope they have what it takes to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs this upcoming Sunday.
With the loss to the Eagles on Sunday, the Saints now sit in second place in the NFC behind the Green Bay Packers. If the season were to end today then New Orleans would face the Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card round.
So, how did the team who was on a nine game win streak even get here? It had to do with a combination of the poor defensive play and preparation, questionable playcalling on the offensive side of the ball, and Wil Lutz’ disappearance.
Here are our biggest takeaways from the game:
The Saints top-ranked defense was nowhere to be seen
Heading into the Sunday afternoon matchup most of the press was centered around one of two things. The first was Eagles rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts and his first start. The second was the New Orleans top-ranked defense and how it would dominate Hurts. As it turns out, the opposite occurred.
The Saints defense gave up over 100 rushing yards to TWO players, one of which was Miles Sanders and the other to rookie quarterback Hurts. That snapped the Saints record of not allowing a 100-yard rusher in 55 games. Furthermore, the defensive line was unable to record a sack on the evening and relatively little pressure was placed on the rookie to have to make quick decisions. However, credit has to be given to Trey Hendrickson who was constantly in pursuit of Hurts and was never giving up on the play.
Further down the field was the New Orleans secondary. Hurts only threw for 167 yards, but he made decisive throws when they mattered. Perhaps the most frustrating was the 15-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffrey who Marshon Lattimore was tasked with covering. Jeffrey has missed much of the season with injury, and even then his play has seen decline in the past two years. It makes it even more frustrating to see your top cornerback play with little consistency.
However, this defensive showing seems more like a case of poor mentality and preparation than some deep seeded issue. Throughout the week it was very likely this defensive unit simply went through the motions in preparation for this game. After all, it was a 3-8-1 Eagles team with a rookie backup quarterback. There was no way they would be able to stand up to the vaunted New Orleans defense, right? But, they did exactly that. Week 15 is the Chiefs, and another opportunity for this defense to prove that they are of championship-caliber. It will start with the preparation.
The offensive playcalling was suspect at best
Generally speaking, Saints head coach Sean Payton is an offensive genius. He has orchestrated beautifully designed drives in the toughest and closest of situations. But, with six minutes left on the clock and down by two possessions on Sunday, there just seemed to be no sense of urgency. While Monday morning quarterbacking is usually ineffective, it is hard not to point out that had there been more of an effort to move the ball quickly downfield that maybe New Orleans wouldn’t have had to kick an onside kick.
To be totally frank, I still do not understand the lack of urgency of the situation. It very well could have costed the Saints an opportunity to win the game. Additionally, the individual playcalling at the tactical level was confusing. The fumble that Taysom Hill committed cannot totally be attributed to the quarterback. The playcall did not put Hill in a position to be successful, and to make matters worse the play was doomed from the start thanks to tight end Josh Hill.
This could once again be chalked up to simply overlooking what was a lowly Philadelphia team. With the Chiefs looming a week away, it is possible that Payton was simply not incredibly worried about the Eagles. It is unlikely, but it would make sense. It is just frustrating when the division could have been locked up against a 3-8-1 team. Now, their next opportunity will come against the best team in the NFL.
Wil Lutz has all but disappeared
Lutz has been the model of consistency at the kicker position for seasons. He has been a near lock to hit just about every field goal under 50-yards and is absolutely clutch in the closest of scenarios. Yet, he left six points off the board on Sunday when he missed two field goals. That was the difference in losing by three and winning by three.
From Weeks 1-10 Lutz hit 15 of his 16 attempted field goals. From Weeks 11-14 he is only at 2/6. For a player with such consistency, something has to be going on. It is possible that he has an injury that has been affecting him. Other than a psychological issue from a sports mentality side, there really isn’t an explanation. Lutz is in his prime, his kicking for the majority of the season has been exactly as it was the rest of his career, and his confidence should have been through the roof especially after the Chicago Bears game in which he kicked the game winner.
Wil Lutz, Weeks 1-10: 15/16 on field goals— John Sigler (@john_siglerr) December 14, 2020
Wil Lutz, Weeks 11-14: 2/6 on field goals
We should fully expect to see Lutz bounce back after this one, but the result is tough to swallow. This was a classic case of the team failing in all three phases of the game and the result was warranted. New Orleans is accustomed to a few implosions during the year, they just usually happen in the playoffs. If this loss got it out of their system early, then it could all be worth it in the end.
What are your biggest takeaways? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, follow us on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, Instagram at @SaintsCSC, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. And as always you can follow me on Twitter at @KadeKistner.