While I’m sure we’re all chomping at the bit to hear from the defensive unit after the New Orleans Saints 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, the postgame conferences were decidedly sparse. That said, the two leaders of the team, head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, primarily put this loss on their shoulders. Here’s what they had to say about the disappointing primetime performance, and where the Saints ultimately went wrong.
"We're not even close to what we are capable of right now." -- Drew Brees.— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) September 22, 2020
When asked about which unit shoulders more of the blame, Payton was quick to point to both sides essentially failing to do their job:
“We didn’t possess the ball enough offensively, and defensively we couldn’t get off the field,” he noted. As noticed by most morose fans, Payton furthered to specifically criticize the third down defense that allowed Derek Carr to carve up the Saints secondary.
“We’re going to look at third down, we’re going to look at time of possession, at the turnover right before the half and we’re going to look at a number of things. We have to do a better job coaching. I don’t think it’s going to be a real pleasant film to watch for some of our star players as well.”
The elephant in the press conference room was clearly the lackluster performance by Drew Brees. Unlike Bruce Arians, Payton wasn’t willing to put the entire loss on his veteran quarterback; pointing to his lackluster playcalling for the second week in a row, he spread the wealth in terms of blame:
“Obviously, we’re not going to win when we have that many, we have to get that cleaned up. I thought we played poorly in the secondary.
“We got to be precise with what we’re doing in the passing game, route wise. I’m just saying the last two weeks have been average at best offensively. That starts with us, it starts with me, and we have to be better. We ran the ball a little bit better tonight. We’re still not protecting the way we’re supposed to, we’re not functioning well enough and taking advantage of the opportunities we had.”
The Saints pulled a Freaky Friday with Las Vegas in terms of penalties, racking up a hefty 129 yards – mainly by the defense. So much so, Payton noted, “we had some penalties situations, and in that one drive we had three or four penalties that [I] lost track.” We certainly did not.
Brees' postgame opening statement#Saints pic.twitter.com/MOgrmSDTsN— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 22, 2020
Drew Brees noticed the incredibly lopsided time of possession; while fans may gripe at his “declining performance,” Brees clearly was able to dissect the myriad of issues at play on Monday night:
“I think we knew how valuable the possessions in this game would be. I felt like we started the game off well, put together some good drives, three scoring drives. The turnover at the end of the half was unfortunate because I feel like it took points off the board from us, a field goal at least, and it gave three points to them. If there’s one thing I wish I could take back from the game, it would be that. We had a lot of mental errors.”
Brees admitted the Saints, “weren’t playing as fast and maybe as confident.” However, like Payton, he pointed to the slew of penalties that stifled any hopes of a momentum-stealing drive.
“Penalties, at the end of the day if you look at the stat sheet it hurt us. I think offensively we really just had one drive where it really set us back. We had two holding calls, an illegal block in the back, put us in a third-and-20 situation. I think that was our first drive of the third quarter.” Brees furthered, “we know what wins football games and we know what makes it very difficult to win football games and obviously we made way too many mistakes out there in order to win that game.”
One of the most apparent voids on Monday night was the absence of Michael Thomas. While it may seem simple to just move Tre’Quan Smith to WR2, New Orleans runs a quite complex offense that can’t be built in a day.
“I say the big adjustment was just having to move some guys around. Just moving guys around. Tre’Quan [Smith] basically was playing a lot of Mike’s [Thomas] snaps. Then, you had new guys at Tre’Quan’s position. So, obviously we’re very multiple with what we do, with our personnel groups, with our formations and plays and everything else. You know, just honing in on where everybody kind of fits in the best and how we can execute better as a result of that.” – Drew Brees
"We didn't do enough tonight. It was ugly. That's the hard truth." — Alvin Kamara— Amie Just (@Amie_Just) September 22, 2020
Brees touched on his puzzling interception; though it was apparent that Andrus Peat rushed Brees into a sticky situation, as most leaders do, Brees put that mental error on himself.
“Bottom line is, I shouldn’t have thrown that ball. That was either a bad decision or a much better throw, but at the end of the day just checking out. I didn’t have the time that I needed to really make a good read. I should have just dumped it to Alvin and moved to the next play.”
The question of the hour remains: is Brees in his Father Time decline? Sure, there may be inevitable physical factors, but Brees decidedly blamed his cerebral failures more than an inability to throw a deep ball:
“My job is to execute the offense. So, I’ve always evaluated myself on being a good decision maker. And so, at the end of the day, I’m going to throw the ball to the open guy, move the ball down the field, score points, help us win football games. That’s my job. My job is not to have the most air yards, or throw the ball down the field the most, or anything like that. My job is to help us win. My job is to help put everybody around me in a position to succeed and that’s all I’m focused on.”
Ultimately, when imploring the most pressing remedy to fix the out-of-sync offense, Brees pointed to his favorite word – efficiency:
“I feel like we just need to be more efficient. We have a wealth of stuff that we do within the framework of our offense. You know, we called a shot play, or two, today and just got the wrong coverage on both of them. What could have been big play opportunities, big throws down the field had to be checked down. One was a 10-yard check-down completion and another one was something close to that as well. Again, at the end of the day it is our job to get the ball down the field and score points. However, we do that, we do it.”
At the end of the day, the errors made in Monday night’s game are all ultimately fixable. While fans may be perturbed at Payton’s repeated lamenting over his lackluster playcalling, at least the two leaders could intelligently discern where everything went wrong – and that’s the first and most important step.
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