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Saints Week 3: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

The Saints’ first three games have played out like a corresponding series of this article title.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Can I lend my ankle to Michael Thomas? Despite much improved offensive play by the New Orleans Saints, there were ultimately way too many mistakes in their 37-30 loss against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night to get excited about anything. Did Drew Brees have the game of his career tonight? Not even close. Is he the reason for the Saints’ loss? Not even close.

Though New Orleans showed glimmers of promise after a putrid Week 2 performance, this level of play will lead them straight to a cozy 7th seed in the playoffs – if they’re lucky. The Saints are now facing a must-win Week 4 matchup against a team that’s consistently been their Achilles Heel, the Detroit Lions. Absolutely sloppy play all-around will not even be close to enough to defeat Matthew Stafford.

The Good: Alvin Kamara and the run game (again)

While we were overexcited at the roster moves Sean Payton made on defense in particular, the best offseason move by the Saints was paying Alvin Kamara – and he deserves a raise at this point. Kamara has hauled in 6 TDs in just three games, which is as many that he had in the entire 2019 season. He’s nothing short of elusive; his balance is unparalleled, he evades flying bodies like no one before, and he’s currently the Saints’ top performing receiver at this rate.

Latavius Murray has seen considerably more carries this season; after becoming nearly invisible towards the end of 2019, it’s refreshing to see the Saints’ running game be much more balanced. While Kamara is inhuman, he’s simply not an every-down back – he’s much more valuable when used creatively. Losing Mark Ingram hurt New Orleans incredibly, as Kamara needs a powerhouse back to complement his play style. Sean Payton’s playcalling has certainly been...questionable to put it lightly, but it was good to see the Saints hunker down in the trenches a bit and stick to a strong running game – at least in the first half.

Can we talk about Erik McCoy for a moment as well? McCoy was undoubtedly the MVP of that insane 52-yard touchdown by Kamara with his lights-out blocking. You hear about McCoy’s rare blend of athleticism, speed and cerebral abilities, and that was massively on display when he outran Kamara like his life depended on it. And as much as I hate injuries, and hate that Andrus Peat went down, I’ll just say it: the offensive line is immensely improved with him not in it. Getting Cesar Ruiz out there in the second half opened up the o-line for that run without a doubt. I’m looking forward to seeing him ascend in tandem with McCoy moving forward.

Ultimately, the game ball goes to Kamara, and Alvin Kamara and the supporting cast of the New Orleans Saints were really only in this game thanks to his insane performance. More of this every week, please.

The Bad: Taysom Hill play calls

Honorable mention: Lack of a downfield passing game

As a fervent Taysom Hill lover of 2019, this section hurts to write. But every play that Hill’s been on offensively this season, it just ends up hurting the team more than anything else. An “enthusiastic” discussion as of late has centered around the issue of offensive chemistry between Brees and his receivers this season – why are we continuing to halt that progress with cutesy trick plays?

The Taysom fumble was the game. No question. Sean Payton is atrocious with timing when he subs Hill in on offense right when Drew is just starting to get into a rhythm – at critical moments at that. Slap him in the TE role and figure out more creative ways to get Hill involved on offense, must it come to that. The shtick of the wildcat offense is just starting to get old. It’s insulting to Brees and the rest of the offense when these plays are called in these moments. Let Kamara, Sanders, and Murray continue to ascend and find success. Especially when that’s been of issue; long-term, it’s much more valuable to work out those kinks and just let them figure out how to gel on the field rather than swerving off into swiss army knife fantasy land.

While I declined to continue to burn Brees at the stake, you just expect him to be the difference-maker in these types of games – and difference-maker he has not been. Aaron Rodgers is good, so Brees has to match him and he simply did not. Rodgers made Allen Lazard look like Michael Thomas tonight while Brees could barely throw downfield. The level of play was an immense improvement from last week, but it’s just not good enough yet. His two-minute drills were, at minimum, much more efficient. Getting Thomas back in the lineup will assuredly be the missing link in the chain – it’s just a question of how soon that happens.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Ugly: Rob Ryan’s defense

Expletive. Expletive. Expletive. That pretty much sums up the 2020 Saints defense. 71 points on the Saints in the last two games? That’s just inexcusable when you saw New England eat up the Las Vegas Raiders earlier today. One could place hefty blame on Brees’ performance in New Orleans’ Week 2 loss, but he is certainly not the reason the Saints lost tonight. New Orleans’ defense has reverted so quickly that you’d think we were the 49ers losing half our defense to injuries last week. Where in the world is Cameron Jordan? Between Marcus Davenport’s continued absence and Jordan’s invisible play, Trey Hendrickson just cannot be the Saints’ #1 DE.

Ultimately, though, Demario Davis saved the pass rush and was the MVP of the defense – the issues therein lie quite blatantly with the Saints’ secondary. Sound familiar? The play was just sloppy, the penalties, though the conspiracies certainly have teeth after that game, were inexcusable, and the third down defense yet again left much to be desired. When New Orleans is historically this bad in the secondary, they start to get desperate and undisciplined – that was painfully showcased in this loss.

Despite Kamara having 197 yards from scrimmage, a career-high 139 receiving yards and two touchdowns, Green Bay offset that entirely with deep balls to Allen Lazard that Saints fans will relive in their nightmares for the next week. Marshon Lattimore needs to get the hell over himself when it comes to guarding no-name receivers because he’s been nothing short of disappointing past shutting down Mike Evans in Week 1. Moreover, the DPI calls are just continuing to pile up and it’s indefensible. While not as horrific as last week, the 83 yards on penalties – three of which came from pass interference – make it just impossible to win a football game.

The Saints have first class tickets to 7-9 with this type of defensive play. Completely losing homefield advantage without fans certainly does not help, but this team is just not good right now with the exception of Alvin Kamara. If New Orleans loses next week, there’ll be no tethering this rabid fanbase – deservedly so.

Mercifully, the Atlanta Falcons are the gift that keeps on giving and we at least can laugh at their misery while shoving ours in a box.

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