There were plenty of takeaways from Sunday’s game. Despite another heart breaking loss, I refuse to overreact in this piece. But, there was plenty on display that lends to optimism, but there was also plenty that gives worry. The offense looked better than Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders, but the defense was once again lackluster, despite the high billing ahead of the season.
Here are out three takeaways from the matchup against the Packers:
Saints Running Back Alvin Kamara is Underpaid
If there was one thing and one thing only to take away from Sunday’s game, it is that Kamara is worth every penny of his new five-year, $75 million extension. In fact, he is underpaid and New Orleans should count its blessings they locked him up prior to the 2020 season.
With Michael Thomas out for the last two weeks, Kamara has been the best player on the field for the Saints. His elite skills were on full display on Sunday night as he went off for 197 total yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Furthermore, his YAC ability, and where he makes his money, was one of the highlights of the night. Also, his 49-yard run in the first quarter was his longest in two years.
Had Kamara not signed an extension this past offseason then New Orleans, or some other team, would have been on the hook for full asking price similar to Carolina Panthers superstar Christian McCaffrey’s four-year contract extension worth $64 million.
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore has Totally Disappeared
Heading into the season the Saints defense was billed as a potential top-5 squad. Through three weeks we can confidently say that even just being a slightly above average defense in the league would be a positive.
The run defense has done its job and continues to keep a relatively meaningless streak alive in which the team hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 46 games. However, it is the secondary that is giving us pause as they have been torched and penalized at an alarming rate. The main culprit? Marshon Lattimore. My colleague Andrew Bell says it best:
Jackrabbit:— Andrew Bell (@AndrewBell_98) September 28, 2020
-13 catches on 22 targets for 138 yards (59.1% catch rate, 10.6 YPC allowed)
-58.5 passer rating allowed when targeted (9th-best among CBs w 125 snaps)
-3 DPIs as well
-43 penalty yards
Lattimore has not just been bad, or a liability, he has been horrific in coverage. Keep in mind, those numbers include a Week 1 matchup against a hobbled Mike Evans who was kept in check. The Saints top cornerback has all but disappeared the last two weeks and opposing teams are taking full advantage of the poor play. This defense won’t be able to right the ship until Lattimore does.
Sean Payton’s Play Calling is Not Suiting the Saints’ Strengths
Payton has been billed as one of the game’s greatest offensive minds. When he had Drew Brees in his prime there were seemingly endless possibilities on how the two could slice and dice opposing defenses. But, as Brees has gotten older the explosive offense has morphed into something different, something that could be described as extreme efficiency.
Yet, the 2020 season has not resembled efficiency, instead it looks like the offense is always playing through mud, looks rigid and has a hard time finding any type of flow. Some of this can be attributed to Brees. When this offense does well he gets the credit and when they do poorly he should also shoulder some of the blame. But, after Sunday night’s game, this has to rest firmly on Payton’s shoulders.
He has routinely put the offense in bad situations by calling for a pass when the run had been dominating for the majority of the early drives on Sunday. Payton placed Taysom Hill in the game, called an RPO when the game was on the line and Hill inexplicably kept the ball and fumbled. While it was on Hill for the fumble, Payton put Hill, a gadget player, in an incredibly important situation in the game and Hill responded by doing what he feels most comfortable doing: running the ball.
Payton has to get not just the offense but himself back on track. Michael Thomas could return in Week 4, but he won’t be the answer to all of the Saints’ woes. Payton has to adapt to the talent the team has on the roster and put the team in a position to find success. It’s something he has done his entire career and something we expect him to do again this year.
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, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @KadeKistner.