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Beignets and Café au Lait: Saints’ Engine Stalls Again

Another slow start, another big hole the Saints could not climb out of.

New Orleans Saints v Tennessee Titans Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

Hi Y’all!

We are back! The 2021-22 NFL season is underway, with the ecstasy of victory and the agony of untimely interceptions. So, let’s take a look at what happened in the Saints’ game yesterday. But before that...

As always, for our novice or non-New Orleanians readers, welcome!

Let’s start with some definitions:

Beignets (English: /bɛnˈjeɪ/; French: [bɛɲɛ], ben-YAY literally bump) are distinctly New Orleans, a delicacy intimately connected to the city’s rich French heritage. Best enjoyed heavily powdered with sugar.

Café au lait (/ˌkæfeɪ oʊ ˈleɪ, kæˌfeɪ, kə-/; French: [kafe olɛ]; French for “coffee with milk”) is a delicious New Orleans way to start your day.

This is your “After-Saints-Game” brunch, where we talk about the state of the Black and Gold, we debate the goings-on with the team and talk about what’s next at this point of the season. So, sit back, take a bite and a sip while your brain slowly wakes up, and let’s catch up on some football.

What Just Happened?

If you’ve been a Saints’ fan prior to 2009, you have seen it all: the highest of highs (the Super Bowl win in 2009), and the lowest of lows...well, what that low point is exactly is debatable: it could be the terrible 2005 “Katrina” season when the team was nomadic and finished 3-13. It could be the lean and paper-bag years prior to 2000. If you’re a younger fan, say 12 years old, you were born in 2009 and never saw the Super Bowl win. Instead, you got the “Minnesota Miracle” the gut-wrenching “NOLA No Call” and all you know is that your team is always in the mix, always competitive, always in the playoffs, then loses in the most heartbreaking fashion.

Yesterday’s Saints loss in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans felt like a microcosm of the post-2009 New Orleans Saints. New Orleans, the underdog, goes down big. But then it mounts a big-time comeback, just to find out that it can’t convert a two-point attempt to save its life.

The Saints were down 20-6, and then 23-12, before clawing their way back in the game with a touchdown and a field goal to make the score 23-21 with just over a minute left in the game. A two-point conversion and the game would be tied, the Saints’ defense would have a chance to send the game to overtime, or with a turnover, give themselves a chance to win it. A false start penalty on Adam Trautman made the try a seven-yard attempt instead of two. No more “run-pass option” play with Taysom Hill, but a pass from Trevor Siemian towards Mark Ingram, which would fall incomplete. With no timeouts left, the Saints were left with their first two-game losing streak of the season. For a team that has lacked consistency all year, this is not the kind that New Orleans wanted, but here it is. Sean Payton, his staff and players have to quickly regroup and figure out how to right the ship before it sinks deep in the bowels of a very competitive NFC this season.

Beignets and Café au Lait Awards

Stale Beignets and No Café au Lait: Penalties.

After tallying 10 penalties for 74 yards in a home-loss to the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday, the New Orleans Saints told everyone to hold their beer and recorded 9 penalties for 65 yards yesterday in Nashville. Yes, one of those was one of the most ridiculous roughing-the-passer penalties I have ever seen, and for all intents and purposes, it tilted the game in favor of the Titans, and is the subject of the second award in this section. But the Saints found ways to self-sabotage time and time again in the game, with untimely penalties that eventually were too much to overcome. The Saints have been making too many losing plays in their last two games, and penalties have been one of the chief culprits.


No Beignets and No Café au Lait: The NFL Calls on Hits to the Quarterbacks.

So here comes the Saints, the valiant underdogs putting up a fight against the mighty Titans, leaders of the AFC. New Orleans is missing Alvin Kamara, and Jameis Winston, and Terron Armstead, and Michael Thomas, and Wil Lutz, and two team ball boys were sent home with flu-like symptoms. But they’re fighting, they’re tied at 6-6 with the Titans, late in the first half. On first-and-goal from the Saints’ 8-yard line, Ryan Tannehill heaves a pass towards the left corner of the end zone and the ball is INTERCEPTED by safety Marcus Williams. But wait, nope: roughing-the-passer penalty is called on linebacker Kaden Elliss, who barely grazed Ryan Tannehill’s upper back. One of the refs, probably half-blind and tired from all the running, saw Tannehill’s helmet move and threw a flag. First-and-goal, Tennessee. The Titans go on to score a touchdown from the one-yard line, they wouldn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.

Here is my question: why isn’t something as clear as “hit to the head of the quarterback” or any type of roughing-the-passer reviewable? Because the NFL is more concerned with protecting the reputation of its (mostly) incompetent referees. This is the same reason why they cancelled the coaches’ challenges that allowed pass interference calls to be reviewed following the unforgivable “NOLA No Call.” How can we talk about the integrity of the game when referees’ decisions are routinely egregiously wrong? A simple and quick review would have showed that Elliss barely touched Tannehill’s back, and not his head. Marcus Williams’ interception would have stood, and the Saints would’ve had 1:54 in the half to try and take the lead or at worst go into halftime tied. Instead, they went down 13-6. And before someone argues that there was still a second half to play, those seven points gifted to the Titans did not come off the board, in a game that they won by...two points. The NFL can and should do better. Will they? Please do not hold your breath.

What’s Next?

The road to the postseason stays littered with mines for the New Orleans Saints. Up next is a trip to the City of Brotherly Love that Boos Santa, to face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at 12 PM CT. The Eagles (4-6) aren’t a good team, but they’re not a bad one either. Yesterday, they went to the Mile High City and dismantled the Denver Broncos 30-13. The same Broncos that demolished the Dallas Cowboys in Texas 30-16 last week. Yes, that is the NFL for you, the quintessential week-to-week league. The Saints will have their hands full outdoors in cold Philly, with an Eagles team that is not all that far from a Wild Card berth. The last time these two teams played at this venue was December 13 last year, a game the Eagles won 24-21 in Jalen Hurts debut as the starting quarterback for Philadelphia. New Orleans will be trying to avoid a three-game losing streak, something that has not happened to the Saints since the first three games of the 2016 NFL regular season. It was also the last season in which the Saints finished under .500 (7-9).


Will the Saints still make the playoffs this season?

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