For the second time in as many weeks the New Orleans Saints found themselves down in the 4th quarter. In back to back weeks the Saints fought valiantly to come back only to see their efforts fall in vain at the end, losing 23-21 to the Titans. There are no moral victories, only frustrations by the what could have been scenarios playing in the back of fans and players minds. After some time to decompress, here are a couple of my biggest takeaways from the loss in Nashville.
Margin for Error
Many times in the NFL it’s a game of inches as the old cliché says. The talent level on most teams are comparable so it may come down to a few plays made here or there that really determine the outcome of a game. You would like for those plays to not be the self-inflicted type that has befallen the Saints for much of the season. The story in Nashville on Sunday was just that, where time after time the Saints were putting more hurt on themselves than on the Titans. When you are playing the record-wise best team in the AFC on the road, mistakes like these will cost you the game and they did. From the missed extra points, to the jumping early for a false start on a 2-point conversion (more on that later), to fumbling the opening second half kickoff all played a part in the Saints demise. Even the refs helped in burying the Saints with an egregious roughing the Quarterback call that not only negated a Saints interception, but then led to a Titans touchdown.
When you are playing this game without your starting Quarterback, starting running back, starting wide receiver, starting left tackle, and starting right guard just on offense, your margin for error is razor thin. You make the type of mistakes often throughout a game and you can see why you have lost 3 games by 6 points or less including the last 2 by 2 points. Before the Saints start thinking about beating the other team, they need to not beat themselves first.
Throw the Big Fish back in the water
I didn’t quite think Saints fans would have as much vitriol for a tight end as they did for Jared Cook last season. His game changing fumble in the Divisional playoffs last season sent off a whirlwind of criticism his way and his inconsistent play throughout his tenure here had the Saints looking to go into another direction heading into 2021. Adam Trautman has not only assumed the role Cook left behind as the starting tight end, but also as Public Enemy number 1 amongst Saints fans. The play late in the fourth quarter as the Saints were rallying a furious comeback all but sums up the type of season Trautman has had. 3 plays specifically come to mind when discussing his play this season.
- Saints/Giants game. Saints are up 14-10 in the 3rd quarter and have the ball on the Giants 46 yard. Jameis Winston loads up and throws a bomb to Kenny Stills in the end zone and the Saints think they have a touchdown. The score is called back after Trautman is called for a hold. The very next play the Saints throw an interception. Saints ended up losing the game 27-21 in overtime.
- Saints/Falcons game. Saints have the ball down 3-0 in the 1st quarter when they are faced with a 4th and 3 on the Atlanta 36. Siemian drops back and throws a strike over the middle that hits Trautman in the hands, chest, and then on the ground. The ball cleared the safety and if Trautman would have held on, he might have still been running as there was nothing but turf in front of him. The Saints turn the ball over and end up losing to the Falcons 27-25 on a last second field goal.
- Saints/Titans. The Saints mount a furious comeback after being down 11 in the fourth quarter and have just scored a touchdown to bring the deficit down to 2. The Saints had missed 2 extra points earlier so they were forced to go for 2 here to tie the game. They bring in the jumbo package with Taysom Hill for some sure fire Quarterback Power action here, but alas Trautman moves before the snap and the Saints have to move back 5 yards. Siemian then replaces Hill for an obvious passing situation, but his pass to Mark Ingram is incomplete and the Saints lose 27-25.
Now we are not saying Trautman is the sole reason the Saints are losing games, but he isn’t the reason they are winning any as well. On the season, he just has 20 catches for 183 yards and no touchdowns. His value is more as a blocker, but the lack of a pass catching threat is hurting the team especially when they are without Michael Thomas and Kamara is now hurt with an injury. Payton vowed after Sunday’s game there will be an evaluation of personnel and one can’t help but think Trautman is being closely evaluated these days.
These were a couple of big takeaways I had from the game. What did you notice? Sound off in the comment section below. The Saints will look to break this 2-game slide as they travel to Philly on Sunday to take on the Philadelphia Eagles.