Confidence is such a funny thing. The overconfident usually fall and those with not enough usually fail. The New Orleans Saints should have been a confident group heading into the game Sunday. They were on a 3-game winning streak and although they had lost their starting quarterback Jameis Winston to a season ending injury, they still boasted a top tier defense and a coach as the early favorite for Coach of the Year. Just how confident are the Saints now after a devastating 27-25 loss to their rival Atlanta Falcons remains to be seen. Only time will tell that, but for now here are my biggest takeaways from the game.
Drop it like it’s Hot
When you are rolling out a backup quarterback who hasn’t started a game in 2 years with a below average at best wide receiver corps who has your team second to last in receiving yards a game, what is the one thing you absolutely cannot do? The Saints shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with dropped passes, especially in the first half. The Saints had 5 drops in the first half alone which matched the amount of completions they had in the half as well. A couple of those were brutal as they killed drives that could have put points on the board.
We know the Saints are missing All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas. With him in the fold we probably feel a whole lot different about this group. The fact is, he isn’t coming back this season and with the Saints not being able to make a trade at the deadline, this group is going to be what it is. It lacks the elite talent, but when they have a chance to make a play, they must make it. Anyone has Odell number on speed dial?
There are a few things I never want to do again in life. One of them has to be watching the 2nd and 3rd quarter of this game and see all the missed opportunities the Saints had to get points and potentially change the outlook of this game. I tracked 4 instances when the Saints got into Falcons territory during this time and they came away with a grand total of 0 points.
- Saints have the ball 1st and 10 on the Falcons 29-yard line. After a nice drive the Saints go Jim Carrey in the bathroom scene on Liar Liar with nothing but self-inflicted wounds. The Saints have a holding call, a false start, and then a delay of game. They can’t make any of the penalty yards back and end up putting.
- Next drive the Saints again march down the field and are faced with a 4th and 2 on the Falcons 36-yard line. Payton decides to go for it here and Siemian throws a dart that hits Adam Trautman in the hands, chest, and ground. The last place shouldn’t have happened since if he had caught the ball he may still be running.
- Saints are still down just 3-0 when the defense makes a huge stand by stopping the Falcons on 4th and inches on their own 44-yard line. The crowd is going nuts and in the past, this use to be a typical Payton knockout blow as he likes to go for a big play after a turnover or momentum shift play on the plus side of the field. The Saints start with a negative play and then have a holding call on 2nd down. They once again could not make up the difference and came away empty handed.
- Saints are down 17-3 in the 4th and need a spark. Taysom Hill gets inserted into the game and makes 2 nice back-to-back throws to get the ball down to the Falcons 42-yard line. On cue, the Saints have a false start and Siemian replaces Hill at quarterback. The very next play, Siemian is sacked and fumbles the ball which Atlanta recovers and brings the ball all the way down to the Saints 5 and cash in for a score on their next play to make it 24-6.
4 drives that netted the Saints 0 points. When you lose by 2 the What If game begins to form, but the truth is if the Saints get any combination of points on let’s say 2 of those 4 drives, then we may be talking about a completely different game.
Playing to the level of competition
The Saints are sitting at 5-3 currently, which considering circumstances, may not be the worst thing in the world. What is head scratching is the 3 losses have come to the Giants, Panthers, and Falcons. None of those teams currently have a winning record and have a combined record of 11-15. We know the mantra Any Given Sunday, but it seems like the Saints more often than not struggle with the inferior teams and rise to the occasion against the elite competition. While it may just be human nature the sample size grows each and every year. Remember who broke the Saints 9 game winning streak last season? The 3-8-1 Eagles starting a rookie quarterback for the first time? What about the 6-game winning streak the year before that? It was the 1-7 Falcons. Saints seem to have a dud like this every year. Unfortunately, it has happened a few times already now. I never have to worry about the Saints being up for the Big Game. How they fare against lesser opponents is what keeps me up at night.
These were a few of my takeaways from the game. What did you notice? Sound off in the comment section below. The Saints will hit the road the next 2 weeks starting with a trip to Tennessee to take on the Titans this Sunday.
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