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Beignets and Café au Lait: Saints Go From Dream to Nightmare

Was it a one game “blip” or a worrisome trend?

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers
This guy had a lot of fun watching his Panthers yesterday.
Photo by Mike Comer/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?

Well…THAT happened. After crushing the Green Bay Packers 38-3 in week one, the New Orleans Saints ran into a buzzsaw of their own in Charlotte yesterday against the Carolina Panthers. A 26-7 loss does not even begin to tell the story of the game: the Saints were dominated so thoroughly that the only touchdown they scored came in the fourth quarter, after Sam Darnold had inexplicably thrown the ball right into Saints’ defensive tackle Malcolm Roach and New Orleans only had to go about 20 yards to score.

The Saints’ performance was pathetic at all levels except special teams, as Deonte Harris returned the ball well, Blake Gillikin is proving to be a steal at the punter spot and Aldrick Rosas kicked off well. But that was about it for New Orleans. The offensive line could not open any holes for running backs Alvin Kamara and Tony Jones Jr. They could not protect Jameis Winston either, as the Saints’ quarterback had Panthers defenders in his face as soon as he received the snap. The wide receivers were not blameless: remember Marquez Callaway? Me neither. Juwan Johnson who looked so good against the Ravens had one measly catch. The leading receiver in terms of catches was Alvin Kamara, who caught four passes for 25 yards.

Oh, and the defense joined the party: Sam Darnold had time to make himself a sandwich in the pocket on nearly every snap, as he diced the Saints for 305 yards and two touchdowns on 26-of-38 passing attempts. Panthers’ receivers were running free in New Orleans secondary like in the best days of Fred Thomas and Brandon Browner. Sure, the defensive unit has some extenuating circumstances, as they were missing some key players (Marshon Lattimore, Cj Gardner-Johnson, Kwon Alexander, Tanoh Kpassagnon to cite a few…). But this is the NFL, and nobody is here to make excuses. New Orleans got outplayed and now has to go back to the drawing board after a humbling loss to a divisional opponent it had beaten eight of the last nine head-to-head contest entering yesterday’s game.


Beignets and Café au Lait Awards

Stale Beignets and Cold Watery Café au Lait: Jameis Winston

As great as he was last week against the Green Bay Packers, Winston was “Bad Jameis” yesterday at Carolina. Yes, the offensive line did not do him any favors, as he faced immense pressure from the opening whistle. Still, the Saints’ quarterback displayed the lack of poise that characterized him in his worst moments in Tampa Bay. Late in the first half, with the Saints trailing 17-0 and trying to get some points before halftime, Winston was pressured and heaved a desperation pass that was easily picked off, preventing New Orleans from attempting at least a long field goal. Winston would repeat the same mistake in the second half, looking very much like the quarterback who threw 30 interceptions in a single season two years ago.

The performance was even more disheartening because last week, save one bad throw that was also picked off, Winston showed a lot of restraint, taking what the defense gave him and playing within himself. One good performance did not make Winston a Hall-of-Famer, and neither does one bad performance make him a complete failure. However, it is very apparent after yesterday’s game that the Winston’s New Orleans experiment needs a lot more fine-tuning before any conclusion can be drawn on its success or its failure. It’s a long season, grab your popcorn and watch the show unfold, it is going to riveting.


Stale Beignets, Zero Café au Lait: The Saints’ Defensive Line.

Yes, they were missing Tanoh Kpassagnon, and have been missing David Onyemata. But the Saints’ defensive line missed the bus yesterday. Although Sam Darnold was sacked twice, the Panthers’ quarterback had a very comfortable day and is probably not very sore today. All Saints defensive linemen should feel terrible about that, especially as their own quarterback was getting pummeled all game long. The Panthers lost their left guard Pat Elflein during the game and it didn’t matter at all, there was not much more pressure on Carolina’s signal-caller. Father Time is slowly but surely sapping the strength of Cameron Jordan, who once again was conspicuous by his lack of production. While Jordan remains the focus of opposing offensive lines, there was a time when double teams did not matter to him. Now he is nowhere to be seen and this Saints’ defensive line is in dire need of a dominant player to lead the pack. One encouraging sign yesterday was the play of Saints’ 2021 first round draft pick Payton Turner: despite a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty in which the referee judged that he went too low on Sam Darnold, Turner pressured the quarterback with force and recorded one of the Saints’ sacks on the day. Help may be on the way.


What’s Next?

It doesn’t get any easier for the Saints next week, as they will be playing their third game in a row outside of the friendly confines of the Caesars Superdome, traveling to Foxboro to play the New England Patriots (1-1). After a 19-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins in week one, the Pats rebounded with a 25-6 win over the hapless New York Jets. Just to show you how week-to-week the NFL is, the same Dolphins that beat the Pats in New England last week lost 35-0 at home to the Buffalo Bills. In other words, the sky is not falling because the Saints got embarrassed in Carolina. In fact, this loss may get them much more focused to take on Bill Belichick, Mac Jones and the Patriots next week. At least that’s the hope.

Poll

Do you still believe the Saints can contend in the NFC?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Yes, it was just one bad game and it’s a long season.
    (87 votes)
  • 19%
    No way, Jameis is bad, and the injuries are piling up.
    (61 votes)
  • 47%
    Maybe, but they will need a lot of pieces back before they can.
    (153 votes)
  • 5%
    The triple bacon cheeseburger is always a contender for best burger ever.
    (18 votes)
319 votes total Vote Now

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