The opening line in Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities may accurately described the feeling of New Orleans Saints fans worldwide. After the highest of highs in Week 1’s 38-3 domination of the Green Bay Packers, that was followed up by the Saints getting a taste of their own medicine. The Carolina Panthers dismantled the Saints 26-7 in a game that was surprisingly that close. Here are a few takeaways I had from the game.
While it may be easy to point out the players who were not on the field Sunday, equally important were the coaches who were not present due to Covid-19 protocols. Yes, not having Michael Thomas, Kwon Alexander, Erik McCoy, Marshon Lattimore and others are a huge blow, but nobody is going to feel sorry for the Saints. Remember, this was a team last year who played the Denver Broncos without a quarterback. What can’t be exactly measured is how the 8 coaches (6 on the offensive side) absence affected the game plan, scheme, and adjustments during the game. This certainly didn’t look like the same team as last week.
The numbers on the offensive side are absolutely putrid. The Saints only managed 6 first downs for the entire game, 128 total yards and lost the time of possession battle by 17 minutes. Not once did the offense ever seem to get into a groove or a rhythm. Not once did the offense seem to adjust to the Panthers Cover 0 blitzes. Not once did they seem to put Alvin Kamara in any time of mismatch in space. Not once did this resemble anything close to a Sean Payton offense. No excuses will be made here, but coaching is as big a part of the game as the players on the field.
Offensive Line was downright Offensive
Many will look at Jameis Winston’s numbers and offer equal criticism for his poor play this week as the praise he was offered for his 5 touchdown performance last week. While he won’t be completely absolved from that, a bigger concern I saw was the porous offensive line play. There were too many instances were Jameis was constantly under pressure and forced to make quicker decisions than he wanted to. The numbers bear this out.
Since 2009, ESPN has been tracking QB pressures on dropbacks. Winston was pressured on 18 of his 28 dropbacks (64%) Sunday, which is the 3rd highest pressure rate by any team since the stat started being recorded. Add to the fact, the Saints as a team only rushed for 48 yards, with Jameis Winston (19 yards) and Taysom Hill (16 yards) being the leading rushers, you can see why eyes should be on the offensive line to play better. Games are won and lost in the trenches and the Saints were manhandled in that area.
Payton Turner’s Play
One of the lone bright spots in the game may have been the play of 1st round pick Payton Turner. Saints fans were unsure of what they would see out of the rookie because we hadn’t seen him up until this point. Payton didn’t play in the preseason and missed the first game of the season due to injury. He became thrust into playing time this week with Marcus Davenport being placed on IR and defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon also missing the game with injury. Payton proved to be a disruptor as he finished the game with 5 tackles, 3 of them for loss, a sack, and a quarterback pressure. With Davenport’s injury history, Turner will be sure to get more playing time and if his debut is a sign of things to come then the Saints may have stuck gold with Turner.
These are a few of my observations from Sunday’s game. What are some things that you observed from the game? Sound off in the comment section below. The Saints will look to bounce back this week as they travel to New England to take on the Patriots.
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