The New Orleans Saints followed up a 38-3 shellacking of the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 with a 26-7 walloping at the hands of the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. It started in the trenches with the Saints getting utterly manhandled on both sides of the ball, particularly defensively. The result was a brutal day for Jameis Winston, who threw a pair of interceptions on 11 of 22 passing.
The good news? Week 2 was a disaster for the Saints before the opening kickoff. There are plenty of reasons why the Saints lost to the Panthers, with one of them being that they were completely outplayed. But here are some excuses to take solace in if you want to believe that the 1-1 Saints will bounce back next week against the New England Patriots.
1.) The offensive coaching staff wasn’t present due to positive COVID-19 tests
This is the easiest finger to point for why the Saints looked completely inept offensively. Winston was under constant pressure due to unrelenting blitzes from Phil Snow’s defense, and there were no in-game adjustments to be made. Wide receiver coach Curtis Johnson, tight end coach Dan Roushar, running back coach Joel Thomas, offensive analyst Jim Chaney, special teams assistant Phil Galiano, and offensive assistant Declan Doyle were all unavailable for the Saints. That was followed by defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen and pass rush specialist Brian Young being held out of Sunday’s staff, bringing the grand total up to eight coaches being sidelined due to COVID protocols.
Even for the likes of Sean Payton, that is entirely too much responsibility for one game, so of course the offense struggled to adjust on the fly.
2.) Rookie quarterback Ian Book was handling offensive substitutions
Piggybacking off of the coaching staff issues, the Saints reportedly had rookie backup quarterback Ian Book handling substitutions for the Saints offense. While that may not sound like a huge deal initially, subs and personnel are a massive part of the Sean Payton offense, which means that any delay in that communication is going to make it more difficult to get up to the line of scrimmage and diagnose defenses. Book undoubtedly did his best and it’s not on him, but that’s a hard position to put the offense in.
3.) Marshon Lattimore and C.J. Gardner-Johnson were inactive
Marshon Lattimore and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are huge parts of the Saints offense. Lattimore being sidelined after getting thumb surgery last week forced Paulson Adebo to cover D.J. Moore on an island for most of the game. Adebo did his best and held his own, but Moore is a star, bona fide No. 1 receiver. He showed that all game, and had eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers.
Without Lattimore in to shadow the Panthers’ No. 1 and Gardner-Johnson there to keep young DBs in position, it’s a big ask for the Saints’ secondary to keep up defensively.
4.) The pass rush will get better
The Saints defensive line is somewhere in between its Week 1 and Week 2 performances. They got a lot out of Payton Turner in his first career game, including a sack, but outside of him it felt like Sam Darnold was able to move with ease whenever he dropped back to pass. An inability to get pressure sunk the Saints’ thinned secondary, and it kept the defense on the field for long stretches of time.
Naturally the team is still missing David Onyemata, but they can’t wait for him to return. Marcus Davenport was placed on IR for the Saints, so Cameron Jordan has to step up and play like he did in Week 1 if the Saints are going to be successful.
The real New Orleans Saints didn’t show up on Sunday, just like Week 1 was likely a mirage to a degree as well. Week 1 and Week 2 were perfect examples of Any Given Sunday, the Saints just have to right the scales heading into next week. While Sunday looked bad, it wasn’t a reflection of what this team truly is. However, it did give a clear look into what the Saints get better at, which includes containing the quarterback and assigning protections before the snap. If they can get those things right, we should see a better looking team against New England next Sunday.
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