The Good: Rashid Shaheed
The undrafted rookie out of Weber State has blossomed into a solid pass catcher and a very good return man for the Saints offense and special teams. Shaheed set career highs in receptions and receiving yards on Monday with 4 catches for 75 yards, while also returning two punts for a total of 59 yards. Shaheed’s speed was allowed him to find the end zone on his first two career touches, but as the season has progresses the rookie has steadily improved as a pass catcher and not just someone with great speed. The Saints may have found a diamond in the rough with this guy.
The Bad: Missed plays and opportunities
The Saints had 4-5 separate chances to put the game away and couldn’t convert a single one. Drops by Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry cost the Saints a minimum of 10 points, Mark Ingram running out of bounds one yard shy of a first down gave the Bucs at least two more minutes to complete the comeback, and a drop by Taysom Hill ensured the Bucs got the ball back with plenty of time to go down and score the winning touchdown. Couple that with two field goals of under 30 yards that the Saints were unable to convert for touchdowns and it’s no wonder Tom Brady did what he’s been doing for two decades.
The Ugly: Playcalling and execution
Once again, the Saints playcalling looked questionable and uninspired as the offense sputtered to just 16 points, despite not turning it over once and possessing the ball for 29:55. Example: Trevor Penning reported as eligible on eight plays Monday night, the first seven of which were runs up the middle for a total of 12 yards, the eighth was the sack on the Saints’ final drive. Every time the official announce #70 has reported as eligible the Bucs had eight or nine players in the box. You cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again in the NFL and expect a different result. More inexplicable playcalling was calling a slant on third and one after Ingram ran out of bounds a yard short. This play may have been an RPO in which it was Dalton’s decision to throw, but regardless of who made the decision it was obviously the wrong one. The Saints also should have gone for the ensuing 4th and 1 on the drive. They were at the Buccaneers 44 yard line, and a first down there likely either leads to two more minutes coming off the clock, the Bucs burning two timeouts, or three more points being put on the board. Blake Gilliken did get off a good punt to pin the Bucs at their own 9 yard line, but the Bucs were right back at their own 44 in less than 90 seconds of game time on their ensuing drive.
A twelve men in the huddle penalty turned a 3rd and 2 from the 2 yard line into a 3rd and 7, likely costing the Saints four points, and terrible personnel decisions on the Saints final drive meant that the two primary receivers the Saints threw or attempted to throw to were Kirk Merritt, who was just called up from the practice squad, and Taysom Hill, a quarterback. Not going for a 4th and 2 from the Buccaneers 11 yard line with eight minutes left in the game also felt like way too conservative a move. If you pick up the two yards and eventually get a touchdown you are up three scores with 6-7 minutes left and the game is all but over. Instead the Saints turned a 10 point lead into a 13 point lead, which kept it a two score game and does nothing but make the Bucs have to score two touchdowns rather than a touchdown and field goal.
Playcalling and execution like this cannot continue, and there is absolutely no way the Saints can enter next year with Pete Carmichael as their offensive coordinator, and should take a hard look at moving on from Dennis Allen as well.
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