The New Orleans Saints are in a precarious spot. Sunday afternoon’s 35-27 loss to Carolina in Charlotte didn’t end the season for the Black and Gold and I still believe this team is capable of being a post season run. That said, for the second straight week the Saints were out performed pure and simple.
It would be easy to play the “Payton-card” here when looking for an answer to the Saints win less start. Head coach Sean Payton’s and assistant head coach Joe Vitt’s suspensions undoubtedly have to have some affect on the team but judging by post game comments from Saints players they definitely don’t want use that as an excuse.
“It’s players. What can we do individually,” said safety Malcolm Jenkins following the loss. “Sean Payton can’t run routes, Joe Vitt can’t tackle. Them not here is not the issue.”
“The offseason, everything we’re going through, doesn’t have anything to do with the 0-2 start,” said running back Pierre Thomas.
Right tackle Zach Strief added that getting into the blame game, pointing fingers or using Sean Payton’s absence as an excuse could be “dangerous.”
“We’re going to stick together. We’re going to right the ship and we’re going to win more games than we lose,” acting head coach Aaron Kromer said when meeting with reporters.
The affects of not having Payton coaching the team on a day to day basis can be debated. What can’t be debated is that there are real issues taking place on the field that are keeping the Saints from victory.
Defensively the Saints gave up 459 yards of offense last week to Washington with 153 of those yards coming on the ground. Today Carolina put up 463 yards of total offense. The Panthers rushed for 219 yards Sunday after gaining just 10 yards on the ground at Tampa Bay a week ago.
Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton led the Panthers ground game with 71 yards on 13 carries including a touchdown. DeAngelo Williams rushed 14 times for 69 yards and a touchdown. Jonathan Stewart put in 51 yards on 11 carries. In all, the Saints defense was run at 41 times.
Newton in the air went 14 of 20 for 253 yards to go with a touchdown pass and no interceptions. Wide Reciever Steve Smith did not get into the end zone but still had 104 yards receiving on only three catches. Former LSU Tigers wide out Brandon LaFell had a good game with six catches for 90 yards.
Offensively for the Saints it’s not like they didn’t play better this week, it’s just that they still look like something is missing, like everything is a struggle. Yet statistically the Saints had more first downs 27 to 23, more plays 77 to 62, more yards 486 to 463, one more drive than the Panthers and had the ball 48 seconds more overall for the game. Heck the Saints even rushed the ball for over a hundred yards. Pierre Thomas carried the rock nine times for 110 yards. Mark Ingram carried 16 times for 53 yards as the team gained 163 yards on the ground.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw two interceptions, one coming late in the game when the outcome was pretty much decided, but it was the first one the threw that was costly. A pick-six by Carolina’s Charles Godfrey returned 9 yards for a touchdown. Brees was scrambling trying to make a play when do over again no doubt would have thrown it out of bounds. Brees finished 31 of 49 for 325 yards to go with a touchdown.
This week will be another interesting one as the team must stay composed while figuring out what is missing. 0-2 Kansas City comes to the Dome Sunday and again on paper should be a team the Saints can beat. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said heading into the Panthers game that it was a game the Saints “need to win.” September 23 is really a game they need to win you might even call it a "must-win."
WWL-TV’s Twitter account posted that the Saints have gone 0-2, 19 times before and only made the playoffs once. That happened back in 1988 when the team finished 8-8.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we have the right type of guys in our locker room, coaches and scheme to overcome this,” Brees said following the game. Saints fans sure hope so.