The New Orleans Saints picked up their first blemish on their perfect record this season as the New England Patriots stole one in the waning second of the fourth quarter. The loss puts the Saints at 5-1 which is nothing to fret about going into the bye week. However, the loss did show that the Saints have a long way to go as a team.
This was a game that veteran teams close out. The Saints today showed that they still have some growing to do despite the fact they are for the most part a veteran team. Surprisingly enough, a good amount of growing has to be done by Drew Brees and Sean Payton. The game was theirs for the taking and they essentially gave it away. Payton and Brees, who have been lauded for their play calling and execution, came up short on Sunday, especially in the last 2 minutes. The defense, who had the unenviable task to stopping Tom Brady, managed to get the job done (twice!) with a three and out and an interception.
The offense followed it up with three and outs of their own, including a questionable bootleg by Drew Brees on third down which eventually gave the Patriots the ball a third time. Even before that there was something off with the offense. Brees and Payton were able to succeed the last two weeks with patience and flexibility. However, this week the offense reverted back to their blind aggressiveness even it wasn’t the best game plan. Brees threw only one interception, but it could have been many more as he constantly forced the ball into blanket, double, and even triple coverage. The worst part about the constant aggressive calls is that there was no need for it.
The Saints, for the first time this season, had real success on the ground averaging 5 yards a pop as a team with Pierre Thomas averaging 4.6 yards and Khiry Robinson averaging 7.6.With all that success, Payton moved away from it at critical times including trying to fit a tight ball into Marques Colston on third down which stopped the clock and gave the Patriots an extra timeout. This happen with Payton sometimes. He sometimes gets a little arrogant instead of just keeping it simple. This aggressiveness and arrogance is the same reason Payton wins big games, but this game was a little miscalculation on Payton’s part.
While Brees and Payton had their share of mishaps, the main position group that needs to step up moving forward is the wide receivers. A typically reliable group, their performance was pathetic, with the exception of Kenny Stills. Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, and Nick Toon were unable to get separation consistently. There is really no excuse for this with Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles getting the attention that they were getting all game. The real disappointment is Colston, who has now two straight game under 20 yards. That is inexcusable from a guy who is suppose to be the veteran and set an example with his play for the younger Toon and Stills.
Finally, the defense isn’t blame free here, however. It is a team sport, and though the defense did more than their part throughout the game, they didn’t show up when it counted—on the last drive. For all the talk about how great the pass rush was, it was nowhere to be found on the last drive as Brady had all the time in the world. For all the talk about how disciplined the secondary was, there were multiple occasions the defense let the Patriots receivers get behind them. However, there shouldn’t be too much blame on the defense. They stopped Brady twice, and it is hard to hold one of the game’s best for that long. Like they say, if you continue to play with fire, you will get burned.
Despite all the negatives, at the end of the day the Saints are still 5-1 and one of the best teams in the NFC. And even though they didn’t play their best, they were still up by 4 with seconds left on the road against one of the league’s best. This bye week is much needed as Graham tries to heal from what we hope isn’t a significant injury; also the coaching staff will try to address some of the mistakes and make the necessary tweaks. The Saints come out of the bye week with games against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. If the Saints stay focused, those games are more than winnable, and a 7-1 record would effectively take the sour taste of this loss out of our mouths.