New Orleans Saints: What We Learned In Week 14’s Loss

With the New Orleans Saints loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (24-21), we learned quite a few things regarding this Saints team that need to be fixed in the near future.  With this team trying to make a final push at the SuperBowl for what could be Drew Brees’ last season, addressing these issues is essential.

Taysom Hill is Not the Saints Future QB

This, while not the most glaring issue sometimes, is definitely one that needs to be addressed.  If someone who did not watch the game were to look at Taysom Hill‘s stats, they would likely not see the issue.  He completed 28 of 38 passes (73.7%), for 291 yards, 2 passing touchdowns, and 1 interception.  Now if they were to watch the game, they would see the issue underlying those stats.  To start, Taysom looked unbelievably slow to the pass in the pocket. He took 5 sacks which were primarily due in part to him taking way too long to get the ball out.  He was also having this mindset (which was visible to viewers including myself) that if his first receiving option was not open he would either:

A.) Force the ball into the defense and have it go incomplete

B.) Scramble

C.) Take a sack

D.) Throw it away (rare)

This was one of the more prominent issues throughout the game with him.  Another issue is he fumbled the ball while down 17-14. This was after scrambling out of the pocket and completely ignoring a wide open Michael Thomas about 12 yards downfield.  Should he have thrown this ball, there is a good chance the Saints would have continued momentum into the endzone, or at least a field goal.  If Taysom is to start next week against the Kansas City Chiefs, these need to be cleaned up immediately.  The Chiefs prey on minor mistakes and take them for all they are worth.  If Taysom makes these mistakes again, the Chiefs won’t be nearly as forgiving with them.

The Defense is Still Inconsistent

Since Drew Brees went absent last year with a thumb injury and surgery, the New Orleans Saints defense has been phenomenal in all games he missed.  The reason the Saints were 8-0 coming into this game without Brees these last two seasons was primarily due to this defense’s solid and gritty play.  For the whole first half of this game, that defense was almost nonexistent.  They gave up their first 100 yard rusher in 56 games, actually, make that two of them (Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts).  They did play relatively well in terms of secondary for a majority of the game, aside from a few plays that went long.  Penalties were a massive issue for this unit, especially on one drive in the second half where they had 2 defensive pass interferences on the same play (in the red zone).  

Another thing to notice with this unit is the lack of sacks, there were none.  For as stout of a defensive line as they normally are, this is an extremely rare occurrence as of late.  Granted, Jalen Hurts is a mobile quarterback who there is limited NFL film on coming into the game, but adjustments needed to have been made earlier.  

Wil Lutz is not Flawless

This one, as a New Orleans Saints fan is hard to say, and was certainly hard to witness.  Now let’s get something out of the way, I will not nitpick the 57 yard field goal Wil Lutz missed late in the game.  For obvious reasons, this is never a given and realistically is an extremely hard kick to hit.  This is more an accumulation of things over time.  A few weeks ago when the Saints played the Chicago Bears, we saw him miss a 28 yard field goal.  This was something Saints fans including myself considered to maybe just be a fluke or some sort of minor issue. 

So we continue into week 13 vs the Atlanta Falcons.  After the first quarter ends, we see Wil Lutz come up to kick again, this time a 40 yarder.  By no means is this a given. However, it’s certainly within his wheelhouse and we have seen it made many times by him before.  He boots it wide right, and slips in the process, seeming to have hurt himself in the process.

This leads into my point, is there a chance this injury is lingering?  After watching him miss both field goals @ the Eagles (a 45 yarder and a 57 yarder) I feel this should be questioned.  Wil has been almost flawless in prior years, hence the extraneous pay day this last offseason (5 years $20.25 million.  Him missing field goals that now in hindsight would have won the game, is unsurprisingly uncharacteristic of him.  Could this just be a slump?  Sure.  I just feel that being aware of these things before they happen needs to be a priority. If it is just a slump, he should be able to work his way out of it in the near future.  

Sean Payton’s Play Calling is On and Off

Moving onto the final point, we look at Sean Payton.  Now this is likely one of the least pressing issues, as we saw Sean make adjustments to fix some of these mistakes later on in the game.  With that said, some of them were irreversible.  The glaring and obvious one will start us off.  3rd quarter, down 17-14, 4th and 2, and two assets at your disposal.  One of the most elusive running backs in the NFL in Alvin Kamara, and an extremely strong North to South running back in Latavius Murray.  You decide instead of running with one of those two players, to run a passing play? 

The only way I see this making any sense in any scenario is you don’t trust any of your backs to get 2 yards, which is asinine in this scenario.  I would rather have arguably the best or second best playmaker on the offense in Alvin Kamara lose me a 4th down, rather than a backup quarterback make a poor decision and fumble the ball.  We KNOW Taysom Hill fumbles the ball often, he’s done it 10 times this season alone.  Even worse?  6 of which have come in his 4 games as a starting QB, and 2 more the game prior to that.

Overall, while this play did not account for all the other issues happening in the game, it was certainly the most problematic and set this team back the furthest.

Summary

What should the Saints and it’s fanbase take away from this you may ask?  A good team had a bad game. Simple as that.  We saw it with the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, with the Kansas City Chiefs when they played the Las Vegas Raiders the first time, and with the Green Bay Packers in their loss to the Minnesota Vikings.  Going 3-1 so far with a backup QB, and 8-1 in the last two seasons in the same scenario is extremely impressive for coaching and players alike.  In no way is this a discount of those accomplishments, as those are extraordinary.  But these are issues that have been seen this week, and need to be addressed to add to the New Orleans Saints 10 wins and help them win playoff games.  

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