New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kickoff: 4:25 at Raymond James Stadium (Tampa Bay, Fl.)
Final: Saints – 11 Buccaneers – 16
As the Saints’ offense chose not to show up for the second straight week, they just as easily fell to 5-8 in Tampa Bay on Sunday. Drew Brees threw back-to-back three-interception games without a touchdown for the first time in his career. What was an all-around lousy performance on offense, including a go-ahead touchdown dropped by Brandin Cooks, New Orleans provided very minimal encouragement for coming weeks.
With today’s loss to the Buccaneers, this will be the third straight season that the Saints have failed to reach a winning record. What was most concerning was the inability for the Saints’ offense to finish a drive in the end zone two straight games. What was one of the best offenses in the league earlier this season, has been exploited week in and week out. Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints have pretty much been eliminated from playoff contention for a third straight year and they will start to look towards next year.
So What Went Wrong…?
- Inability to Make Big Plays
The Saints in the past have thrived off of their ability to make big plays and they relied on Drew Brees to bailout an aggressively average defense at best. Drew Brees is surrounded by young playmakers that he has yet to develop a sure fire relationship with. Marques Colston (who got cut in the offseason) was the last face in the receiving core that Brees played with during their last trip to the playoffs in 2014. The key word surrounding the new faces on the Saints roster would be potential, not consistency. If Brees and his receivers do not get on the same page and learn to trust one another, it will be a long three games left in the season.
- Run Game Was Non-Existent
The Saints have thrived when their run game was established early, but Brees has been unable to bailout a struggling offense as of recent. New Orleans’ leading rusher was Tim Hightower with a measly 31 yards, as New Orleans total rushing was 46. The Buccaneers’ defense has played quite well this season, but without keeping Tampa Bay guessing, Brees was picked off three times. Sean Payton has a lot to consider heading into his last three games of the season as he tries to develop a team looking towards next year. Between the offensive line and the running back depth chart, some things must be figured out if the Saints have any hope of getting Brees back to the playoffs before he retires.
- Continue to Beat Themselves
The Saints have continued to prove that they are inexperienced and young on both sides of the ball. New Orleans has beaten themselves all season, whether it be on mental errors on special teams or immature penalties that prove costly time and time again. The Saints’ had three mental errors to go along with 13 penalties; Saints’ receivers Brandin Cooks and Travaris Cadet had a touchdown drop each while Willie Snead had a taunting penalty that forced Sean Payton to punt instead of go for it on fourth down. The Saints have lost many veteran players on their roster and composure/concentration has been an issue all season. As a whole, New Orleans has been night and day when it comes to Sundays.
Positives from Week 14
Since the halfway point of the season, Dennis Allen and the New Orleans’ defense has put Brees in position to win games. Although they are not playing at an elite level, they are doing their job well enough to give the Saints a chance. A season that was hindered by injuries to many players on the depth chart, Dennis Allen has at least salvaged his potential as New Orleans’ defensive coordinator. Sadly, it is time to start evaluating their roster as they start to look towards next year. Veterans such as Paul Kruger and Jairus Byrd may be playing for a roster spot while young players such as Ken Crawley, Nate Stupar, and Stephone Anthony are still trying to prove their worth.
If anything else, the Saints are solidifying the potential of a high draft pick for next year. Although no fan wants to see their team lose, Saints’ fans must at least hope for difference makers on their roster before father time catches up to Drew Brees. With what seems as a quite questionable draft class headed into 2017, the Saints’ will have to try to finally capitalize on high draft picks at much needed positions. Sitting at 5-8, Sean Payton is forced to look forward to next year once again and decide on who will be around the Saints’ organization come 2017.