The New Orleans Saints dropped an extremely frustrating 13-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It was a comedy of errors of offense and shockingly-stout showing on defense. What can we learn from this loss as the first year of the Dennis Allen era continues down its rocky path?
Overall, we’re looking to answer three major questions to learn as much as we can: What went right, what went wrong, and what’s the bottom line?
What went right?
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The defense was not at all to blame for this loss, as they were able to stifle the high powered San Francisco 49ers offense that has been on a roll. The 13 points scored was the lowest they’ve scored since Week 3 when Jimmy Garoppolo was just in his first game back as the starter.
Linebackers Kaden Elliss and Zack Baun, something that feels crazy to say given the top of the depth chart at that position, came up some of the biggest plays of the day. Elliss lead the team with 14 tackles and an absurd 12 of those tackles being solo. Elliss will be hard to keep off the field when Pete Werner comes back, something will need to be done to have those two and Demario Davis on the field together a lot.
It was a bounce back game for Paulson Adebo, a much needed one at that. He was credited with two passes defended on the day, but that number felt a bit higher upon first watch. With Marshon Lattimore coming back soon, Adebo needed to fight for his starting job and with today’s performance felt like it might have been what he needed. Alontae Taylor didn’t play bad, though, he would’ve had a big interception before it got called back for holding on Chris Harris Jr.
As for a positive on offense, Chris Olave continues to be a stellar receiver. He’s well on his way to becoming a premiere receiver in this league, he entered the week sixth in NFC receiving yards. He should be the front-runner for offensive rookie of the year, without a doubt. He would’ve had a better day if anyone had any idea of what a catch is in the year 2022.
What went wrong?
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Pretty much anything that could have gone wrong for the Saints today, did. Turnovers, crazy catches by opponents, poor play calling and poor officiating all reared their ugly heads during Sunday’s game.
Starting with an obvious one off of the stat sheet, the Saints could not get the run game going at all. It was a weak game overall for the offensive line, but the run game is what stuck out like a sore thumb. Andy Dalton led the team in rushing yards, which is just unacceptable. The team averaged just 2.9 yards per carry, a number that was propped up by Dalton.
Alvin Kamara had one of his worst games of his career. He had just seven rushes for just 13 yards. He did have six receptions for 37 yards, but that solid number is completely wiped out by his two lost fumbles. That’s now four lost fumbles for him this year, matching his career high from back in 2019. One of those fumbles came inches from the goal line, a much needed score that could have completely flipped this game on its head.
The poor run game could have contributed to the poor play-calling, but that last fumble by Kamara could have been wiped out soon after. However, the Saints offense stalled after four straight incomplete passes from the four-yard line.
I just didn’t see the logic in trying four straight passes there, when you’ve been struggling with redzone passes. To be fair to Andy Dalton, a number of his completions were not his fault. There were some throw that should have absolutely been caught, but were dropped.
His biggest blunders aren’t always the throws he doesn’t make. I think the worst part of the Dalton experience might be the throws that he does make sometimes. His tendency to throw behind the sticks on third-down is way worse when compounded by the conservative play-calling of Dennis Allen that refuses to go for it until the last possible second.
And what's the bottom line?
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It feels crazy to say this week-after-week, but the Saints are still very much in the race for first place of the NFC South. The Saints are 4-8, which makes that seem crazy, but the rest of the division is a mess as well. Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons lost on the day. With the second Bucs game coming up next Monday, the Saints can still scratch and crawl their way to a playoff berth. Being without their first-round pick, the Saints have no reason to try and drop any games so they might as well go for gold.
They’re getting healthier and healthier, the defense is playing as good as it has all season. There are a lot issues with this team, but Dennis Allen still have plenty of opportunities to grow the faith for the future. There have been some young stars shining during the rough times, which is sometimes all you can ask for.