Saints mounting issues catch up with them at Carolina
Last week, the Saints were allegedly going to the Super Bowl after a surprisingly easy rout of Green Bay.
A week later, the pendulum has swung wildly from euphoria to a combination of despair and concern.
We should have seen this coming.
The Panthers were waiting in the weeds for New Orleans.
Carolina’s best player, running back Christian McCaffery, is healthy. Their quarterback dilemma appears to be solved with the trade for Sam Darnold. Their young defense, rebuilt through the draft and free agency, is stout.
Plus, the Panthers had lost eight of their last nine games against the Saints, a streak that stretched all the way back to 2017.
They couldn’t wait to get a piece of the Black and Gold.
The Saints weren’t the same team that suited up a week ago against Green Bay in Jacksonville either.
Defensive end Marcus Davenport and linebacker Kwon Alexander were placed on injured reserve. Three more starters – center Erik McCoy, and defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and CJ Gardner-Johnson – were inactive.
Not to mention, the Saints were missing eight assistant coaches due to COVID-19 protocols.
Throw in the fact that the Saints haven’t been in New Orleans since the last weekend in August due to Hurricane Ida’s wrath, and you have the imperfect storm.
Not having Lattimore and Gardner-Johnson was huge. Rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo is going to be a very good player. On this Sunday, he was a vulnerable rookie, targeted several times by Carolina and specifically their top receiver D.J. Moore in man-to-man coverage. Moore is a tough matchup for anyone.
Meanwhile, the Saints’ current litany of free agent wide receivers are not good enough against a good defense. The Panthers played plenty of man coverage and threw in a double team of Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
No one misses Michael Thomas more than Kamara.
On those simple choice routes, where the running back can break either inside or out, McCaffery had single coverage.
On those same routes, Kamara had a defender inside and outside.
That is tough to beat.
The way to beat it by having more weapons for the defense to defend.
The Saints don’t have those, at least right now.
What’s perplexing is this.
Deonte Harris, who can hurt defenses, had only one reception and one rush. Taysom Hill, heavily involved in the Saints offense a year ago, is mostly like the forgotten B movie actor.
Hill should have more than two touches in a game.
I personally think that the decision by the Saints not to come home this week is a mistake. Tulane University’s football is scheduled to come home this weekend.
Spending another week in Texas before flying to New England, to me, is a bad decision.
And there’s one other item – the play of quarterback Jameis Winston.
He was very good against Green Bay, very bad against Carolina.
Yes, the offensive line had a bad day at the office but, on several occasions, Winston held the ball too long.
His game management late in the second quarter, when the Saints had a chance to score a touchdown and get back in the game, was poor.
Carolina brought a safety blitz twice, and they weren’t bashful. They tipped it. Winston did not adjust.
On the next play, he was hit as he often was on a miserable day for his offensive live. Winston threw the ball up for grabs, and it was intercepted.
Carolina went to the break with a 17-point lead, on the way to a 2-0 start.
Last week, when Winston threw a pass 58 yards in the air to Harris for a beautiful TD, we heard, ad nauseum, that it wasn’t a throw the previous quarterback could make.
But, if Drew Brees were on the field in Carolina Sunday, he would have made a huge difference.
His decision making, accuracy and leadership are sorely missed.
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WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM
Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…