Until they demonstrate otherwise, Saints are a bad football team

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Saints FG blocked at Panthers 2022 by William E Anthony
A blocked field goal attempt late in the second quarter helped keep the New Orleans Saints scoreless in the first half Sunday in Charlotte (Photo: William E. Anthony).

The New Orleans Saints won their first game of the season when a dominant fourth quarter out-weighed three bad quarters.

They lost their second game when a disastrous fourth quarter out-weighed three mostly good but uneven quarters.

On Sunday they put together a complete game. Completely poor, that is.

The Saints were bad from beginning to end in a desultory 22-14 loss at Carolina.

The offense was mostly awful. The special teams were mostly awful. The defense played well for much of the game, but contributed to the defeat when the stakes were the highest.

There were turnovers, penalties, missed tackles and more than enough self-inflicted wounds to guarantee defeat.

Let’s give credit to the Panthers, who were 0-2 going into the game and whose nine-game losing streak dating to last season was the longest in the NFL.

The Panthers deserved to win. They played better than the Saints.

But it’s difficult to identify any team in the NFL that would not have won had they been playing the Saints in this game.

The Saints did everything necessary to lose – and the Panthers wisely stayed out of their way.

Now the Saints head to London to face Minnesota, but as long as they continue to do the things that all but guarantee defeat the identity of the opposition and the site of the games are essentially irrelevant.

Ignore the statistics from Sunday’s game because they don’t tell the story.

These excerpts do:

On the Saints’ possession Alvin Kamara had a 27-yard run, and a 12-yard completion from Jameis Winston to Michael Thomas turned a third-and-six into a first down at the Panthers 33.

Theoretically they were in field-goal range, but in practice they would later fail in two attempts – a 30-yarder that was blocked and a 48-yarder on which Wil Lutz missed wide right.

But on the first possession they didn’t get an opportunity to botch a field-goal attempt because Adam Trautman made a false start and a 19-yard completion to Thomas was wiped out by a chop-block penalty on Mark Ingram II.

On the Saints next possession Kamara had the ball stripped from him and Marques Haynes Sr. grabbed the ball and ran 44 yards for a touchdown. It was the first takeaway by the Panthers this season, but the sixth giveaway by the Saints in the last 31 minutes and 43 seconds of game time.

It was the second of those giveaways to be returned for a touchdown. (By the way Nick Vannett was called for holding on the play for good measure.)

The Saints would go on to turn the ball over two more times.

The offense essentially was impotent in the first half except for the 70-yard march to the blocked field goal.

Still the defense kept the Saints in the game, allowing just two field goals for a 13-0 halftime deficit.

The first possession of the third quarter ended with Lutz’s miss.

Late in the third quarter the Saints went into hurry-up mode and drove 89 yards in 10 plays as Ingram’s 5-yard touchdown run got them within six points.

Just when it looked like perhaps the offense was raising its level of play to that of the defense, instead the defense lowered its level of play to what the offense’s level had been for most of the game.

On the second play after Ingram’s touchdown, a toss from Baker Mayfield to Laviska Shenault Jr. in the flat turned into a 67-yard touchdown when P.J. Williams and Tyrann Mathieu whiffed on attempted tackles.

Winston had two more interceptions and one touchdown left in him, but Shenault’s touchdown was the back-breaker.

Turnovers often skew results and the Saints’ rash of turnovers has been their biggest issue. But there’s too much bad stuff going on to think reducing or eliminating the turnovers will fix things.

The Saints have scored a total of 10 points in the first quarter this season and none in the second quarter.

They have scored a total of three points in the third quarter and 38 in the fourth. That’s 38 of 51 total points that have come in the final period – when the Saints have desperately been trying to catch up and mostly gone to the hurry-up.

Obviously coordinator Pete Carmichael and the rest of the offensive staff’s game plans are lacking.

Obviously head coach Dennis Allen and the entire staff have to do a much better job of having the team prepared overall.

Obviously the penalties, turnovers and overall erratic execution – even by the defense – indicate a lack of focus by the players.

The Saints have a bunch of coaches and players that are proven successes in the NFL, so their performances on balance thus far presumably won’t be indicative of their season as a whole.

But until this group demonstrates otherwise, we have to assume they’re a bad football team.

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Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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