Observations From The cheap seats

Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Coleman (16) stiff arms Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (21) after a catch in the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Coleman (16) stiff arms Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (21) after a catch in the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Hemlock?  Cyanide?  Arsenic?  Or in the case of our New Orleans Saints offense, defense, or special teams?  Pick your poison.  Each of them was deadly in last night’s 45-32 trouncing at the hands of the hated Atlanta Falcons.

It’s not simply that the Saints lost to the Falcons – our most hated rivals.  And it’s not only that they lost an opportunity in our putrid division to take over first place by gaining their first victory of the season.  No, it’s the manner in which the Saints lost, and the things occurring surrounding the team in this loss.

The game opened with a vintage Saints drive, methodically moving the ball down the field on the Falcons. The drive culminated with a Brees to Coby Fleener for an open touchdown pass. Fleener has been much maligned so far this season and rightfully so. His inability to get free, run correct routes, or catch passes has been well documented.

Fleener wasn’t perfect Monday night – the drops still haunted him a couple of times as well, as a lack of knowledge of what play was being called and the situation befuddled him. At least one pass hit him in the chest because he wasn’t ready for it. Obviously quarterback Drew Brees saw pressure coming and knew he needed to get the ball out quickly. Fleener didn’t read the same pressure and wasn’t ready for the pass. But overall his performance was better, unfortunately that isn’t saying much considering how poor it had been to this point.

The Saints looked to be getting off the field with a great defensive stand after Atlanta’s first possession.  Tommylee Lewis was back to receive the punt from Atlanta and called for a fair catch but was run into by blocker DeVante’ Harris. One or both of them made contact with the football, and Atlanta was able to recover it deep in Saints territory and score on that possession. This marked the beginning of the end for the Saints.

Atlanta used this energy to propel them forward for the rest of the game. From that point, the Falcons only punted one other time in the game, and the Saints only got one other complete defensive stop all game. Atlanta scored on all but two other possessions in the game. One of those was the final possession, where they could have scored easily but chose to kneel out the final minute.

One fan’s observations from the cheap seats:

  • Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael continues to be the Saints play caller this season. Sean Payton has traditionally called the offensive plays but has backed off of it this season to concentrate more on the overall game. It has seemed to open up the offense tremendously. Until this game, they hadn’t done any better balancing the run with the pass, but the offensive plays seemed to have more cohesion and forethought.
  • The Saints active roster was missing six players and by the end of the game a 7th was gone as well as Tim Lelito left the game hurt.  As the injuries mounted up, depth is becoming a major issue. This is where teams like the New England Patriots do so well.  Everyone on their roster can play. On the Saints STARTING lineup, there are only about 7 of the 22 starters who would DEFINITELY start for any other team in the NFL. That’s starters – not 2nd teamers…
  • Good – Brandon Coleman had a decent game. He needed to step his game up to stick around here and he did. Coby Fleener finally came to life – he was good if not great. Mark Ingram enjoyed his best game in some time, over 100 total yards. And Craig Robinson continues to be a man possessed on defense.
  • Bad- Andreas Peat. Obviously his future with this team is at guard (and maybe that future is limited to this contract because this seems to be another poor draft pick…). He was defeated soundly in the pass game all night.
  • Also bad was Jairus Byrd. After showing up last week, he was invisible Monday night again except for one play, where he was just absolutely pants-down embarrassed as Devonta Freeman ran past him.
  • The run game finally showed up but was assisted by a Falcons defense that knew that this offensive line was poor. The Saints’ runners found several open holes in the line due to the stunts the defensive linemen of Atlanta were on, because they were attacking the quarterback. Who Dat Nation saw linemen in Brees’ face all day in the passing game.
  • Depth was the issue on defense all day. Tyeler Davison and Kenny Vaccaro joined the lengthening list of defenders not able to play.  If you put those names with P.J. Williams, Delvin Breaux, Sheldon Rankins, and Ha’oli Kikaha, you have six of your 11 defenders counted on to be major contributors not playing. Not many teams in the NFL could stand up well under those circumstances.
  • Special teams were very un-special Monday night, and now have been the direct cause of scores in two consecutive games. Our margin for error on this team is minuscule, we’re just not good enough to overcome errors. The Black and Gold cannot give away points particularly on special teams.
  • It had just been tweeted out that Brees had gone some 300+ pass attempts without an interception; and then not only does he throw and interception, but it’s a pick six. The pick went to an LSU Tiger no less.
  • Atlanta’s defense began to resemble their coach’s vision. Atlanta’s head coach Dan Quinn was one of the architects of the “Legion of Boom” defense in Seattle. Last year he didn’t have all the personnel to do what he’d done in Seattle. Last night it was obvious that they’ve upgraded their defense and once they got a two touchdown lead on the Saints, not only did they come harder after Brees but they began challenging pass routes. Brees was picked off only once, but he was nearly picked off at least another 4-5 times.

The Saints can lose to a lot of teams and it’s just a loss equally bad to all the others. Losing to Atlanta is always worse. Fortunately in the Payton/Brees era, it’s only happened six times in 21 games.

But the way they lost this game – getting so soundly defeated in every aspect of the game, getting beat man for man (particularly our left offensive line), having all the injuries at this time – makes it really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It seems this is that time where all the missteps in free agency and the draft (leaving us with over $40 million in dead cap money) have truly come back to haunt us.