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With loss to Buccaneers, Saints season essentially over.

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Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) celebrates a sack by Robert Ayers Jr. (91) in the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) celebrates a sack by Robert Ayers Jr. (91) in the first half against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Saints dropped yet another crucial game, this time to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 11 to 16.

The game felt very much like last weeks Lions game. The defense did everything they could to keep the team in the game. But the offense imploded and yet again failed to score a touchdown.

The Saints managed to generate pretty consistent pressure on Jameis Winston. The second-year quarterback was forced to make a lot happen with his feet. Unfortunately, he did just that. He didn’t run for any serious yardage, but he kept plays alive long enough to move the chains.

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On offense, injuries along the offensive line really crippled the team. Brees faced pressure far too often for him to generate any rhythm. And the Buccaneers managed this typically with a four-man rush, allowing them to sit back and play solid coverage. Despite that, we’ve seen this Saints offense make plays in worse situations. They’ve failed to score a touchdown now two weeks in a row. Drew Brees threw three interceptions, and the Buccaneers always seemed to know what the Saints were looking to do offensively.

I’m sure this will prompt many Saints fans to call for Sean Payton’s head. After all, he’s riding on the laurels of his “offensive mastermind” label. And it’s reasonable to say that, if his offense can’t perform, maybe the team would be better run by a fresh face.

I, for one, am not a member of this camp. He’s had two bad games in a row, and that’s nothing to scoff at. They were very bad games. But this offense is still one of the most dangerous units in the league despite a deliberate personnel focus on the defense. The same play calls that fans have complained about this year have been staples of Payton’s offense for years. And while it may be true that he needs to adjust to a league that has learned how to contain his offense, it’s silly to say that those playcalls are stupid when the same calls were genius years ago.

I understand, context is everything. But fans who grumble about Payton’s offensive effectiveness are simply wrong. He’s still a great offensive coach.

And yes, no doubt there are other great offensive coaches out there. Maybe none that are available, but there are certainly comparable offensive minds. And Sean Payton has been plagued by mistakes in free agency and on the coaching staff. But if you look at the most recent moves, you’ll see plain as day: he’s cleaning up his mistakes. The free agency moves have all been solid, with the possible exception of Coby Fleener. And even then, there’s an argument to be made that Fleener got decent value.

Dennis Allen is a solid DC, and he has a young unit moving forward. This team has potential next year. But this season is over.

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