The New Orleans Saints took a bullet to the heart in a crushing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 13, leaving very little hope for a playoff push.
With Monday's loss, the Saints are 4-9 and will record their first losing season since 2016. Had the Saints held down the fort in the fourth quarter and nabbed the win, they still would have had a shot to top the division and make the postseason.
But all it took were two three-and-out sequences and an uncharacteristic defensive meltdown to send the Saints spiraling deeper and deeper down the abyss. Thank god it's a bye week.
Here are the very ugly stats from Week 13's defeat.
66 rushing yards
It's the same ol' narrative repeating itself. The Saints' run game sputtered yet again in Week 13, producing just 66 yards on the ground against their NFC South rivals.
Alvin Kamara had a measly 12 carries for 26 yards and Mark Ingram had seven carries for 27 yards, neither having very efficient statlines on Monday night.
It's just painful to see New Orleans' ball-carriers trudge their way through thick mud game after game, and at this point, Alvin Kamara is looking like a very tantalizing trade piece.
One sack on Tom Brady
The caveat is that the Saints' defense actually performed above expectations against the Bucs, forcing two turnovers and holding Brady to under 200 passing yards for the majority of the game.
NOLA was nonetheless unable to generate sustained pressure on Brady and recorded one sack all night despite facing a beaten-up Bucs' offensive line.
Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport struggled to make an impact all game, and it was the Saints' defensive tackles, Shy Tuttle and Tanoh Kpassagnon, who helped take Brady down.
The Saints needed to see a bigger boost in production from its pass-rushing corps in Week 13.
Drops were the name of the game on Monday night, and at least three Saints players saw the ball slip through their hands in clutch scenarios.
OROY contender Chris Olave didn't keep his eyes on the ball and dropped a pass on third down, which resulted in a punt. Veteran Jarvis Landry failed to hold onto a well-placed throw from Dalton to extend the drive in Bucs' territory, and the Saints had to settle for a field goal.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Taysom Hill dropped a dart from Dalton on third down from beyond the sticks, which would have given NOLA a fresh set of downs and helped drain the clock.
That one could be considered more of a play-calling issue -- why would Dennis Allen draw up a pivotal play in which Hill, a below-average pass-catcher, was on the receiving end of the ball? Either way, a drop is a drop, and the Saints will be slapping themselves over their self-inflicted errors in critical moments of this game.
Fourth-quarter soft defense
The Saints had the Bucs backed up against a wall in Week 13. With just five minutes left to go, NOLA held a 16-3 lead and just needed to contain Brady for a little while longer to snatch away the win. That is, after all, Dennis Allen's apparent specialty.
Yet the tables quickly turned in the fourth quarter, and the Bucs put together two touchdown drives way faster than they should have. Brady drove down the field for 91 yards and 63 yards ins less than five minutes to clinch the victory.
Prior to those drives, the Bucs had a 0.7 percent win probability according to NFL's Next Gen Stats.
Part of the reason for NOLA's defensive collapse was penalties: Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo recorded a tide-turning pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter, and he now leads the team with eight penalties this season.
The other part was just sloppy zone coverage. NOLA's defense did nearly everything right but couldn't close out the game, and this gotta-have-it win ended up slipping right through their fingers.
On a lighter note, the Saints were able to pick off Tom Brady (again!) in Week 13. That means Brady has had an interception in every regular season game against the Saints since joining Tampa Bay in 2020.
It doesn't make the loss hurt less, but it's a neat little fact to know. The Saints just know how to get under Brady's skin.