Say this for the New Orleans Saints, at least they’re consistent.
For the third year in a row, the Saints are oh-for-September. Sure, there’s still another game left this month. But considering how dismal New Orleans looked in a 36-20 loss to the New England Patriotson Sunday — which wasn’t even as close as the score indicated, honestly — there’s no reason to believe the Saints can shake their September funk.
Or regroup to make a run at the playoffs. Or even be relevant.
“We just finished talking about the sprint here that we are in to improve each week,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Obviously you start out like this and there is disappointment. And, yet, we have the right type of locker room.”
Yes, that’s how bad things are. Two games in, and the Saints are already grasping for the locker room defense.
Despite having one of the best quarterbacks in the game with Drew Brees, New Orleans hasn’t really been a factor in the last five years. One season with double-digit victories, 7-9 finishes all the rest.
There’s a variety of factors, but the common theme is slow starts. The Saints are on the verge of being 0-3 for a third consecutive year. In 2014, they lost their first two, managed to win in Week 3 and then promptly dropped their fourth for a 1-3 start.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s a new season,” said receiver Brandon Coleman, who has been with the Saints since 2014. “I am not going to compare it to last year. Even though it might seem that way, I’m encouraged. It’s still early in the season.”
But it’s getting late in a hurry. The Saints travel to Carolina and Miami the next two weekends. After the bye, they come home for a game against Detroit before going to Green Bay. It’s not a stretch to think New Orleans could be 0-6 before the Chicago Bears, one of the few teams even more hapless, visit the Superdome on Oct. 29.
This isn’t a case of getting a player or two healthy, or making a play or two more in each half. The Saints have some fundamental flaws that make significant improvement unlikely.
The most glaring issue, yet again, is the defense, which is once again struggling to stop opposing offenses.
The worst pass defense in the NFL last year has already given up 777 yards though the air — yep, most in the league — and that was with New England running the ball in the second half to chew up the clock. The Saints rank last in total defense (almost 513 yards allowed per week) and yards allowed per play (7.6). Only the New York Jets have surrendered more points than New Orleans’ 65.
Oh, and when the Saints do manage to make a momentum-changing play, they still find a way to spoil it. Twice they appeared to intercept Brady, only to have the play wiped out each time by a penalty. One of those miscues Sunday was by safety Kenny Vaccaro, a first-round pick in 2013 who now is reportedly being shopped. Payton benched him after the costly penalty.
One guy who’s not playing? Adrian Peterson. Though he tried to brush off his sideline sniping at Payton during the opener against his old team, the Minnesota Vikings, Peterson would say later that he “didn’t sign up for nine snaps.” He didn’t have many more Sunday, touching the ball only eight times.
Granted, the Saints were playing catch-up from the opening drive. But it was obvious there’s little rhythm to the offense, which clearly misses receivers Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead IV. (Cooks was traded to the Patriots in the offseason, and Snead is suspended one more game after being busted for drunk driving.)
“I don’t know if it’s one specific player,” Payton said. “It’s Week 2.”
Of which season? Given the last few seasons, it’s all starting to look the same.
A big mess.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.