In one of the worst New Orleans Saints performances in recent memory, the team was embarrassed at home by the Atlanta Falcons, 26-9. The game started with the defense not being able to stop the run. It largely ended the same. Of course, mixed in was the offense not being able to move the ball.
New Orleans Saints Dominated By the Atlanta Falcons
So far this season the New Orleans offensive line has been one of the best in the league in pass protection. That was however not the case in this one.
Against one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the league, Drew Brees was sacked a season-high six times.
Now not all of those sacks were the offensive line getting blown up. There were also coverage sacks, which doesn’t make sense with this Saints offense going against a secondary that’s had issues and Desmond Trufant wasn’t playing.
However, the majority of these sacks fall on the offensive line.
The pass protection was already struggling and then Andrus Peat left the game and it got even worse. Following Peats’ departure, Atlanta began to get immense pressure right up the middle.
Not Stopping the Run
Atlanta has the ability to run the ball. Clearly. However, coming into this game they were running the ball at the lowest rate in NFL history.
Their offensive line isn’t what it was a few seasons ago, but Devonta Freeman is still a good option.
As is Brian Hill apparently. Those two combined for 99 yards on 30 carries, and as a team, the Falcons ran for 143 yards on 34 carries (4.2 yards per carry).
A couple of the most back-breaking runs happened on third downs when Matt Ryan pulled the ball down and found the corner and was able to extend drives. That’s not something most would think would be a factor going into a game, especially with Ryan dealing with an ankle that’s not 100 percent.
Earlier this season New Orleans was having issues with penalties, but that seemed to be in the rearview. However, those issues reared their ugly head in this game.
The team finished the game with 12 penalties for 90 yards. Of course, 12 penalties aren’t good but one would think the average of 7.5 yards per penalty really wouldn’t be all that bad despite having 12 of them.
If one were to assume that they would be wrong. Half of the penalties committed by the Saints gave first downs to the Falcons.
Overall Atlanta was only 6/15 on third down, so when the defense wasn’t committing a penalty on third down they were actually playing well. But giving up six first downs via a penalty when the other team is only giving you one is significant.
Of those 12 penalties, four of them were hands to the face. That’s not something that you ever see, and it screams of a team being undisciplined because that’s sloppy hand placement. That’s probably the most surprising thing of this game coming off of a bye week with a coach as good as Sean Payton.
Don’t expect New Orleans to continue this trend. There will likely be a great amount of time spent this week in practice on hand placement and the detriment that committing penalties on third downs is.
New Orleans Saints Lose to the Atlanta Falcons: Overall Thoughts
There’s no way to sugarcoat it. This is one of the worst performances the Saints have had in some time. The only players that really showed up were Michael Thomas, Demario Davis, Deonte Harris, and Brees to some extent.
Losing Marshon Lattimore in the first half certainly didn’t help the defense either. Julio Jones didn’t do much of anything when Lattimore was on the field, but once he left the game, Jones became a serious problem.
That’s however not the reason for this loss. Coming out sluggish like this, especially in a rivalry game or when you have one of the best records in the league, will get you beat.
Again, don’t expect the penalties in this game to become a trend, but depending on what happens in the San Francisco versus Seattle game, New Orleans is going to have to bounce back quickly if they want home-field advantage or to finish with a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
New Orleans will travel to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers.
Top Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images