There are plenty of things I could talk about from an analysis perspective from this game, about what went well and what clearly didn’t. How this team could be much better after their bye week as they will be getting more key players back.
Honestly, none of it matters, the false hope of winning the putrid NFC South is now gone; the only thing left for this team is to try and win as many games as possible so the pick they gave to the Eagles is as far down the draft as possible.
Overall Thoughts From Saints @ Bucs (and other ramblings)
In many ways, this was one of the Saints best games of the season. For 54 minutes of the game, the Saints looked in control and looked like they would win the game and go into the bye week with real hope of turning their season around.
Until an almighty collapse reminiscent of another NFC South rival. That’s right in a season that didn’t feel like it could get much worse, the Saints did what all us fans mock our division rival for doing, impossibly giving up a massive lead in the fourth quarter and losing a game that should have comfortably been a win. The collapse seemed almost impossible with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Until one crucial play, which switched a lot of jaded fans from hope to the realization despair was likely coming.
Mark Ingram had enough room to easily get the first down with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, all he needed to do was put the ball in his other hand and extend the ball past the marker. I would have been first and ten at the Tampa 43, instead Ingram, who had been injured a few minutes prior stepped one yard short of the first down because he re-aggravated the injury from a few minutes prior and couldn’t finish the play. This left third and one which the Saints couldn’t convert, sparking the Bucs comeback.
That play shouldn’t have cost the Saints the game. After the punt, the Bucs needed to go 91 yards to reduce the deficit to six points. As the defense had been dominating Brady and the Bucs again throughout the game to minimal gains, 91 yards should have taken the Bucs so long that a second scoring drive should have been out of the realms of possibility. Have you noticed I’m using the word should a lot here? That’s because the Saints defense crumbled at the worst time possible, aided by a massive DPI penalty on Paulson Adebo the Bucs went 91 yards in ten plays in only two minutes and 21 seconds.
From this point on the loss felt inevitable the Saints despite wanting to be a run-first offense have proven incapable of being able to sustain drives to ice a game and that’s exactly what happened, immediately going three and out, even this drive had a chance for the Saints to pull off a remarkable game-saving play, facing third and 17 Andy Dalton delivered one of the most perfect passes downfield to Taysom Hill you will see, Hill caught it but couldn’t hold on to it after a hard hit, this play perfectly sums up the Saints season, plenty of chances to win but ultimately shooting themselves in the foot.
The Saints punted, giving the Bucs plenty of time to go down the field and win. It feels harsh to blame the defense holding Tom Brady to three points until deep in the third quarter and forcing two turnovers should be more than good enough but this team has no margin for error, especially as the offense struggles to score many touchdowns.
So that surely means the offense was the issue? It was but not how many might expect. Usually, when an offense only scores 16 and can’t close out a game in the fourth quarter it’s the QBs fault, again similar to last week against the 49ers I truly don’t believe that to be the case here.
This was arguably Andy Dalton’s best game as a Saint, he made some incredible throws in big moments but his receivers couldn’t make the plays. Dalton finished 20 of 28 with three of those incompletions being drops from his receivers, the Hill drop I mentioned earlier. Olave dropped one in the second quarter on third down which would have put the Saints near the Bucs RedZone. Conservatively this took three points off the board possibly more. Jarvis Landry dropped a pass in the RedZone that would have been a touchdown, granted it was a tough catch but it’s a catch a player of his calibre needs to make.
There were plays in this game that if they were made and they should have been and the Saints would have been home and dry. Unfrotunelty this has been the case in several games this year (Vikings, Bengals, 49ers) there’s a clear path despite the mountain of significant injuries this team has dealt with that they could easily be leading the division if everything went their way they would be sitting pretty at 8-5.
Ultimately they are not and now they are left with many more questions than answers about the team’s future. No first-round pick, no future at QB, no salary cap space to work with, ageing stars, and the most pressingly massive questions at HC and OC.
There’s no question in many Saints fan’s minds that Dennis Allen should not be the HC next season, I’ve not been so quick to jump to that conclusion to justify some of the results and games this season with what I’ve spoken about above. But my hesitancy is long gone, as an HC during his tenure with the Raiders and now the Saints have the second worse winning percentage all time out of the 17 coaches to have coached between 48 and 50 games. At some point, excuses can’t come into it anymore and you need to look at the simple facts that Dennis Allen-led teams don’t win football games, it’s that simple.
OC Pete Carmichael Jr. should not be far behind Allen, on his way out the door. Carmichael has proven to be a very good offensive game planner, but as a full-time OC without Drew Brees at QB he’s looked out of his depth on gamedays. Showing a lack of imagination through countless second and ten runs or in big moments calling plays to the wrong people. An easy example in this game is on the Saints penultimate offensive drive the Saints had second and ten, Carmichael called a pass play where his only WR on the field was Kirk Merritt, a practice squad WR that was playing his first regular-season NFL game. Where was Jarvis Landry or Chris Olave, where was Rashid Shaheed? The play ended in a seven yards sack. Carmichael has served the Saints well for many years but his time as OC should not extend past this season.
Thankfully the Saints now go into their bye week, which means Saints fans can have a much-needed detox from this exhausting and infuriating season and the team can try to use the time to work out the future of this season and beyond.
As for me, all that is left to care about in this season are two things:
Sweeping the Falcons and giving the Eagles as bad of a pick as possible.
Enjoy the bye week Saints fans! We need it.
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