METAIRIE, La. (AP) Having sunk to the lowest depths in coach Sean Payton's tenure, the New Orleans Saints are not hiding their frustration.
A day after a 41-38 loss to undefeated Carolina dropped them to 4-8 and extended their losing streak to four games, the Saints rued the same breakdowns in pass coverage that have cost them all year while Payton railed at the officials for missing what he considered obvious calls.
All but out of the playoff picture, they will have to win three of their last four just to match their worst record since Payton was hired in 2006. The Saints play at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
New Orleans, last in the NFL in yards and points allowed, has given up 35 touchdown passes through 12 games, putting it on pace to shatter the NFL record of 40 set by Denver in 1963. The Saints' opponents' passer rating of 116.6 also would be the highest in league history, breaking the mark of 110.7 set by winless Detroit in 2008.
The breakdowns ''needed to get fixed five weeks ago,'' safety Jairus Byrd said. ''Something is not going right when everybody is not on the same page. I can't really tell you how you fix it, but everyone to a man has to know what you're doing.''
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's five scoring tosses came even though he overthrew several receivers who had gotten behind the Saints secondary. New Orleans looked helpless to stop Newton's game-winning strike to a wide open Jerricho Cotchery with 1:05 left.
''It's been going on pretty much all year,'' safety Kenny Vaccaro said. ''It is what it is. The only thing we can do is come out there, ball out and just change it.''
The secondary struggled even more against Carolina after cornerback Delvin Breaux left with a right hamstring injury late in the first quarter. Breaux, who had his team-leading second interception on Carolina's second possession, watched the rest of the game from the sideline.
Fellow cornerback Brandon Browner was beaten for two scores. Linebacker Stephone Anthony ended up in single coverage against speedy wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. on another touchdown. The final touchdown came as cornerback Chris Owens, whom the Saints picked up less than two weeks ago, trailed Cotchery.
''It was frustrating,'' Breaux said. ''Guys who weren't put in that position all week in practice had to go out there and play up to a great standard. It just didn't happen. It was tough to watch.''
Payton found it just as tough to watch the video of three plays when Carolina was not penalized for breaking the huddle with 12 players.
The first occurred when the Panthers had a fourth-and-1 at the Saints 41. The 12th player ran off the field before the snap, and Newton gained 30 yards on a bootleg to set up a touchdown.
The second instance happened on second-and-goal from 1 in the third quarter, and the last one took place during Carolina's winning drive.
''It's three different times there's 12 guys that literally break the huddle, and those are easy things (for the referees) to see,'' Payton said. ''We don't make excuses, but you're just angry because those happened in crucial situations.''
Payton also questioned the officials' decision not to overturn a fourth-down completion to tight end Greg Olsen on Carolina's winning drive, saying he threw his challenge flag because he thought the ball popped out after Olsen rolled over and he had not completed the process of the catch.
Either way, the Saints viewed their latest loss as a huge missed opportunity.
''We were the more physical team,'' defensive end Cam Jordan said. ''That's on us for not finishing them off.''
NOTES: New Orleans will be officially eliminated from the playoffs if it loses at Tampa Bay on Sunday and Seattle wins at Baltimore. . Breaux said his hamstring felt better than he expected when he woke up Monday and that he might be ready to play against the Buccaneers.
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