The New Orleans Saints (1-1) drop their first game of the 2021 NFL season in Charlotte, NC, with a 26-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers (2-0). The victory for Carolina is their first against New Orleans in four tries and second-year Head Coach Matt Rule's second victory against an NFC South foe.
In Sunday's contest, Sean Payton's side never found rhythm or momentum, collecting only 128 offensive yards. That offensive output is the worst of any Saints team in the Sean Payton era.
Here are three takeaways from the New Orleans Saints' Week 2 defeat.
The Usually Dominant O-Line Was anything But...
Many considered the New Orleans' offensive line as one of the best in the league of the past four seasons. Following a dominant showing in Week 1, which included 0 sacks on Jameis Winston, the o-line looked to live up to the hype. However, Week 2 took a dramatic turn for the rock-solid group surrendering four sacks and seeing white and powder blue jerseys in the backfield throughout the contest.
Jameis Winston was pressured on 64% of his drop-backs Sunday. With that performance, the Panthers registered the third-highest pressure rate for any NFL team since the league began tracking pressure in 2009. The first-year Saints quarterback had little time to make decisions, found himself hurried, and committed two costly turnovers.
The old saying proved to be true again Sunday. "The war is won and lost in the trenches" and the Saints certainly lost the battle in the trenches in Charlotte.
Missing Players and Coaches is No Excuse
Sean Payton opening statement following the New Orleans Saints loss to the Panthers was simple, "Give Carolina credit," Payton said. "It had nothing to do with us being shorthanded with coaches, or us being away, or the COVID. All of those would be excuses. They played better than us today and deserved to win the football game."
The long-tenured head coach of the Saints message was loud and clear, and he made no excuses despite the team's adversity throughout the week. Payton's thoughts were echoed by his quarterback Jameis Winston postgame when he was asked if the loss of coaches affected the game.
"Not at all." Winston said. "We just have to push forward, man, put this one behind us. Build on the positives and eliminate the negatives and come back next week ready to fight and compete."
Blake Gillikin Will be an Important Part of Team Success.
Punters are rarely highlighted as "difference-makers" for a team, but special teams have to be special to win football games nine out of ten times. Despite not coming out victorious, special teams were more than special Sunday afternoon in Charlotte, and a big reason for that was second-year Punter Blake Gillikin.
Gillikin, who missed last season because of injury, replaces one of the team's longest-tenured players Thomas Morstead. And like Morstead, Gillikin showed off his rocket leg averaging nearly 50 yards per punt in his second NFL game, allowing New Orleans to flip the field and set their defense up for success.
As I like to say, "Punters are people too," and though they are often forgotten members of a roster when you have a good one, cherish them because they may win your team a game or two... Gillikin proved that he could play a significant part in the Saints' success in 2021 and for years to come.
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