The New Orleans Saints (5-7) have not won a game in over 30 days, and fans must wait a week longer after a primetime loss to the Dallas Cowboys (8-4) on Thursday night. New Orleans turned the ball over four times in the loss and struggled to create sustained offense in the second half. The defeat marks the first five-game losing streak in over 16 years for the Saints and the first in the Sean Payton era.
Here are three takeaways from the New Orleans Saints defeat to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football.
Injuries or Not - Saints Receivers have been Disappointing
The New Orleans Saints have been without 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas for almost two full seasons, and the "backup brigade" has fallen short for the Saints offense. There are plenty of logical reasons for the unit's poor performance in 2021. Their lack of experience or playing with three quarterbacks in one season are factors, but there is no sugar coating it; they haven't been that good.
Above is an excellent breakdown from my colleague and Saints News Network's beat writer John Hendrix. When observing those numbers, what jumps out to me is that majority of the season receiving production has been on the shoulders of Marquez Callaway, a second-year UDFA, and Deonte Harris, a return specialist. He is still transitioning into a full-time wide receiver. And though we can look at both Harris' and Callaway's seasons and find bright spots, we also see why they are not number one wide-outs at this point in their career.
New Orleans chose not to address the WR #2 role after Emmanuel Sanders' departure this offseason, and now they are paying the price.
Drops, lack of separation, and poor route running have been the story of the 2021 season...proving to so many that wide receiver needs to be a top priority for the Saints this upcoming offseason.
Despite 4 INTs, Saints Offense Received a Spark With Taysom Hill
Since Jameis Winston suffered an ACL tear against Tampa Bay in Week 8, New Orleans hasn't tasted a victory or "Ate a W."
In a four-game stretch with Trevor Siemian, the Saints should probably have come away with a win or two; however, a change was necessary. The Saints' offense needed a spark, turning to the "Swiss Army Knife" Taysom Hill.
Ultimately, Hill could not push the Saints past the Cowboys and threw four interceptions in the process, but the offense looked much more lively than the previous four weeks. Whether running or throwing the ball, Hill was the "juice" the Saints needed providing highlight runs, big third-down conversions, and a flawless first-half play-action touchdown pass.
The downfall for Taysom Hill came after he tore a tendon in his middle finger on his throwing hand and was forced to throw the football to get New Orleans back in the game. Despite the injury, Hill made ill-advised throws and tried to force the issue late in the game, which led to multiple turnovers, including a pick-six to seal the deal late in the fourth quarter.
Taysom may not answer the Saints at quarterback moving forward, but he currently provides Sean Payton the best chance at victory. Hill is expected to attempt to play through the injury and will use the final five games of the regular season as another audition for the Saints' starting role in 2022.
NFL Officiating Stop "Privately" Admitting Mistakes & "Get it Right"
The National Football League acknowledged privately that a blindside block penalty against the Saints shouldn’t have been called during Thursday night's contest with the Cowboys, according to NFL Network's Good Morning Football.
The infraction occurred at the 6:50 mark in the third quarter after the Saints picked up a first down from a Taysom Hill pass to Deonte Harris. Reserve tight end Garrett Griffin was penalized with an illegal blindside block on the play, negating the first down and pushing the Saints back 11-yards. New Orleans would go on to punt after a three and out.
Troy Aikman, who was calling the game with Joe Buck, called the officiating on the play "terrible," and Saints head coach Sean Payton voiced his frustrations with the call to the officials for the remainder of the night.
While the league acknowledged the mistake privately following the contest, mistakes like this cannot continue to happen without a solution moving forward. Whether it is a coach's challenge on the field after a call is made, similar to the short lived pass interference challenges a few seasons ago, or a booth official who can overturn a flag on the field, the NFL must adapt as too many games are coming down to a missed or poor calls on the field.
Now this game was not won or lost on this singular play but it was a drive killer on a crucial drive in the second half of a ball game. No matter who a fan roots for I know it is fair to say all fans want is for the league to "get it right" to quote Roger Goodell. And without taking ownership publicly or in the moment the NFL continues to fail to do that. A change is needed and now it is up to the league to recognize, adapt and "get it right".
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