The New Orleans Saints (2-2) saw their return to the Superdome spoiled over the weekend at the hands of Daniel Jones and the New York Giants (1-3). Up 11 points in the fourth quarter, New Orleans was unable to close the door on the G-Men who scored 17 unanswered to win in overtime.
Below are three takeaways from the New Orleans Saints second defeat of the 2021 NFL regular season.
Kicking Woes Remain a Major Concern with Wil Lutz Sidelined
Sean Payton was short and to the point when asked about the Saints' missed field goal against the Giants from 58-yards.
"At some point we have to be able to kick a field goal." Payton said. "Hindsight, I would have punted. I felt that way after he missed it. The next play they scored a touchdown."
The lack of trust in the kicking game from Sean Payton showed early in the contest when, on their second drive, New Orleans elected to go for it on 4th and three from the New York 29-yard line. Saints star running back Alvin Kamara was stopped short of the line to gain resulting in a turnover on downs.
It is uncertain when Wil Lutz will be healthy and able to return but Aldrick Rosas' time in New Orleans could be coming to an end sooner rather than later. The former Pro-Bowl selection has missed three field goal attempts in his last two contests and appears to have lost the faith of his head coach. Keep a close eye on who the Saints bring in to workout this week, I would expect a kicker or two.
Alvin Kamara's Lack of Utilization in the Passing Game Falls on Play Calling
Sunday afternoon was the first time in Alvin Kamara's NFL career that he ended a game without a single target. The four-time Pro-Bowl selection has recorded 80 or more receptions in each of his first four seasons in New Orleans but only has 10 receptions through four games this season.
So...a Saints team with a young and unproven wide reciever room would likely rely heavily on Kamara in the passing game right? Well, that is what so many of us in the media and fantasy football experts believed headed into the season but that has been far from the case. And though it is easy to point out that AK has more rushing attempts per game than in years past, that does not change the fact that Kamara's lack of utilization in the passing game falls on play calling.
Bob Rose and I spoke on it during the Saints News Network Pre-Game Show on Sunday morning, asking the question of why New Orleans did not use other backs in the backfield to allow Kamara to move around the formation and find mismatches against a Giants team that just lost their best linebacker. Frankly, we both expected Sunday to be a potential big game for Kamara as a reciever but instead saw his worst receiving performance of his career.
New Orleans' wide-out actually produced what I see as their best game of the year as a unit, however with a threat like AK you have to find ways to get him the football even if team's defenses are targeting him because of what he brings to the football field. Especially during tough stretches offensively like the Saints have seen, you must get the ball to your best player in open space and Sean Payton's play calling did not allow that in Week 4.
The Saints Must Play Complementary Football if they Want to Make the NFC Playoffs
Headed into Week 4, New Orleans' defense was viewed as the strongest unit of the team which is much different than normal in Sean Payton's 16-year tenure as head coach. In two victories the Saints' defense proved that the team could rely on them to make plays and keep their team in the game.
However, in two losses it has shown that they cannot do it alone and need the offense to score and in Sunday's case close out games. Fans need to be honest with themselves, there is no reason New Orleans should have dropped Sunday's contest and though the defense allowed multiple big plays and could not find a stop late in the fourth, it still is one of the better defenses in football. The bigger concern is the offense that was unable to capitalize despite spending majority of the game in the opponents half of the field.
Sean Payton's offense has sputtered through the first four weeks. Wide receivers unable to get separation, poor pass blocking, and questionable play calling have all resulted in one of the worst stretches in the last 16 seasons for the Black and Gold offense. For years, the statement was always "If the Saints had a defense..." and in the early goings of 2021 the statement has taken an 180 degree turn.
The Saints finally have a strong defense, one that is arguably top-five in the NFL but they can not lead this team to the playoffs alone. Time for the offense to step up and find a rhythm or 2021 will be a long season for the Who Dat Nation.
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