Raiders Expose Saints' Lack of Consistency and Discipline
Kyle T. Mosley
Monday Night Football's 50th year on air landed in the city where hopes and dreams in life and sports are often won and lost. Many great boxing events appeared under the bright lights of the Vegas strip. Last night, Jon Gruden resembled boxing's great legendary trainers like Angelo Dundee, Cuz Demato, or Floyd Mayweather, Sr. These men molded and shaped young and talented fighters to shock the world by conquering seasoned opponents. These Raiders were ready for New Orleans. Unfortunately, a team most considered "Super Bowl" worthy didn't answer the bell.
CONFIDENCE AND MOMENTUM
Gruden taught his team well. They learned to control their emotions after the Saints took an early 10-0 lead. The Raiders scored a touchdown and gave New Orleans a 17-14 advantage with 1:44 left in the first half.
The Saints had their opportunities to swing Ol' Mo back in their favor a couple of times. The odds were in favor of the Saints to drive for another score before halftime. However, when Brees unleashed a pass intended for wide receiver Deonte Harris, he changed the game's complexion. Morrow intercepted the football. Eight plays later, Carlson kicks a 28-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to tie the game at 17 going into halftime. The Raiders took the wheel, gained confidence, floored-it, and never let off the gas coming out in the second half. Momentum is definitely with the Raiders, as well as confidence.
PLAYER PENALTIES GAVE RAIDERS LIFE
Dennis Allen's coaching was a concern after the first quarter. He and his assistant coaches usually make the best halftime adjustments for the team. However, The Saints had no answers stopping the Raiders' tight end Darren Waller.
A usually disciplined Saints team under Sean Payton has committed bewildering penalties this season. New Orleans is ranked 2nd in the league in penalties, with 6 at home against the Bucs and 10 at the Raiders. What's worst is that those infractions have yielded 248 yards against the team, benefiting the opponents.
On defense, several flags helped to extend Raiders' drives. The defensive flag on cornerback Janoris Jenkins may have been the game's "back-breaker" for New Orleans. Jenkins had another solid night. He held the Raiders' first-round draft choice, Henry Ruggs, to only one reception for four yards on three targets. The Raiders faced a third down with 2:13 remaining. Derek Carr tosses the ball on a go route to Ruggs down the Saints sidelines. The official throws yellow flag. Jenkins is called for defensive pass interference. The penalty cost the Saints time to mount a comeback. It was disheartening. A few plays later, Raiders kicker Carlson drilled a 54-yard field goal with 1:08 left on the clock.
Sean Payton and Drew Brees have been uncharacteristically inconsistent in 2020. We have not seen these extremely detailed professionals to be out-of-sync for consecutive games like we have witnessed early in 2020. The all-time completion percentage leader is completing only 64.7% of his passes. On Monday, Brees connected on 26/38 for 312 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception for a 91.1 QB rating. In two games, the duo does not appear comfortable in the pocket and with the receivers. Emmanuel Sanders was MIA (Missing in Action) for almost the entire contest. His lone reception for 18 yards was on the Saints' final drive.
Coach Payton was frustrated and concerned about his play-calling during the Bucs game. Against the Raiders, Payton did not stay committed to the run. The Saints offense produced early rushing success with 93 total yards and 1 touchdown in the first half.
Brees was 50% for the first half, but running back Alvin Kamara was outstanding with 60 yards rushing and 23 yards receiving. After halftime, New Orleans added a paltry 19 yards on the ground for a total of 112 yards. Impatient and not sticking with the run has at times been Coach Payton's "M.O." as a play-caller. Latavius Murray was severely under-utilized with 3 rushes form 14 yards and 2 receptions for 19 yards. In order for this offense to get back on track, especially without Michael Thomas, the rushing attack could become their saving grace.
The 2020 Saints offensively are not like the teams of the past, yet. They still have plenty of talent and ability to be dynamic. The recent inept performance can be traced back to a shortened preseason and lack of offseason programs, but this is a veteran team. Still, their problems can be corrected. New Orleans was able to move the football effectively at times on the Raiders. However, you can sense tension when the offense is inside of the red zone. These are correctable issues as well.
MR. RODGERS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
On Sunday night, Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers will visit the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Packers lead the NFL with 42.5 points per game. The Saints' defense will be under pressure in all phases once again. Unless Payton and Allen clean-up the problems on both sides of the ball, New Orleans may find themselves at 1-2 after Mr. Rodgers leaves their neighborhood.
We shall see.