Instant analysis from Saints’ loss to Buccaneers in Week 2

·4 min read

Where do you begin to recap the New Orleans Saints’ loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? So much happened in so many different phases that it’s hard to keep track of it all, so we’ll focus on three questions to answer after the 20-10 home loss: What went right? What went wrong? And what’s the bottom line? Let’s explore:

What went right?

The Saints defense played well enough to win this game. They forced six punts in this game, including three in consecutive possessions, and again played well enough to get Tom Brady screaming and trashing equipment on the sideline. They did their part in limiting Tampa Bay to the third-fewest total yards (260) they’ve managed since Brady arrived. The Bucs only converted 5 of their 17 third downs, and were unsuccessful on their lone fourth down. They continued to play hard even when Marshon Lattimore was ejected late in the game and rookie corner Alontae Taylor (the fourth player on the depth chart, behind Paulson Adebo and Bradley Roby) stepped into his place.

It wasn’t all bad on offense. Michael Thomas made several outstanding receptions with Carlton Davis covering him, showing up the tall-talking Bucs corner on a toe-tapper down the sideline and with a touchdown grab in the game’s closing minutes. He finished the day with 6 receptions for 65 yards and a score. Every pass he caught on Sunday converted a first down. Yeah, he’s back. Steadier quarterback play will highlight that even more.

So back to the defense. Pete Werner continues to be a bright spot by routinely putting himself in the right place at the right time. Some of the collisions he shared with Leonard Fournette at the line of scrimmage were incredible. That he’s made such an important impact on the Saints defense after missing most of training camp with an injury is remarkable. He’s been a big reason for their success on that side of the ball.

What went wrong?

It was another really rough game for the Saints offense, which is starting to look like a worrying trend. After initially throwing with decisive confidence, Winston had issues hitting his receivers underneath for the short, easy gains that help establish rhythm within the Saints offense — a system that’s worked for years.

Instead, Winston spent more time looking for the home-run ball, and stubbornly stuck with deep shots to Chris Olave. To his credit, Olave was too fast for the Buccaneers secondary to handle, and he routinely beat them over the top. But Winston’s passes were off-target. He overthrew Olave early on, then underthrew him later for an interception. When they finally linked up on one of the game’s final drives, the pass fell just short of Olave’s stride, and he had to chop his feet to hit his mark. He tripped because of it and fell to the ground, fumbling the ball along the way.

These issues can be worked on. With more reps, Winston can continue to develop that chemistry with Olave, and they shouldn’t need much more time to get on the same page. They may have already gotten there if Winston hadn’t missed time over the summer with various injuries (last year’s season-ending knee issue and the foot problem that flared up in camp). Unfortunately, Winston has been limited again with a different injury, having fractured four vertebrae in his back. It’s a real question as to how many practice reps he and Olave can work in together.

And what's the bottom line?

The Saints won’t win many football games when they’re committing five turnovers and getting fouled nine times. They’ve got to protect the ball, and protect their quarterback (sometimes from himself), and clean up some really awful penalties. So many of their problems are self-inflicted issues that can be cleaned up.

A really great illustration of that can be found early in the fourth quarter, when the New Orleans defense stopped Tampa Bay on 3rd and 1 inside the Buccaneers’ own red zone, setting up a punt that should have resulted in terrific field position for the Saints offense. Instead, a penalty for having too many men on the field in the special teams phase gave Tampa Bay a fresh set of downs.

The Saints defense deserves credit for how they responded to it — Brady was sacked two plays later, setting the stage for another punt. But this lack of attention to detail has been a problem through two weeks. Lapses in judgment and poor coaching decisions have plagued the Saints for seven of their eight quarters of football. New Orleans’ special teams unit is usually a strength of the team, but in one of the game’s highest-leverage moments they fell on their face.

Maybe that’s the story of the Saints this year. Things that are usually a strength — like their run defense last week, their vertical passing game this week, and the kicking units — turn into weaknesses when they matter most. If that’s the case, it’s going to make for a long, frustrating first year for Allen and his coaching staff. They’ve got a lot to work on. Let’s see how they respond.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire