The New Orleans Saints are at a crossroads in their 2021 season. They are currently on a two-game losing streak that has their record at 5-4. However, they are still the sixth seed in the NFC playoff picture. So if the playoffs had started this week, the Saints would be on the road facing the Arizona Cardinals.
It is fair to say that many factors have played a part in where the Saints are at right now. Injuries to star players, dropped passes by receivers, and controversial calls by officials are legitimate issues that they must overcome.
However, slow starts in numerous games this season is becoming the number one cause to why New Orleans could lose their position in the NFC playoff picture. In three out of the Saints’ four losses this season, they have failed to be productive on both sides of the football, at least the first half of games. Here are a few examples to support the analysis.
Saints vs. Panthers: Week 2
Out of the four losses this year for New Orleans, the Week 2 performance was their worst of the season. The Saints could not get anything going for the entire first half. They were able to generate points in the fourth quarter. By that time, Carolina’s defense had forced the Saints’ offense to become one-dimensional.
Leading up to the game with the Panthers, the Saints were missing eight assistants due to coronavirus protocols. Numerous impact players were also out due to injuries that occurred during the prior week against Green Bay. Despite the circumstances facing the Saints, they put up a strong effort against Carolina.
Falcons vs. Saints: Week 9
After coming off an emotional victory, the Saints lost their starting QB, Jameis Winston, for the remainder of the season in Week 8; all signs pointed to New Orleans having no issues beating the Atlanta Falcons the following week.
However, it was the complete opposite as the Saints struggled to replicate the same type of output they had against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 9. The Saints defense could not figure out how to rattle the Falcons’ primary weapon offense in Cordarrelle Patterson. He would finish the day with six receptions for 126 yards.
Atlanta had a comfortable 18-point lead on New Orleans (24-6). New Orleans would erase the Falcons 18-point lead (25-24) by playing like the team that everyone expected them to play like in big games. With 1:01 left in the game, New Orleans allowed Matt Ryan to go right back to Patterson on a 64-yard gain with a minute left to set up Younghoe Koo‘s 29-yard field goal as time expired. New Orleans came out flat for the majority of the football game, and it cost them dearly. What is more baffling about the loss to Atlanta is that the Falcons were involved in a 43-6 beatdown by the Dallas Cowboys the following week.
Saints vs. Titans: Week 10
Things would only get worse for the Saints after the loss at home to Atlanta. They would follow the same pattern against the Tennessee Titans in Week 10. Tennessee may have had the better roster last Sunday, but they were not the better team when playing against New Orleans. The Saints made numerous errors that allowed Tennessee to capitalize on those mistakes and come out on top. New Orleans had many opportunities to control the flow of last Sunday’s game versus Tennessee, but their failure to be dialed in four all four quarters allowed them to lose another close game.
Actions That Can Minimize the Saints Slow Starts in the Future
For the Saints to fix the issue of starting slow in games this season, it must begin in practice combined with preparation for various scenarios. Recently, the Saints’ defense has been attacked consistently by teams utilizing crossing routes. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has been around long enough to develop a scheme that can counter methods such as crossing routes.
With everything that has occurred with the Saints, everything is still in front of them. The issues that they are having right now can be fixed. The upcoming matchup against Philadelphia will show if the Saints can perform like a playoff team.
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