Da Boot Sports
Article courtesy of Crescent City Sports
By: Ken Trahan
It was a special night in Caesars Superdome.
First, it was a primetime Thanksgiving home game.
Then, the New Orleans Saints were honoring the greatest player in franchise history.
That turned out to be the highlight of the night, though the network (NBC) for which Drew Brees was working and calling the game, chose not to carry the halftime ceremony. It’s a curious decision at best.
That was a good indication of how this night went for the Saints.
It was a day to give thanks, in this city, in this state, country and in the world.
It was a night to give thanks that this game ended, mercifully.
If you are a Saints fan, it was very difficult to watch.
Taysom Hill was listed as full go on the New Orleans injury report Tuesday and Wednesday. Clearly, he was not full go. He did not go anywhere but to the bench throughout the game.
For the second straight week, Hill, who just got a new contract, was active and never set foot on the field, taking a roster spot. Clearly, the Saints are more comfortable with a not-healthy Hill as the backup quarterback as compared to rookie Ian Book.
It is obvious that the Saints were simply overmatched and will continue to be overmatched until some key players can return from injury, if and when that occurs.
Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Alex Armah, Michael Thomas, Ryan Ramczyk, Jameis Winston, Adam Trautman, Hill, C.J. Gardner Johnson, Marcus Davenport, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Wil Lutz were all out, as you know.
The outcome was never in doubt.
Here are my Quick Takes from the 31-6 win for the Bills over the Saints:
**Tony Jones Jr. started at running back with Adam Prentice getting the start and in on the first snap at fullback.
**The Saints went 3-and-out and Buffalo promptly drove 65 yards in 10 plays, taking 5:54 off the clock with Josh Allen hitting Dawson Knox on a 6-yard touchdown pass to give the Bills a 7-0 lead with 7:09 to play in the opening quarter.
**On the drive, the Saints missed a slew of tackles.
**With the first quarter ending at 7-0, it marked the seventh time in 11 games that the once potent New Orleans offense has gone scoreless in the first quarter this season. It is the fourth straight scoreless first quarter for the Saints
**New Orleans mounted what at least resembled a bit of a drive early in the second quarter and on fourth-and-two from the Buffalo 41, Sean Payton elected to go for it. A handoff to Jones resulted in a 5-yard loss, turning the ball over on downs.
**With a short field, Buffalo was able to add to the lead, driving 38 yards in seven plays, taking 3:56 off the clock with Tyler Bass converting a 34-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 8:46 to play in the half.
**The big play of the drive was a 26-yard pass to Gabriel Davis for a first down as he was wide open on a play-action pass from Allen.
**New Orleans finally came up with a big play when Bradley Roby intercepted a Josh Allen pass, intended for Stefon Diggs at the New Orleans 49-yard line with 3:13 to play in the half.
**It did not matter. The Saints offense did absolutely nothing and had to punt, or at least, it appeared that way.
**On fourth-and-eight at the Buffalo 49-yard line, Payton called for a fake and Blake Gillikin threw in the left flat for Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who was blanketed on the play. It did not matter as the pass was nowhere near him and Buffalo took over with tremendous field position with 1:47 to play in the half.
**Buffalo reached the New Orleans 6-yard line with a chance to add to the lead prior to halftime but Cam Jordan hit Allen’s arm and Kwon Alexander made a diving interception to keep the Saints in the game.
**It was the third time this season that New Orleans was shutout in the first half. The Saints had just 64 yards of offense in the half.
**The Bills had the ball for 17:58 in the half to just 12:02 for the Saints.
**The Saints have now scored a total of 13 points in the four starts Trevor Siemian has made.
**The Bills took the second half kickoff and erased any doubt about the outcome, driving 75 yards in 11 plays, taking 6:12 off the clock with Allen hitting Stefon Diggs on a 5-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-0 with 8:48 to play in the third quarter.
**After getting a stop, Buffalo then added to the lead, driving 53 yards in five plays, taking 2:51 off the clock with Allen hitting Knox, who was wide open again off a play-fake on fourth down, for a 24-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-0 with 4:19 to play in the third quarter.
**The Saints finally mounted a drive and got on the board, driving 75 yards in 10 plays, taking 4:25 off the clock with Siemian hitting Nick Vannett on a 15-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-6 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
**Then, the Saints went for two, trying to make it a 2-possession game but once again, failed as a pass was incomplete, making it 10 straight times that New Orleans has failed on 2-point conversion attempts.
**Buffalo distanced itself midway through the fourth quarter, driving 51 yards in four plays with Allen hitting Matt Breida on a 23-yard touchdown pass on a screen pass to make it 31-6 with 8:25 to play in the game. Breida set up blocks, three white shirts were in the area but none got a hand on him.
**Jordan Poyer then came up with his fifth interception of the season on a ball thrown right to him by Siemian.
**Buffalo got to play its backup quarterback the rest of the way with Mitchell Trubisky taking over for Allen.
Allen finished 23-of-28 for 260 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions and he rushed eight times for 43 yards.
Siemian was ineffective, completing 17-of-29 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
It did not help that the Saints could not run the ball a lick, rushing for 44 yards on 25 carries and Jones gained 11 of those in garbage time in the final two minutes on one run.
A total of 190 yards in an NFL game is not going to win you many games.
The makeshift offensive line for the Saints struggled mightily and the lack of quality receivers was evident again.
It was as poor of an offensive performance as we have seen under Sean Payton.
By game’s end, there were more Bills fans in the stand than Saints fans, or so it seemed.
Once again, the absence of too many key players was too much, make that way too much to overcome.
Will Hill be healthy enough to give it a go next week? Will that make any difference.
Losers of four straight and now 5-6, the Saints will host Dallas next Thursday. It does not get any easier as the Saints will be clear underdogs, in danger of losing a fifth straight game and slipping deeper in the hole of any hope of making the expanded, 7-team NFC playoff field.
Da Boot Sports
Article courtesy of Crescent City Sports
By: Les East
The New Orleans Saints had a lot going against them in their game Sunday.
To start with, they didn’t have their most productive ball carrier and pass catcher in Alvin Kamara, who was sidelined by a knee injury.
They also were missing the starting left side of their offensive line as well as other key players whose absence has become chronic with long-term injuries.
They were playing perhaps the hottest team in the NFL in Tennessee, though the Titans also were short-handed as Derrick Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher, was on injured reserve.
Once the game got started the officials didn’t help with a universally denounced roughing-the-passer call that gifted the Titans with seven points in a game they won by two.
Brian Johnson didn’t help by missing two extra points, though he did make a field goal that was shorter than an extra point.
Despite all of those hurdles the Saints came about as close to winning a game as a team can without actually winning it.
Kinda like last week.
But despite the similarities, the 23-21 loss in Nashville wasn’t as bothersome as the 27-25 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Caesars Superdome seven days earlier.
The Saints played much closer to what could reasonably have been expected from them under the circumstances against the 8-2 Titans than they did in under-performing (with Kamara) against the 4-5 Falcons, who lost 43-3 at Dallas on Sunday.
In last week’s game the Saints played poorly and the Falcons played better in constructing a 24-6 lead with less than 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Then Trevor Siemian drove the Saints to touchdowns on drives of 66, 54 and 43 yards in a span of 9 minutes and 33 seconds to give them their only lead of the game with 61 seconds left.
But one play – a 64-yard Atlanta completion – led to a decisive field goal as time expired.
Had the Saints not allowed that completion or otherwise prevented the field goal, they would have escaped with a one-point victory that would not have been indicative of which team played better and which one played worse for 60 minutes.
The outcome Sunday could similarly have turned on a single play or two – but in this game, either outcome could have reasonably been considered an accurate reflection of which team played better and which one played worse.
The Saints could have tied the score on a two-point conversion in the final minute, but Adam Trautman false-started and Siemian threw an incompletion to Mark Ingram II, who did his best Kamara impersonation (108 yards from scrimmage and a 13-yard touchdown run) while surpassing Deuce McAllister as the most prolific rusher in franchise history.
They could have tied the score if Johnson, who inexplicably has made all eight of his field-goal attempts and just five of his eight extra point attempts, had made both PATs.
The outcome might have been different if head coach Sean Payton, in one of the least Sean Payton decisions in recent memory, had Johnson kick a 20-yard field (which he made) to cut the deficit to eight with 5:33 left rather than trying for a touchdown from the one-yard line.
We could play coulda, woulda, shoulda in honor of Jim Mora all day, but it won’t change anything.
The bottom line is the disappointment of this loss isn’t that the Saints failed to play up to their standards, which was the case a week ago. The disappointment of this outcome is that it was so close to being such a special victory.
Though neither was good enough to produce a victory, Siemian again showed he is a capable replacement for Jameis Winston and the red-zone defense was superb.
The Saints haven’t lost two games in a row very often during their streak of four consecutive divisions titles.
In fact this current two-game losing streak is just the fourth one in the last five seasons.
The Saints’ 5-4 record is their worst at this point during the last five seasons, but their chances of winning another division title haven’t been damaged as much as much as one might expect.
The Washington Football Team defeated first-place Tampa Bay on Sunday, so the Saints remained only one game behind the defending Super Bowl champions.
They are just one game above .500, but they still control their fate in the division because the NFL is designed to assure that teams rarely clear the bar of mediocrity with a whole lot of space to spare.
Da Boot Sports
Article Courtesy of Crescent City Sports
By: Les East
NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Saints had a lot of problems in their last-second 27-25 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Trevor Siemian wasn’t one of them.
Siemian understandably was the center of attention as he made his first start under center in the wake of Jameis Winston’s season-ending knee injury last week.
He played well enough for the Saints to win, but the Saints didn’t play well enough in other areas to win.
Siemian completed 25 of 41 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception, but he did commit a costly turnover when he fumbled while taking his only sack of the game early in the fourth quarter.
A 32-yard return by Steven Means set up Atlanta at the New Orleans six-yard line and one play later Matt Ryan was throwing his second touchdown pass to Olamide Zaccheaus for what seemed like a comfortable 24-6 lead with 10:39 remaining.
But Siemian, who drove the Saints 70 yards to a winning field goal late in the first half of the 36-27 victory over Tampa Bay in Winston’s absence a week earlier, wasn’t done.
He took the Saints on touchdown drives of 66, 54 and 43 yards in a span of 9 minutes and
33 seconds to give them their first and what wound up being a very brief lead.
“We didn’t do the things that winning teams do consistently,” head coach Sean Payton said accurately.
His team is still a winning team with a 5-3 record after seeing a three-game winning streak end, but the Saints have now lost twice at home in games in which they led teams with worse records than theirs in the fourth quarter.
The loss to the 4-4 Falcons was the first since a 27-21 overtime loss to the 3-6 Giants, who scored the final 17 points.
On Sunday, the Saints were penalized 10 times for 74 yards. They sacked Matt Ryan just twice and let the scrambling-challenged 36-year-old run for a touchdown and elude their sporadic pass rush on multiple occasions.
The most game-turning short-coming was the inability to hold that brief lead, which was the result of one play.
On the first offensive play that the Falcons ran while trailing, they recognized a favorable matchup with rookie corner Paulson Adebo covering Cordarrelle Patterson and Ryan launched a pass up the east sideline toward midfield that produced a 64-yard catch and run.
Moments later Youngshoe Koo was kicking a 29-yard field goal, the clock was expiring and the Falcons were celebrating.
If Adebo had broken up the pass or knocked Patterson out of bounds, or Koo had somehow botched the chip shot, or somehow the Saints otherwise had made that singular lead hold up, it would have been a remarkable victory.
But this game was lost as much at the beginning as the end.
The Saints trailed 10-0 at halftime and fell into a deeper hole early in the fourth quarter primarily because they couldn’t catch enough catchable passes and they couldn’t stop the Falcons from catching passes with sufficient consistency.
Siemian’s solid numbers would have been more impressive if not for a handful of passes that, though imperfect, still hit professional pass catchers in the hands and went incomplete.
Meanwhile Ryan completed 23 of 30 passes for 343 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, often finding receivers who were wide open and snared passes they should have snared.
The Saints rushed for three times as many yards as the Falcons (109-34) and averaged a satisfactory 4.4 yards per rush, but converted just 3 of 10 third downs and failed on their only fourth-down attempt.
Speaking of failures, their inability to convert either of the 2-point conversions they attempted after their final two touchdowns were significant as well.
Additionally, the Saints possessed the ball for 32 minutes and 21 seconds and the Falcons possessed it for 27 minutes and 39 seconds.
That’s a statistic that can be misleading, as it was in this game, because even though having the ball for more than half of the game means more offensive opportunities than the opponent, it doesn’t mean as much as how well you take advantage of however many opportunities you do have.
The Saints had an opportunity Sunday to tie Tampa Bay for the NFC South lead and tie East-leading Dallas and North-leading Green Bay in the loss column.
But they didn’t take advantage despite having sufficient quarterback play to do so.
Da Boot Sports
Article courtesy of Crescent City Sports
By: Les East
NEW ORLEANS – Sean Payton wasn’t going to be deterred.
He and his New Orleans Saints were facing Tom Brady and the NFC South-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The Saints were 4-2 and the Bucs were 6-1 and New Orleans’ hope of winning a fifth consecutive division title were going to be dramatically affected by the game’s outcome.
Sure it was Halloween in the Caesars Superdome and it was going to be loud. That helps, but that only goes so far.
The coaches and players were going to have to do the heavy lifting.
Payton’s calculation was simple: a really aggressive Saints team was going to have a much better chance than a cautious Saints team.
“Everything about today’s approach was going to be super, super aggressive,” Payton said afterward.
Payton’s nature is to be aggressive, “super aggressive” when he believes it’s appropriate, even periodically “overly aggressive” as critics would describe it.
Facing the most successful quarterback in NFL history and the reigning Super Bowl champions who ended the Saints’ 2020 season in January led Payton to be willing to err on the side of boldness.
In the end whether he was super aggressive or overly aggressive was subjective, but what wasn’t subjective was the fact that the Saints won 36-27.
Payton, who once turned a Super Bowl in his team’s favor by starting the second half with an onside kickoff, embraced his first opportunity to be super aggressive Sunday.
On the Saints’ first possession they faced a fourth and one at their 44 and Payton chose to go for the first down rather than punt. The Bucs stopped Alvin Kamara short and four plays later Brady was throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin.
One man’s super-aggression is another man’s over-aggression.
Payton’s players were less fazed than Payton’s critics and on the ensuing possession they drove 75 yards, the last 16 of which came on a tying touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Tre’Quan Smith.
Then early in the second quarter Winston was lost for the rest of the game – and probably much longer – to a knee injury. After the game Payton didn’t want to provide specifics before having a more thorough briefing from the medical staff, but he did say that he thought the injury was “significant.”
So Payton had no choice but to place the Saints offense in the hands of Trevor Siemian.
Everyone in the Superdome and watching on television had to be wondering where the Saints offense was going to come from or even if they were going to have a viable offense in Winston’s absence.
Winston’s teammates, especially those on defense, immediately recognized that overcoming Winston’s absence didn’t rest solely with Siemian but rather with everyone who played.
On the Bucs’ first possession after Winston’s departure, Brady drove them to the Saints 31. But on third and six, Cameron Jordan sacked Brady and caused a fumble that David Onyemata, making his season debut after a six-game suspension, recovered.
Siemian led the Saints to a Brian Johnson’s field goal and the defense rose up again as C.J. Gardner-Johnson intercepted Brady and returned the ball to the Tampa Bay 35.
On third-and-goal from the one, Siemian threw a touchdown pass to Alex Armah and the Saints had an improbable 16-7 halftime lead.
Payton said the Saints spent less time during the break dealing with the change at quarterback than they did with the Bucs’ defensive approach being different from what they expected.
The Saints received the second-half kickoff and Siemian drove them 75 yards to the Bucs’ one. Facing a fourth down, Payton didn’t hesitate to go for the score and Kamara secured a tricky pitch and waltzed into the end zone.
Payton said that “a good trait” Siemian has is that he’s “pretty calm.”
Quickly things got less calm as Brady led Tampa Bay on consecutive touchdown drives that reduced the Saints lead to 23-21 at the end of the third quarter.
Suddenly the Dome felt as it did on December 30, 2000.
Wild-card playoff against another reigning Super Bowl champion – the St. Louis Rams.
Saints led 31-7 early in the fourth quarter, then 31-28 late in the fourth quarter. They punted back to the Rams, and a really nervous crowd awaited a return to the field by a really tired Saints defense.
Then Az-Zahir Hakim fumbled a punt (“Hakim drops the ball”), Brian Milne secured the football for the home team and another backup quarterback who had been thrust into a starter’s role by injury (Aaron Brooks) kneeled out the franchise’s first playoff victory ever.
This less historic, but the result was the same.
After an exchange of punts, Siemian and the Saints offense cobbled together a 50-yard drive that produced Johnson’s 35-yard field goal and an only slightly less uncomfortable five-point lead.
Brady quickly answered with a 50-yard yard to pass to Cyril Grayson, a Rummel High, LSU and Saints alum, for the Bucs’ first lead (27-26) since the first quarter with less than six minutes remaining.
With the Saints in desperate need of a points-producing drive, their super-aggressive head coach didn’t shy away from letting Siemian throw the ball. Siemian responded with four completions for 34 yards and a first-and-goal at the nine as the two-minute warning arrived.
Then Siemian threw two incompletions before hitting Kamara for a four-yard gain. That sequence took just 19 seconds off the clock and left Brady with plenty of time needing just a field-goal drive after Johnson’s 23-yard kick gave the Saints a precarious 29-27 edge.
Payton, naturally, was asked after the game about not running the ball once or twice to force the Bucs to use more than one timeout or lose precious seconds.
“Obviously, I don’t want to throw an incomplete pass,” he said.
It was a tricky calculation.
Of course you want to leave Brady as little time as possible. But you also want to put him in the position of needing a touchdown instead of a field goal, which would require more time.
“I’m thinking score,” Payton said.
Payton added that the “perfect scenario” would be to score a touchdown and use up as much time as possible.
“That’s easier said than done,” he said.
After the kickoff Brady 101 seconds and one timeout to work with.
After one incompletion, P.J. Williams picked off Brady and ran 40 yards for a clinching touchdown.
Perhaps Williams saved Payton from his excessive aggressiveness.
Or perhaps the head coach’s chronic aggressiveness has produced a team that thrives in challenging circumstances such as Sunday’s.