A .500 record for the Saints has been more than a pothole recently - more than a speed bump. More like a road block. Not since week 17 of 2013 have the Saints been better than that benchmark of mediocrity.
Yesterday's latest failure to reach that modest goal can be laid at the feet of many, but most will probably place the blame on a defense and a cornerback whose own feet are obscured by a growing collection of yellow flags. Saints fans will probably be guilty of "piling on" Brandon Browner this week, but will note that's about the only penalty he hasn't incurred through nine games.
Two more flags yesterday raised his season total to 17, and both resulted in Titan first downs. Of the seven receptions number 39 allowed, six went for first downs, a total of eight first downs he allowed, nearly one-third of the Titans' total first downs in the game.
Pro Football Focus ranks him as the lowest-rated cornerback in NFL history in the last 10 years through the first nine games of a season. But he and his defensive backfield mates weren't helped by a pass rush that never dropped Marcus Mariota once and touched him just twice.
Young quarterbacks are supposed to be susceptible to the blitz. Yesterday when the Saints brought the heat, the Hawaiian-born Mariota had enough time to sip a fog-cutter on the beach at Waikiki. Three of his four touchdowns came against pressure that never got there.
Mariota is the fifth Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback the Saints have faced this season. Mariota, Palmer, Winston, Newton, Bradford - the Saints have lost to all of them. They'll see another this week in Washington. But an injured and ineffectual Robert Griffin III will be watching Kirk Cousins try his hand at flaying the Saints defense.
No one has ever accused Kirk Cousins of resembling a Heisman winner. But given the Saints' problems, he might look like one on Sunday. And he might not even have to stay at a Holiday Inn Express as the team hotel on Saturday night to pass for one.
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