After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Falcons

After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Falcons
Atlanta captured their second win of the season by beating the Saints, 26-9. (Source: Mark Lagrange)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Take One: Losing the line of scrimmage

In the battle of the trenches, the Falcons crushed the Saints on Sunday.

Coming into Sunday, the Falcons struggled to run the ball, couldn’t rush the passer with just seven sacks on the year and couldn’t protect Matt Ryan.

None of that played out against the Saints. Instead, the Falcons ran the ball 34 times for 143 yards, sacked Drew Brees six times while Ryan was barely touched all game. There really wasn’t anything new the Falcons threw at the Saints. It appeared the Saints went in and underestimated what the Falcons could do at the line of scrimmage.

Take Two: Where’s the run?

The Saints had a healthy Alvin Kamara and workhorse Latavius Murray in the backfield Sunday, yet they only ran the ball 11 times for 52 yards in the game. They passed it 46 times on the day. That kind of disparity was head-scratching considering it was a one-score game until the fourth quarter. Usually when they’re that far off-balance, it means they fell behind quickly. That didn’t happen Sunday.

Speaking of Kamara, it was surprising to see how little he was used. He finished with four rushes and eight receptions for 12 total touches, but four of those catches came on the final drive of the game when the outcome was already determined. Kamara looked swift on his first carry around the end but didn’t get many more rushes. One could argue that Murray had the hot hand and perhaps they were easing Kamara back into the flow. But if that was the case, Murray should have had more than five carries on the day.

The whole approach to the run game didn’t make much sense.

Take Three: Penalty problem

Sorry Saints fans, but the referees were not the problem Sunday. The Saints played bad and lacked focus, that’s why they were penalized 12 times for 90 yards Sunday. Whether it was illegal hands to the face (four different times), false starts, holding (offensive or defensive) or roughing the punter, the Saints made it a lot harder than it had to be on themselves.

Five of those penalties gave the Falcons first downs. Those extra penalties allowed Atlanta to have scoring drives of: 10 plays for 5:33, 17 plays for 8:00 and 11 plays for 5:04. This was the biggest reason for the time of possession disparity where the Falcons possessed the ball for over seven minutes longer than the Saints.

Take Four: It happens

Thinking back to the Saints most successful seasons under Sean Payton, every single one of them had a game or two where they were just flat and lost to a team that, on paper, they should have beaten.

Tampa Bay in 2009, the Rams in 2011, Tampa Bay in the season opener last season all come to mind.

Sunday’s clunker against Atlanta appears to be in that category. Hopefully it won’t come back to haunt them seeding-wise down the road like it did in 2011. Regardless, the key now is how they respond to it this week.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • Injuries to Andrus Peat and Marshon Lattimore had a clear impact on the game. Hopefully, both won’t be out for long.
  • The Saints two best drives were their first one of the game and final one before the halftime. Had one of those resulted in a touchdown, perhaps the game would have unfolded different. On the final drive of the half, Brees closed it out with eight straight completions.
  • With the Panthers losing, the Saints still have a comfortable two-game lead in the NFC South.

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