After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Packers

After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Packers
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 27: Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers scores a rushing touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 27, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) (Source: Sean Gardner)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Take One: Turning point

It’s not hard to figure this one out. With the game tied in the fourth quarter, just two plays after the Saints stopped the Packers on fourth down near midfield, Sean Payton sent in Taysom Hill to run a zone read with Latavius Murray as the back. On the snap, Hill kept it on the option and was met immediately by the Packers end who was not fooled and knocked the ball out of Hill’s hand. The Packers recovered the fumble.

On that play, Hill has the option to keep it or hand it off based on what the end does. Hill simply misread the play, he should have given it to Murray and let him run it for the inside zone. When he pulled the ball, he never was able to really secure the ball and had it knocked away killing any momentum the Saints had gained.

The Packers went on to score a field goal and then a touchdown in successive drives after the fumble. Some have questioned the call in that situation, especially with Murray and not Alvin Kamara, but overall Hill simply did not execute the play properly and it cost them.

Take Two: Kamara captivates

The best player for the Black and Gold wore No. 41 Sunday. Kamara did everything for the Saints and finished with 19 touches for 197 yards and two touchdowns. He was Drew Brees' security blanket all game.

Early on, he got the Saints offense going with a 49-yard run. A few plays later, he scored his first touchdown on an option route out of the backfield where the linebacker had no chance in coverage.

But his biggest play came in the third quarter, when he took a short swing pass from Brees. From there Kamara turned what should have been a minimal gain into an epic highlight reel. He broke an early tackle then patiently set his block up from Erik McCoy, who was rumbling downfield. Then, he broke a tackle from Jaire Alexander and followed two more blocks from Josh Hill and Marquez Callaway as he weaved his way into the end zone. The run was truly magnificent.

This is the second straight game, Kamara has been the best player for the Saints. Above all else, Kamara has that smoothness back to his game that makes him the elite player that he is.

Take Three: Guarding the flat

It is quite simply one of the most basic throws in football, yet the Saints had no answer for it against the Packers.

Aaron Rodgers lived in the flat Sunday night by play-action and bootlegs and hitting tight ends and sometimes backs there for nearly half of his completions. It felt like on every one, there was plenty of space to run.

Generally, those kind of completions are good to mix in for positive yards to maybe catch a defense off guard, but the Packers used it to gash the Saints all night long. There’s a chance this was something they picked up on watching tape of the Raiders' game Monday, who used the Saints aggressive tendencies against them.

Regardless, the Saints made no adjustments to try and take that throw away Sunday night, and it burned them.

Take Four: Penalties still a problem

Another game, another struggle with penalties for the Saints.

Against the Packers they finished with eight penalties for 83 yards. None were bigger than the ones on the Packers final scoring drive. On a third and long and a chance to force a field goal, DeMario Davis jumped offsides and Janoris Jenkins was called for pass interference on the same play giving Green Bay the ball at the one-yard line. Jenkins was flagged for another pass interference two plays later. Eventually, the Packers were able to score a touchdown to essentially put the game out of reach.

There were a few questionable calls in the game, like Malcolm Jenkins' flag for a horse collar tackle when it was clear he did not tackle the player in that area. But overall, the Saints once again struggled with discipline and are now up to 27 penalties over the first three games. That’s not a formula for success and they know it.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • The Saints were very effective in the first half running the football. They had 12 carries for 104 yards at the break. That’s why I was surprised to see they only finished with 20 carries for 122 yards on the game. I felt they could have ridden the ground game for more in the second half.
  • Drew Brees finished 29/36 and three touchdowns with most of his damage done underneath. He connected with Kamara 13 times and was more than willing to stay short against the Packers deep/soft zone coverage. This seemed to frustrate some fans, but given the way the game played out, staying with the short passing didn’t stymie the offense.
  • Marcus Williams' pass interference showed a complete lack of football awareness. Though the pass was likely uncatchable, Williams didn’t even attempt to slow up or look for the ball before crashing into the receiver making it an obvious call for the official to make.
  • The one time the Saints were able to take away the flat, Mercedes Lewis was able to turn up the sideline and catch a pass from Rodgers, who floated it over Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins complained of offensive pass interference on the play. It definitely was close but the Saints didn’t get the call.
  • Cam Jordan has been quiet the last couple of games.
  • What a terrible original spot on the Saints’s fourth down stop in the fourth quarter. Thankfully, replay was able to properly place the ball.
  • Next week’s game in Detroit is huge for the Saints. Since Payton took over in 2006, the Saints have never made the playoffs after starting 1-3 or worse in the first quarter of the season.

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