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After Further Review: Five takes from the Saints loss to the Falcons

Published: Nov. 7, 2021 at 7:30 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Too little, too late

With 10:57 left in the game, James Vaughters got around the edge on Terron Armstead and sacked Trevor Siemian, who fumbled the ball. Steven Means recovered the ball and ran it all the way back to the Saints’ 6-yard line. On the next play, Matt Ryan found Olamide Zacchaeus for a touchdown to put the Falcons up, 24-6.

At that point, many Saints fans had seen enough and started heading for the exits. Up until that point, the Black and Gold offense couldn’t do anything.

But then Sean Payton got into 2-minute mode, and suddenly things started to shift. Siemian caught rhythm and went 7-8 on the next drive. At the 7:57 mark of the fourth quarter, he hit Marquez Callaway for a score to bring the Saints within 11 points.

What followed was insanity.

The defense forced a three & out. Then, Deonte Harris set the Saints up on their next possession by drawing Falcons flags on back-to-back plays. Seven plays later, Alvin Kamara was in the end zone. They missed the two-point conversion, but still cut it to a one-possession score. Plus, there was still 4:35 left in the game.

The defense stepped up yet again with consecutive sacks on Ryan to force another punt. Five plays later, Siemian found Kenny Stills, who struggled mightily in the game, but still pulled in the go-ahead score with 1:01 remaining.

At that point, those that left regretted it and those that stayed were euphoric. The Falcons were going into ‘Falcons mode’ yet again.

But on the very next play, Ryan proved everyone wrong when he calmly connected with Cordarrelle Patterson down the sideline for 64 yards. The big play instantly swung all the momentum right back in the Falcons’ favor.

At that point 51 seconds remained, and the Saints were trying to let the Falcons score. Instead, Marcus Davenport punched the ball out of Mike Davis’ arms. Yet somehow, the ball bounced right back into Davis’ grip. After two kneel downs, Younghoe Koo kicked the game-winner from 29 yards away.

It was a wild swing of emotions to close out the game, and the Saints certainly mounted an impressive comeback. In the end though, it was too little, too late. The team that played the best, won the game.

On Sunday, that team was the Falcons leaving the Saints 5-3, and in second place in the NFC South.

Take Two: Dropped passes

Don’t be fooled by the finish. The Saints have issues at receiver/tight end. We’ve seen them struggle this season with separation, but Sunday was the first time all season they killed themselves with drops.

Stills dropped two well-thrown deep balls that could have put the Saints in scoring position. Trautman dropped a fourth down throw that could’ve extended a drive. Harris dropped an accurate pass on first and long that could have gotten the Saints ahead of the sticks.

With a game as close as it ended up being, those drops made a huge difference in digging themselves in the hole they were in.

The Saints may say they’re happy with their wide receiver room, but this group has to find a way to get more production either in-house or from the outside.

Take Three: Explosive plays

From the game’s very first play, when Kyle Pitts dropped a wide open pass from Matt Ryan, Atlanta set the tone that they were going to push the ball downfield.

Their plan worked.

Ryan ripped off completions of: 34, 39, 16, 20, 49, 16, and 64 yards. Patterson, Pitts, Zacchaeus and Russel Gage all got in on the act.

None was bigger than the 64-yard completion to Patterson, who got behind Paulson Adebo on a deep pass on the final drive of the game. Before that play, the Saints had just taken the lead and appeared to complete their improbable comeback. After that completion, the Superdome went silent, as the Falcons essentially sealed the game.

This is now the second consecutive home game where the Saints’ defense struggled with explosive plays. It’s one thing to give up some big plays against the Super Bowl champs with a plethora of weapons. On Sunday, the Falcons didn’t have Calvin Ridley available, and don’t have nearly the options that Tampa Bay did. Yet, they flourished.

This is Dennis Allen’s Achilles heel on defense that must get figured out.

Take Four: Undisciplined play

Last week, the Saints played clean football and let the Bucs shoot themselves in the foot with penalties. On Sunday, the opposite was the case, and the Saints were the sloppy ones. They were penalized ten times for 74 yards.

Late in the first quarter, the Saints had a promising drive derailed by flags. At the Falcons’ 28-yard line, Erik McCoy was hit with a holding call. On the next play, James Hurst was called for a false start. Two plays later, the Saints had a delay of game penalty. In a three-play sequence, the Saints went from threatening to out of field goal range.

The Falcons closed out the first half with a 92-yard touchdown drive. They were aided by a Kwon Alexander taunting penalty with 19 seconds left, that allowed the Falcons to preserve a timeout. The call was questionable, but Atlanta still took advantage and scored going into halftime.

Late in the third quarter, Kamara had a 44-yard run negated by a Tre’Quan Smith holding penalty.

When Payton said after the game that his team didn’t do enough of the things winning teams in the NFL do, penalties were at the top of that list.

Take Five: Other observations

- Crowd noise is not the reason the Saints are 1-2 at home this season. Payton wisely avoided calling out the fans after the loss. The product on the field has been the issue. The Saints have to get back to winning inside the Ceasars Superdome.

- Loved the juice Mark Ingram brought to open the game. Ingram is a great addition to the offense.

- I’m not sure how Kwon Alexander got matched up one-on-one with Patterson on his 34-yard catch early in the game, but it’s probably something the Saints should avoid going forward.

- Incredible play by Pete Werner on that fourth and short stop in the second quarter.

- Armstead took full responsibility for the sack/fumble in the fourth quarter. Armstead said he misread the play and just got beat.

- Adebo simply can’t make that mistake at that point in the game. If anything, he should sell out for the deep ball, even if it means giving up a shorter sideline throw.

- The Saints used a few different players on Pitts in coverage.

- For the most part, Siemian was effective Sunday. He didn’t get much help with the drops we outlined, but he did execute the offense. He also brought the team back when they were down 18 points. It was the first time all season the Saints were truly in that scenario.

- In saying that, it will be interesting to see who starts next week. Taysom Hill had back-to-back completions in the fourth quarter, and may be a better matchup against Tennessee. Time will tell who gets the nod.

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