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After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Titans

Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 6:36 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Take One: Self-Inflicted Wounds

Plain and simple, the Saints aren’t good enough to overcome self-inflicted wounds. There was a time when their roster could overcome a few dumb mistakes in a game, but this isn’t the year.

The Saints killed themselves with bad mistakes Sunday. Brian Johnson missed two extra points. Adam Trautman committed a false start on a two-point conversion. DeMario Davis had a pass interference penalty that extended a scoring drive, when they could’ve forced a field goal. Deonte Harris fumbled the kickoff to start the second half.

Those plays would’ve been hard to overcome, even if the Saints were completely healthy. But, it certainly wasn’t a recipe for success with a team as banged up as they are.

Credit the Titans for making the Saints pay for their mistakes. It’s the biggest reason why the Saints are 5-4 and losers of two straight.

Take Two: Where the game was lost

From the two-minute warning in the first half, to the 12:02 mark of third quarter, that’s when this game was truly lost for the Saints.

During that 4:58 stretch came the sequence that dug the Saints into a big enough hole that they couldn’t dig themselves out.

On the first play out of the two-minute warning, Marcus Williams picked off Ryan Tannehill in the end zone. But Kaden Elliss was flagged for roughing the passer on the play. The call was questionable at best, but it gave the Titans a fresh set of downs. Three plays later, it appeared the Saints would keep them out of the end zone, until Davis was flagged for pass interference. Tannehill punched it in on the next play.

In a six-play stretch, the Saints went from a takeaway, to holding the Titans to a field goal, to surrendering a touchdown. That’s quite a swing.

The Saints then botched the two-minute drive close to the half. Any points there would’ve been huge. Then, on the second half’s opening kickoff, Harris fumbled the ball away. Five plays later, the Titans were in the end zone again to go up, 20-6.

The Saints were able to fight their way back into the game, but that 4:58 stretch turned things from a 6-6 tie into a two-touchdown deficit New Orleans was unable to overcome.

Take Three: Special teams slip-ups

The Saints’ special teams play has been stellar most of the season, but against the Titans proved one of the biggest factors in the loss. The Titans went 3 for 3 on field goals, and made both of their extra-point attempts.

Johnson missed two extra points, which put the Saints in the predicament of having to go for two at the end of the game just to tie. Plus, Harris fumbled on the kickoff which led to a Titans touchdown to open the second half.

Add it all up, and the Saints’ special teams were directly responsible for nine points that went into Tennessee’s favor (2 missed extra points and a touchdown).

When the margin for error is razor thin, such points are precious.

Take Four: Ingram makes history

Mark Ingram is now the Saints’ all-time leading rusher. He surpassed Deuce McAllister with a run in the third quarter. It’s a testament to Ingram’s talent and toughness that he lasted long enough to break the record.

Early in his career, it didn’t look like Ingram would be good enough to make that milestone. He struggled with timing and patience, and had to learn how to share carries. But he kept grinding and improving to eventually write his name in the Saints’ record books. His journey is even more unique, because he left for 2 1/2 seasons only to return last month with a chance to break the record. McAllister played his entire career in New Orleans.

He played well Sunday. He scored a touchdown on a toss, and caught a wheel route for 34 yards. He nearly tied the game when Siemian targeted him again on the two-point conversion, but that fell incomplete.

Overall, Ingram’s second stop in New Orleans has been exactly what the team needed, while his legacy in New Orleans is officially secure.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • On the Saints’ second-to-last drive of the game, they ran three plays from the 4-yard line. None included Taysom Hill at quarterback. It was surprising to see at that point in the game, because that’s usually where Hill shines. Instead, Payton chose to throw it twice to Tre’Quan Smith, with an Ingram run in between. They had to settle for a field goal on that drive, when a touchdown would’ve changed the dynamics of the game.
  • When they initially lined up Hill for the two-point conversion, it would’ve been very interesting to see if Payton would call QB power there, or tried a jump-pass into the end zone. Guess we’ll never know.
  • According to my colleague Jeff Duncan, the Saints have missed their last eight two-point conversion attempts.
  • Marshon Lattimore struggled again. This time it was Marcus Johnson who consistently beat him on crossing routes. To be fair, Lattimore was picked on Johnson’s early slant route, which turned into a 50-yard gain.
  • Talk about unlucky bounces. Tannehill fumbled a snap, and it somehow rolled forward where A.J. Brown was able to crawl and recover it for a Titans first down. The Saints have forced eight fumbles this season with only two recoveries.
  • The teams combined Sunday for 17 total penalties.
  • Siemian has to do better at the end of the half. The Saints were in field-goal range until he took back-to-back sacks that pushed them out of it. Points there would have been huge.
  • There’s enough there to make a switch at quarterback if Payton chooses. Siemian hasn’t been terrible. In fact, he was impressive in the fourth quarter. But a case can be made that Hill could provide a spark to the offense that’s stumbled out of the gate now for two straight weeks.
  • Marcus Davenport had an incredible game.
  • I believe Brian Johnson’s days as the Saints’ kicker are over. Sunday’s mistakes were too much for him to stick around.
  • I don’t agree with the roughing the passer call on Elliss. However, the Saints benefited from a similar close call last week. It’s tough, but they have to overcome those adverse situations.

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