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After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Cowboys

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 10:47 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Five straight losses

Sean Payton finds himself in unfamiliar territory. For the first time as a head coach, the Saints have lost five games in a row.

The reason is simple, it really all boils down to players. Let’s not kid ourselves, what they have available is simply not good enough. Everyone knows this. Thursday night against the Cowboys was just the latest example.

Truthfully, I’m not sure this was ever a Super Bowl roster at full strength. Mainly because there is no such thing as ‘full strength’ in the NFL. Depth is a must. When that depth is tested, you need quality second and third-tier guys. That’s where I felt the roster was weak going into the season.

In saying that, no one could have predicted this many top guys to be out for this long. It’s more than a typical season. Just look at the Cowboys, who had a lot of their top guys back, despite dealing with issues of their own.

The silver lining is there’s at least some hope that guys will return. In particular, this offense is in desperate need of Alvin Kamara. Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead would certainly make a big difference as well.

Hopefully they can get back soon. Because at 5-7, with only five games remaining, the Saints are running out of time to stay afloat.

Take Two: Evaluating Taysom’s performance

‘Taysom Time’ returned Thursday, and he ran a full gamut in his performance.

On the positive side, the offense needed a spark, and he definitely provided that. In fact, at one point in the game, Taysom Hill looked like the toughest dude in football. His arms were gashed, bloodied, and bruised as he powered his way to 101 rushing yards despite dealing with plantar fascia. His effort on the ground was culminated with a phenomenal hurdle that got the Superdome crowd jacked up. Plus, he finished with 264 passing yards, despite injuring his finger early in the game that required him to wear a protective splint on it.

Had the game ended after 53 minutes, instead of 60, we would likely be talking about the gutsy effort of Hill on a short-handed team.

But, then the bottom completely fell out on him. In the final 6:32 of the game, he was picked off three times, four times total, to turn a competitive contest into somewhat of a blowout. His last interception was a pick-six by the defensive lineman. It was an ugly finish to his first start of the season.

Hill was disappointed but not dejected after the gam, and seemed to still have the backing of Payton. The truth is though, despite the collapse Thursday, Hill gives the Saints best chance to win. Especially with the roster the way it’s currently constructed.

Take Three: Two key blown opportunities

There were two key instances that could’ve completely changed the game that the Saints couldn’t capitalize on.

The first big miss came at the end of the first half. With the score 10-7, the Saints were in the red zone, and Hill found Kenny Stills on a double-move up the sideline. Stills couldn’t come up with the catch, and as the ball tipped off his hand, the Cowboys defender was able to scoop it up and get two feet down before going out of bounds. The swing was devastating as the Saints looked poised to either tie the game or take the lead. Instead, they got no points out of an impressive drive. Dallas responded with a two-minute drive that resulted in a field goal.

The final blown opportunity came on the first play of the fourth quarter. With the score 20-10, the Saints we’re facing a 3rd & 2 at the Cowboys’ 26. At the very least, a field goal seemed imminent to cut it to a one-score game. Instead, the Saints ran a naked bootleg that the Cowboys were ready for. When Hill got to the edge, Ty Montgomery wasn’t open and Micah Parsons was in Hill’s face, getting a sack and forcing the Saints to punt. Hill said after the game he would’ve just the thrown the ball at Montgomery’s feet if he had to do it over again.

If the Saints took advantage on either of those two opportunities, the game may have gone differently.

Take Four: Back- breaking run

For the most part, the Saints defense kept the NFL’s top-ranked offense in check. However, an offense that lethal was able to rely less on rhythm and more on explosive plays to get the job done.

None were bigger than Tony Pollard’s late third quarter run. With the score 13-10, the Cowboys ran a toss left. At first glance, it appeared the Saints got a good surge up the middle, but Pollard was able to turn the corner. Once past the line of scrimmage though, no Saint defender was able to shed their blocks. Before they knew it, Pollard broke free into the open field. Marcus Williams appeared to have an angle to stop him before the end zone. Yet somehow, Williams seemed indecisive as he approached him and Pollard was able to score.

The touchdown stretched the Cowboys lead to ten, and turned out to be their biggest offensive play of the game.

Take Five: Other observations

  • Another missed field goal Thursday. 56 yards is no gimme, but it would be nice to have a game without a miss.
  • I have no idea how an official could call a blindside block on Garrett Griffin. Griffin was coming over to block the blitzer. That awful call negated a first down catch.
  • The Saints are now 1-4 at home.
  • There seemed to be a lot of Cowboys fans in the stands Thursday night.
  • Dak Prescott targeted Bradley Roby a lot in coverage.
  • Malcolm Jenkins was put on skates by CeeDee Lamb in the open field on his first touchdown.
  • At 5-7, the Saints may be able to withstand one more loss at the most if they want to make the postseason.

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