After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to 49ers
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Shutout in San Francisco
Sometimes a game becomes a microcosm of a team’s season.
That felt like the case for the Saints Sunday in San Francisco.
Whether it was bad plays, bad mistakes, or simply bad luck, the Saints felt so close yet so far away from a victory and left Levi’s Stadium with a 13-0 loss.
There was always a feeling they were in the game. Yet at the same time, an undeniable reality that they would lose despite having multiple chances.
Frankly, that’s been the story of the 2022 Saints season.
Now they’re 4-8, and continue to be the team that can never quite put it all together with any consistency.
Take Two: Kamara’s costly mistakes
We’ve seen Alvin Kamara be the biggest reason for the Saints’ wins over the years. On Sunday, he was one of the biggest reasons for the loss. His two mistakes were crushing factors in the game.
The Saints know they have to stay on schedule offensively to win, so it’s never a good thing when their best player fumbles the ball away on the fourth play of the game. That led to a Niners field goal.
Late in the fourth quarter, Kamara took an underneath pass from Dalton, went to stretch for the goal line, got hit, and lost the ball. The fumble was devastating and killed a perfect chance at a touchdown.
Kamara’s bad day led to terrible body language for most of the game. He looked disinterested, defeated, and uninspired at times. He didn’t talk to the media after the game.
Take Three: Game-changing calls
In the second quarter, Taysom Hill fired a 30-yard strike to Chris Olave. The Saints appeared to be in business in the red zone. But Kyle Shanahan challenged the play. Initially, I thought he was challenging whether Olave fumbled the ball after the catch, as it appeared pretty obvious he caught it and took three steps before he went to the ground. But fitting for a season like this, the call was overturned for Olave not ‘surviving the ground.’
The Saints went from 1st & 10 at the 8-yard line, to 2 & 10 from the 38-yard line. A holding penalty on third down eventually knocked them out of field goal range.
On the fifth play of the third quarter, Alontae Taylor picked off Jimmy Garoppolo and returned it 48 yards. It should’ve been the game-changing turnover the Saints have longed for. Instead, a Chris Harris illegal contact penalty negated the big play. The penalty was close, but the flag came very late after Taylor had already made the interception. The 49ers added three more points a few plays later to go up, 13-0.
These plays were not the reason the Saints lost, but had either gone their way, the flow of the game would’ve certainly changed.
Take Four: Defense Valiant Effort
Short of producing a takeaway yet again, it’s hard to ask for much more from the defense.
They were fantastic Sunday. They kept Christian McCaffrey in-check most of the game. They contained Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. They only allowed 3.3 yards a carry, and had a remarkable goal-line stand that prevented points early in the game.
The 49ers’ lone touchdown was nearly picked off, but somehow the ball tipped off Tyrann Mathieu’s hands and into Jawan Jennings’ in the back of the end zone.
Regardless of that tough break, holding a team to 13 points should be enough to win a football game.
Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t.
Take Five: Other observations
- The Saints had two fourth and shorts near midfield early in the game, and Dennis Allen elected to punt both times. I’m not sure what the percentages are on those plays, but when your team is 4-7 on the road, it’s probably time to be aggressive at least on one of those opportunities.
- There has to be a reasonable discussion about Wil Lutz. He’s now missed six field goals on the season, and has been wildly inconsistent. His missed 48-yarder came when the team really needed some points after a solid drive.
- Andy Dalton played better than he’ll get credit for in this game. He was accurate all day, and probably should’ve had a couple of touchdown passes. He also ran the ball effectively when he had to.
- Completely inexcusable penalty by Harris near the end of the first half when he hit the 49′ers player well out of bounds.
- It felt like the Saints had more than six penalties on the day. Every one of them seemed very consequential.
- Didn’t like Hill running that corner route in the end zone on third down of the Saints’ last offensive possession. Just before the play, the Saints subbed Jarvis Landry out of the game. He would’ve been a better option on that route. The pass was perfectly placed by Dalton.
- Nick Bosa got away with being offsides on his fourth-down sack of Dalton that ended the game.
- Rasheed Shaheed is making the most of his opportunities.
- Punter Blake Gillikin had a quality day of work.
- Kaden Elliss continues to play well. He finished with 14 tackles on the day.
- This was the first time the Saints have been shut out since week 17 of the 2001 season against the 49′ers in the Superdome.
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