The Saints did not come out strong last Sunday to kick off the season, losing 31-19 against the Arizona Cardinals on the road. The Cardinals were 8-1 last season before Carson Palmer was injured, and were 3-5 without him (including their wild card loss). He was back healthier than ever to face the New Orleans Saints and was a large factor in Arizona’s win. While Drew Brees played a great game, passing for 355 yards and making 30 completions for 62.5 per cent, the performance of the rest of New Orleans was less than mediocre.
The Saints’ defense managed to overtake their dismal 2014 ranking (30th) by finishing last week ranked #31st in the league. They displayed poor execution against both the run and the pass, allowing 124 rushing yards, 307 passing yards and four touchdowns and proved that they still cannot generate a pass rush. To make matters worse, an already depleted Saints secondary took a further blow when Rafael Bush, who started in place of Jarius Byrd left with an injury in the 3rd quarter.
Another problem faced by the New Orleans defense last week were penalties, which was also an issue last season. The Saints generated seven penalties totaling 73 yards, including a handful of holding and pass interference calls. At one point, the Saints were called for three penalties in one play (two of which were against cornerback Delvin Breaux). With a predominantly rookie defense this year, this comes as no surprise but is something that the team will need to improve upon sooner rather than later.
The Saints’ offense was not a complete failure, finishing last week ranked 13th in the league. Mark Ingram led the team in both rushing and receiving, with 9 carries for 24 yards rushing, and 8 receptions for 98 yards passing, showing fans that he can be the ‘do-it-all player’ that he aspires to be. However, after making numerous changes in the offseason to improve their run game, the Saints still had trouble running the ball last week, finishing with a total of only 54 rushing yards. The Triple C wide receiver trio only accounted for 11 of the 30 receptions made in the game (Colston with 3, and Cooks and Coleman each with 4). The biggest challenge on offense however, was their red zone efficiency. The Saints continuously marched down the field on nice-looking drives led by Drew Brees, but were forced to kick field goals on four occasions. Despite his passing for 355 yards, the Saints only scored one touchdown. Their red zone efficiency was 25% (1/4) versus Arizona’s 100% (3/3). Someone needs to step up and into Jimmy Graham’s empty shoes fast. Both teams had five scores, yet the Saints lost by 12 points because of this.
The Saints are set to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Superdome in Week 2. As rough as the Saints may have looked last week, Tampa Bay played even worse, losing 42-14 to the Titans. The Bucs allowed rookie Marcus Mariota to complete 13 of 16 for 185 yards and four touchdowns in his NFL career start and only generated 273 total yards on offense, against a Titans defense that ranked 21st last season.
The NFC South was the worst division in the NFL in 2014 and last week’s performances by both teams displayed little improvement. This week, both teams will be looking to improve their standings. The Saints are shorthanded on the back end and it was glaringly obvious last week. The situation going into this Sunday’s game this week will not be improved. Safety Jarius Byrd and cornerback Keenan Lewis didn’t practice Wednesday, and safety Raphael Bush was placed on IR with torn pectoral this week. The Saints are playing at home in the Superdome where they rarely lose (last season aside). If they can minimize their penalties, work on their pass rush and convert those drives into touchdowns, they will be able to recuperate nicely from last week and should be able to cover the spread.