First-year Saints coach Dennis Allen might have liked to keep his focus on defense, an area he built into a strength of the club as a coordinator the past six-plus seasons.
But while the unit he primarily oversees continues to perform well, costly breakdowns on offense and special teams are demanding more attention.
”We’ve got a lot of areas that we’ve got to improve on,” Allen said Monday after spending part of an overnight flight to England reviewing video of a 22-14 loss at Carolina last Sunday.
”We’ve got to work hard to get those things corrected and fixed before we get to Sunday.”
Even in their lone win in Atlanta in Week 1, the Saints needed a 17-point fourth quarter to pull off the largest fourth-quarter comeback victory in franchise history.
For most of the 11 other quarters they have played this season, the Saints have struggled to score – done in by a combination of drive-stalling penalties, turnovers and even missed field goals.
Through three games, the Saints (1-2) have scored 10 total first-quarter points, none in the second quarter of any game and three third-quarter points. They’ve fumbled eight times, losing four. And quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown five interceptions – one more than his touchdown pass total of four.
”You have to be able to be accountable and we have to just pay a lot more attention to detail,” said running back Mark Ingram, who lost a critical fumble in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay, but responded with a rushing TD at Carolina in Week 3. ”We watched the film and we’re going to correct it this week, get those things right, get those things together because we all have confidence in each other.
”We’re just way too good, way too talented and we’re going to get this thing going the right way,” Ingram added.
After going 9-8 during an injury-ravaged 2021 season, the Saints hoped to fare better this season with a seemingly healthier and deeper roster.
Sean Payton’s retirement after last season, and Allen’s promotion, was bound to be an adjustment. But the Saints hoped it would be a smooth transition given the relative continuity on the coaching staff and across the roster.
Perhaps it’s too early to tell.
”We’re three games into the season, got 14 games to go,” linebacker Demario Davis noted. ”We’re definitely disappointed in the game not going the way that we wanted, but all our goals are still in front of us. … We’re in a race to get better, just like the rest of the league.”
Ingram asserted that morale remains high because of the roster is full of players who went to four straight playoffs together from 2017 through 2020.
”Nobody points the fingers. Nobody’s blaming. Everyone’s seeing what they can do to improve. Everyone’s seeing what everyone can do to encourage each other to be better,” Ingram asserted. ”Everybody’s taking their own accountability for their mistakes.”
The Saints’ defense has allowed just one touchdown in each of their past two games and ranked fifth against the pass before Monday night’s game.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Saints are having trouble scoring – mostly because of drive-ruining mistakes on offense or failed field goals. Despite being ranked eighth in total net yards (before Monday night’s game), the Saints are averaging just 17 points per game, which was tied for 22nd.
Rookie receiver Chris Olave is living up to his first-round draft status. He had nine catches for 147 yards in just his third regular-season game.
After missing all of last season with a core muscle injury, kicker Wil Lutz aims to once again be as reliable as he was when he kicked in every Saints game for his first five seasons. But he’s got some work to do after having one field-goal attempt blocked and missing another in Week 3. He also missed a field-goal attempt at Atlanta in Week 1.
Receivers Michael Thomas (toe), Jarvis Landry (ankle) and Tre’Quan Smith (concussion) all left last Sunday’s loss in Carolina, along with left guard Andrus Peat (concussion).
0 – The number of touchdowns passing the Saints have scored in the first three quarters of all three of their games.
The Saints are spending a week out of the country, which might be exactly the kind of team-bonding experience they need as they try to regroup in advance of Sunday’s international series game against Minnesota in north London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
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