The New Orleans Saints finished Week One 0-1 after losing 29-19 to the Minnesota Vikings at the U.S Bank Stadium. They had high hopes entering the season with their new and ‘improved’ defense. While they had a great draft and a great preseason, this may be a new season with the same problems for the Saints.
Week One New Orleans Saints Takeaways
Monday night’s game received a lot of hype. It was a must-win game for New Orleans given the difficulty of their upcoming schedule. More importantly, Adrian Peterson would be starting his first game with the Saints against his former teammates. With a chip on his shoulder, Adrian Peterson is unstoppable. Sean Payton, however, didn’t offer him the chance to shine.
The Saints Offense Struggled
The Saints struggled in every facet of their offense against the Vikings. Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees completed just nine of 14 passes for 71 yards in the first half and only finished the game with 27 of 37 for 291 yards and one touchdown. Game-winning ticket Adrian Peterson started strong with nine yards on his first play, but by the third quarter, had only five carries. He finished the game with six carries for 18 yards. The entire Saints running game totaled 60 yards. This was disappointing given the running back weapons that Sean Payton has to work with in Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Adrian Peterson.
New Orleans also struggled in two areas that they normally excel in: third down conversions and red zone offense. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, the Saints led the NFL in third down conversions. However, they only converted four of 11 third downs on Monday night. By the two minute warning in the fourth quarter, the Saints had four drives in the red zone, all of which resulted in forced field goals. They finally scored their first touchdown inside the remaining two minutes of the game.
The Saints are also facing a host of potential problems with injuries. Zach Strief took a serious blow before leaving the game because of this injury. They already lack any real depth at offensive tackle, and Strief’s replacement, Senio Kelemete, has limited experience there. Terron Armstead was out because of a shoulder injury and was replaced by rookie Ryan Ramczyk at left tackle. This meant additional pressure on Drew Brees during the game.
The Saints Defense was Awful
The Saints defense has been one of the worst in the league for several years. Over the last three seasons, they have given up the most points in the NFL. New Orleans had an incredible draft which gave them increased hopes of improvement. In the off-season, they added linebacker Manti Te’o to their roster in free agency and drafted corner back Marshon Lattimore to boost their secondary. But they failed to deal with several serious issues. They didn’t address the pass rush position and did not find anyone to reduce the pressure on Cameron Jordan. The Saints are also without Nick Fairley, who has been placed on reserve because of life-threatening health issues.
New Orleans has a very young and inexperienced secondary, and this was glaringly obvious on Monday night. Minnesota’s first points of the game were scored following two 15-yard penalties by Marcus Williams and Alex Anzalone. The pass defense was terrible. The front seven did not add any pressure and no defensive backs defended a pass all night. Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford finished with 27 of 32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. The Saints were last in pass defense in 2016, and if they continue to play the way they did against the Vikings, their ranking will not be any higher in 2017.
The only defensive player worth noting was defensive end Cameron Jordan, with one of only two batted passes all game, the Saints lone sack and the Saints only two quarterback hits. Jordan hasn’t missed a game in five years and has played in over 90 percent of all plays.
Monday night’s loss could deliver a heavy blow to the Saints who have a difficult starting schedule. They play the reigning Super Bowl champions next week, then head to Carolina to face their divisional rivals. After that, they fly across the ocean to play the Miami Dolphins in London before returning home to a match up against the Detroit Lions and then face the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay. An extremely slow start could leave them buried in the dust of their NFC South rivals beyond any hope of recovery.
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