NEW ORLEANS - Same record to start the season for the New Orleans Saints but this year's 0-1 has a different feel to it than a year ago.
For many reasons:
-- Losing at storied Lambeau Field to the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one thing, losing inside the sold-out Mercedes-Benz Superdome to the unproven Washington Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is quite another.
-- A year ago after the 42-34 loss to the Pack, Coach Sean Payton was still captain of the ship. Today, the morning after the disheartening 40-32 loss to the Redskins, Payton is away on unpaid leave serving a season-long suspension for his role in the Bounty scandal.
-- Additionally, GM Mickey Loomis and interim head coach coach Joe Vitt, too, have been banished from the franchise for their roles in the scandal. A second interim -- offensive line coach/running game coordinator Aaron Kromer -- now is in charge.
-- A year ago, Rodgers shredded the Saints' defense under coordinator Gregg Williams, whose thieving unit paid huge dividends during the Super Bowl season of 2009. On Sunday, RG III shredded a Saints defense under first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo that mirrors the reactive style of defense employed under Gary Gibbs from 2006 through 2008 more so than the risk/reward style of defense employed by Williams from 2009-2011.
In summation, yes, it is only one game and the regular season is still young. But Sunday's debacle -- a group effort for sure by the offense, defense and special teams -- was much uglier and foreboding than the loss at Green Bay.
The Saints were whistled for 12 penalties for minus 107 yards Sunday, including a critical 12th-man call on fourth-and-5 at the Washington 25 against cornerback Patrick Robinson that resulted in a first down and ultimately led to a Redskins' field goal and extended their lead to 33-17 early in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans committed three turnovers, the Redskins none, though Saints special teams' captain Courtney Roby returned a blocked punt 4 yards for a touchdown right before halftime.
And the Redskins' braintrust of head coach Mike Shanahan, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan clearly outcoached their counterparts on a Sunday when the football gods seemed to be smiling down on the home team.
Who Dat Nation should not pin this loss on Payton's absence or the replacement officials or Hurricane Isaac or Roger Goodell. Place the blame squarely at the collective feet of Saints' coaches and players because they failed to do their jobs.
The Black and Gold may never have such an overwhelming homefield advantage again this season.
So it's on to Charlotte, N.C., where the 0-1 Carolina Panthers and big-play quarterback Cam Newton angrily await.
P.S. to Who Dat Nation: Now you see Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith, soon you won't, once Goodell regroups and drops his gavel for a second time. It's only a matter of time. All rise!
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