It is official. The Saints are nowhere near the team that finished the 2011 season. As a result, their 2012 season, at least as far as playoff aspirations are concerned, is on life support.
New Orleans blew a 24-6 lead and lost to a mediocre Kansas City team 27-24 in overtime in a game that took nearly four hours to play. It was excrutiating to watch for Saints fans. New Orleans earned this loss. It was a team effort, to be certain. Kansas City deserved to win.
The Chiefs outgained the Saints, 510-288. Kansas City had the ball for over 42 minutes to just 26 minutes for New Orleans. Get the picture? It is an ugly one.
On the Chiefs' game-tying drive to send the game to overtime, the big play was a penalty on the Saints for delay of game. They had called a timeout on the previous play and attempted to call another prior to the next play. By rule, you cannot call consecutive timeouts without a play being run. Of course, they felt they had to, due to mass confusion.
What in the world is going on with Steve Spagnuolo and the Saints defense? Why is your best defensive back, Jabari Greer, not sure if he is the game or not on the most important play of the game? Seriously? There is no excuse, none. For that matter, Greer was on the sideline for a few plays in overtime, despite appearing to be healthy.
Drew Brees played well and nearly avoided mistakes for the first time this season for nearly three quarters. The third-quarter interception by Stanford Routt put a blemish on his day. Then, due to an offensive line that totally broke down, the Saints' offense basically shut down. They had nine snaps in the fourth quarter. They were inefficient, inept. They were beaten badly up front. Brees did nothing in the fourth quarter of overtime.
Of course, the Saints miss Sean Payton's play-calling and presence but you already knew that.
The defense is simply awful, by far the worst in the NFL against the run. The defense finally came up with its first big lay of the season as Jabari Greer picked off Matt Cassel, returning it 28 yards to the Kansas City seven-yard line, setting up a six-yard touchdown pass to Jed Collins to give the Saints a 24-6 third quarter lead, providing the separation they needed. Of course, that separation was short-lived after Jamaal Charles raced 91 yards for a score untouched. The game belonged to the Chiefs from that point forward.
It is official--the replacement officials are simply awful. It is not their fault. Blame the league for not settling with the real professionals, who are sorely missed. Some of the holding calls we have seen this year are horrific. The missed calls resulting in reversals are shocking. The inability to make proper holding calls is glaring. The overtime ruling of a fumble and touchdown return by Roman Harper was hilarious. Shaun Draughn was so obviously down, it was ridiculous. What are these guys looking at? Do you think these guys have any clue what offensive interference is? Dwayne Bowe of LSU is a superb receiver but he pushed off at least twice, possibly three times and it was never called. The time it is taking to play these games is ridiculous. The Players Association is now urging the league to bring back the regulars.
From the time they got the football with 13:34 to play in the game until game's end, the offense was awful. On four possessions, including overtime, the Saints went there-and-out, three-and-out, two plays with the second being a safety and three-and out. The Saints had negative yardage on those drives combined.
Roman Harper played a solid game and broke up the pass from Matt Cassel on third-and-four in overtime with a big hit on Steve Breaston, separating him from the football and forcing a Chiefs' punt.
It is not as though the Saints have lost to elite teams. All three conquerors are 1-2 on the season.
Here are some other early takes from the defeat:
**The Chiefs outgained the Saints 144 to minus 16 yards in the fourth quarter and in overtime. As Jim Mora would say, "sick, sick, sick."
**How far has the Saints' star fallen in just a couple of weeks on the national scene? For their week one matchup with the Redskins, the press box was a standing-room-only proposition. For Sunday's game with the Chiefs, there were two empty seats two seats down from me--in the front row.
**The Saints have allowed 1,432 yards in their first three games. The only teams since 1951 to allow more are the 1978 Baltimore Colts, who allowed 1,452 yards and the 2006 Houston Texans, who allowed 1,451 yards. For the record, the Colts finished 5-11 while the Texans ended that season 6-10. Get the picture?
**The Saints started 0-4 in 2007 and finished 7-9. Frankly, that team looks better than this team does.
**The Saints are only the eighth team in the Super Bowl era (since 1967) to open a season 0-3 after winning 13 or more games the previous season. Talk about a fall from grace. In fact, only three teams have reached the playoffs after starting 0-3 since 1990, when the playoffs expanded to six teams reaching the postseason from each conference.
**The Saints have allowed 645 rushing yards in their first three games. This is the most by any NFL team since the 1983 New York Jets allowed 658. Incidentally, those Jets finished 7-9. Get the picture?
**The Saints came out with a good script and purpose, driving the field on their first possession and getting a touchdown.
**Getting Devery Henderson back certainly helped. He is the one wide receiver on the squad that can stretch a defense vertically.
**Garrett Hartley's miss of a 38-yard field goal attempt prior to halftime after the reversal of the Pierre Thomas was a big swing. The Saints went from being up 17-6 to being up 10-6 when they could have been up 13-6. The miss ended a streak of 13 consecutive made field goals by Hartley.
**Reversal of fortune/rats on replays....The Saints lost four replay reviews, costing them in extreme fashion. They got one back on the one-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham in the third quarter. The reversal on the fumble recovery and return by Roman Harper in overtime was an obvious call. How could these guys get this one wrong to begin with? There were five reversals in the game. With these refs, these games seem like they will never end.
**First half pass protection left something to be desired. Brees is simply getting hit too much early this season. Zack Strief was beaten like a drum on the safety sack by Justin Houston. He was beaten much of the day by Houston. Jermon Bushrod was hardly better. With all due respect to Ben Grubbs, this team misses Carl Nicks and his physical play. It got worse in the second half. To Strief's credit, he was a stand-up guy afterwards, taking full blame for his meltdown. Can Brees remain upright for an entire season? Combining the inability of his receivers to create separation and the shoddy protection, that is an iffy proposition.
**Speaking of the wide receivers, they are simply not getting open enough. Teams are pressing them, playing man-to-man, challenging their manhood. It is working. Brees is having to throw the ball away much too often.
**Brees has now thrown a touchdown pass in 46 consecutive games, one short of the all-time record of Johnny Unitas.
**Jimmy Graham is now the all-time leader for catching at least one touchdown pass in consecutive games, doing so in six straight games. The guy has 19 NFL starts and has 19 touchdown receptions.
**Thomas Morstead booted a career-long 70-yard punt in the second quarter.
**Pierre Thomas should always get 15 touches. Ditto for Darren Sproles. As for Mark Ingram, how many do you really want to see him have?
**The Saints outside linebackers have been poor, woefully deficient. They get blocked, cannot get off blocks, get sucked inside on outside plays and simply do not make plays. David Hawthorne suffered an injury late in the first quarter and he did not return. That certainly hurt the cause. Jonathan Casillas took Hawthorne's position but he was injured in the second half and did not return.
**The 91-yard run by Jamaal Charles was the longest in the storied history of the Kansas City Chiefs. Charles became just the second player in NFL history to rush for 225 yards or more and to post 50 or more yards in receptions in the same game, joining the great Jim Brown, who turned the trick in 1963.
**Ryan Succop established a new franchise record by connecting on all six field goal attempts.
**Brees now has 39 straight games with 20 completions or more, extending his NFL record, but he had no completions in the fourth quarter and no completions in overtime. The Saints had a minus 16 yards of offense in the fourth quarter and overtime combined, simply pathetic. The Saints had just four first downs combined after halftime.
**Brees is now eighth in NFL history in completions with 3,688. He surpassed Fran Tarkenton on the list during the defeat.
**Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper are simply making too many tackles. They have to. The Saints are getting wiped out, washed up front too often.
**Memo to Patrick Robinson--if you think you may be guilty of interfering with a receiver, do not raise your hands for the zebras to see as a claim that you did not do it. That did and will result in a flag coming out every time. You basically made the call for the replacement official on a 26-yard penalty. If they may not be sure of what interference is at the NFL level, they certainly believe that you know what it is.
**With the game on the line, the Saints went three-and-out on consecutive possessions and the Chiefs answered with scores both times, totaling 10 points.
**Akiem Hicks must play more at defensive tackle. He made in impact against the Chiefs' running game in the second half. Ditto for Tom Johnson. Broderick Bunkley and Sedrick Ellis simply are not getting it done overall.
**The Saints lost despite winning the turnover battle, forcing three while committing just one.
**The Saints and Browns are the only 0-3 teams in the NFL and Cleveland is in the AFC. Get the picture?
It is official--this is not a very good New Orleans Saints football team but you already knew that. Perhaps they will rise up at Lambeau Field next week. Little of what we have witnessed thus far would suggest that there is any reason to expect this.
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