Namely, Carolina dominated the line of scrimmage and time of possession, as the Saints had in the regular-season opener against Green Bay, and the Saints were on the wrong end of a lopsided score (26-7) at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, as they’d accomplished against Green Bay (38-3) the previous week.
New Orleans (1-1) never got in gear offensively against the Panthers (2-0), and by the time the defense began posting stops, Carolina owned a 17-0 lead and was on its way. There weren’t hordes of positives to pull from this one.
Six first downs, 2 of 11 on third down, 128 yards – 43 rushing – and two turnovers won’t lead to victory in the NFL. New Orleans generated next to nothing rushing (17 carries for 48 yards) and wasn’t significantly better passing (80 net yards, on 11 completions). Quarterback Jameis Winston was harassed from the outset; Saints players unanimously agreed that due to poor communication, they didn’t adequately handle Carolina’s array of pressures. Winston was sacked four times and hit 11 times, and few quarterbacks can function well under that level of duress. They’ll have to fix the communication lapses quickly, because they’ll see similar pressure until they prove they can deal with it.
The Saints defense had a first half that equally as ineffective as the offense, which went scoreless. In the first 30 minutes, Carolina was 5 of 7 on third down, piled up 274 yards and possessed the ball for 20:55 of the 30 minutes. New Orleans didn’t apply much pressure to Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold (16 of 20 for 216 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions in the first half), and there were coverage issues as it played without cornerback Marshon Lattimore and defensive back Chauncey-Gardner Johnson.
The Saints buckled down defensively in the third quarter, holding Carolina scoreless while forcing a turnover (a Malcolm Roach interception) and a punt. But the defense yielded a bit in a nine-point fourth quarter by Carolina, likely the result of being on the field for 73 plays on a warm, humid day in Charlotte.
But that’s just not true. New Orleans Saints Football 1967 Unisex T-Shirt And when you look at the bigger picture for New Orleans, something becomes obvious: this team isn’t a finished product.
Now that’s valid for every team across the league. Everyone has players on injured reserve or personnel on the COVID-19 list. Most teams have a player or two returning from suspension later. Maybe half the league is working with a new starting quarterback, too. Now, sure, no other team has been living on the road for a month, but the Saints aren’t going to get any pity for the adversity they’ve dealt with.
Just look at what’s ahead of them — or who’s coming back. A third of the coaching staff wasn’t available for this game after breakthrough coronavirus cases ripped through the group (thankfully, none of them are dealing with serious symptoms). They should all return in the next week or two while the team continues to practice enhanced safety protocols to limit the spread. Standout defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and C.J. Gardner-Johnson aren’t expected to be sidelined for long either.
And that’s just part of the equation. The Saints offense will also be getting players back from injuries like backup center Will Clapp, starting wideout Tre’Quan Smith, and veteran tight end Nick Vannett (each eligible to return after Week 3’s game with the Patriots). The defense will receive reinforcements when Ken Crawley, an experienced corner, is cleared to play (also some time after Week 3). Another wave is on the way once impactful defenders like Kwon Alexander and Marcus Davenport make their return (after resting until at least Week 4’s home game with the Giants).