My wife and I have been Saints season ticket holders since 2006. We had tickets to Sunday’s game against the 8-3 Detroit Lions, but put them up for sale. My good friend offered me upgraded tickets, in a suite no less. Very tempting offer, but I declined those seats as well. When I told the wife, she didn’t raise any hell over my decision to decline. It was like “OK”.
Though there is still a good chance to make the playoffs, realistic Saints fans know that it doesn’t matter. This team is in disarray, banged up and can’t advance in the playoffs should they sneak in. There are multiple reasons why.
Blame it on the offensive line play/running game
The Saints started off behind the eight ball with Alvin Kamara suspended 3 games for stomping a guy outside an elevator in Vegas. After 11 games, the team has rushed for only 1,148 yards at 3.8 yards per carry. A mere 7 rushing touchdowns and a pitiful 2 runs where they gained 20 yards or more. Compare to Detroit: 1,506 yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 17 TDs and 10 runs over 20 yards. All this despite 3 former number one draft choices on the o-line (Ryan Ramczyk, Cesar Ruiz and Trevor Penning). The most disappointing lineman has proven to be the penalty prone Penning. He lost his starting job a few games in after allowing several sacks.
Or blame it on the passing game.
While 8 teams have passed for 20 or more touchdowns, our Bless You Boys languish near the bottom with 13. Much fuss has been made of poor protection for Derek Carr, with 25 sacks allowed. Still there are 11 teams that allowed 30 or more sacks. This begs the question “Why has Carr been so erratic?” Michael Thomas’ highly anticipated return has been less than stellar. And with only 1 touchdown catch, he’s hurt again and on injured reserve.
Tight end Jawan Johnson missed 4 games with a calf injury. Chris Olave and Rasheed Shaheen have made a few big plays here and there, whenever Carr happened to connect. Why the Saints kept Jimmie Graham but don’t play him in the red zone, where the team starkly struggles, is a mystery to everyone.
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The defense? They have played well enough to have a much better win/loss record. However, father time has caught up with veterans Cam Jordan, Demario Davis and Tyrann Mathieu. A consistent pash rush might make the defense top notch. But with only six games remaining, don’t expect a change.
Despite all the negatives, the Saints can still win the weak NFC South division. They have a widely acknowledged soft 2023 schedule. So a 5-6 record is totally disappointing. The scheduling gods must have known we’d need doormats like Carolina and the New York Giants late in the year to salvage another subpar season. Yet, divisional games with Tampa Bay and Atlanta are the keys to slipping into the playoffs.
Or Blame on the Head Coach/Front Office
Post game press conferences give fans no reason to have confidence. Head Coach Dennis Allen looks defeated. And his comments provide no real insight beyond what the average fan has already seen and heard. Week to week, the same dry drivel. Similarly, Carr’s interviews give the impression that he is more concerned with handling criticism than improving his personal performance. Of all people, he referenced beleaguered NBA guard Russell Westbrook recently as his idol for handling the press.
While other NFL teams have made in-season coaching changes, the Saints stood pat. Owner Gail Benson has been silent, which is no surprise because she is the most hands off owner in the NFL. Firing someone, or even exerting public pressure, seems outside of her nature. Yet General Manager Mickey Loomis declared this week that “We’ve got the right people”
If you want a moment that encapsulates the 2023 Saints season, its Foster Moreau’s “drop” of a potential game winning TD pass from Carr versus the Jaguars. A closer look and more honest analysis of the play is another poor, overthrown pass from $ 100 million dollar man Derek Carr. Jameis Winston, collect your check and keep your head up. Dennis Allen doesn’t want to give you a real chance, so let him eat cake.
by David Soublet, Sr.