NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sean Payton was especially terse after the New Orleans Saints blurted out another close game in the closing seconds.
The Saints coach knew his team squandered an opportunity to beat one of the NFL’s hottest teams on the road in Sunday’s 23-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans (with a questionable penalty assist by mistreating the pin that still kept him burning hours later.).
And now he’s in uncharted territory, making sure the Saints don’t let this season slip away. After two losses in a row, his 5-4 record is the worst at this stage since 2016.
“It’s the attention to detail, obviously. We also see him as coaches, starting with me. But pretty soon we start to see who is doing it, ”Payton said of self-inflicted injuries, such as penalties and dropped passes, which have now sabotaged his team for two weeks in a row.
“We started to evaluate who is making plays and who is not. That’s what it is, that’s our league ”.
It was clear why Payton was so frustrated, because he said multiple times that he thought the Saints “had a good plan for this game specifically,” despite missing key players like running back Alvin Kamara and left tackle Terron Armstead (for this week) and quarterback Jameis Winston and catcher Michael Thomas (for the remainder of the season).
Instead, for the second week in a row, Payton had to spend his post-game press conference reviewing everything that went wrong:
What happened to the two extra points lost by kicker Brian Johnson? “I lost them to the left.”
What was the officials’ explanation for the penalty for mistreating the passer in the second quarter that ended the New Orleans interception in the end zone? “Without explanation.”
Then…? “There was no explanation. What do you want me to say? Do you want my opinion about it? No, there is no opinion about it. “
How did the play that wanted to take tight end Adam Trautman’s false start penalty change in New Orleans’ game-tying two-point conversion attempt? “I’m not going to tell you what play it was. Seriously. Next question, next question. Obviously the play changes when you go from 2 to 7 ”.
It’s unclear who, exactly, Payton was referring to when he made his ominous comment about “who’s making plays and who’s not.” But the Saints were penalized for nine penalties for 65 yards Sunday and dropped at least three or four more catchable passes, two major problems that carried over from last week’s 27-25 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Another disturbing trend: The Saints started 1 of 6 on third downs Sunday before they finally found some rhythm.
Meanwhile, Payton also threw in some positives, complimenting things like quarterback Trevor Siemian’s performance in the fourth quarter and the effort of running back Mark Ingram II in place of Kamara.
Siemian completed 19 of 34 passes for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns with no turnovers, giving him a great opportunity to keep the starting quarterback role for the third straight game next week at the Philadelphia Eagles. Ingram gained 108 yards from the scrimmage and rushed for a touchdown while breaking Deuce McAllister’s franchise record of 6,096 rushing yards.
And while the exhaustion of the Saints passing game is still a work in progress, to put it nicely, wide receivers Deonte Harris, Tre’Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway made big plays Sunday.
“You have to be able to keep playing [despite the injuries]”Payton said of a relentless series of injuries that has plagued New Orleans all season. “And that is the only thing we have been able to do: fight to overcome it. So we will continue to do so. “
Some of Payton’s players also spoke optimistically.
When asked if they need to make sure these losses don’t continue to escalate, all the players who spoke on Sunday insisted that they are confident in the makeup of this team, which has already overcome a host of adversities earlier this season, including the lesions. and be relocated to Dallas for four weeks after Hurricane Ida.
“I appreciate the fight on our team,” linebacker Demario Davis said. “Our team responds to adversity in the right way. One thing I appreciate coming to work with this team … the guys will be back to work to find out how they can improve.
“I think we have a good group of guys who understand that it is very difficult to win in this league. Although we have won many games here, we do not take it for granted. But we know what it takes to win and we know how to handle adversity. “
History says Davis is right. This is only the third time in more than four years that the Saints have lost consecutive games. They have never lost three in a row in that span.