Yes, it was only the preseason and featured backup players, but losing a game in the final minutes as the Saints did in Cleveland has been happening far too often lately.
It began in Week 1 last season against the Raiders, and haunted the Saints several more times in 2016: not being able to make the crucial play at the end of games to get the win.
Head coach Sean Payton addressed some those late game struggles following practice Monday morning.
“If we took 16 games, pick a game and it’d be hard to find one where that game didn’t have relevance in the last two minutes,” he said. “The key is to show up on the better ends of those games and I think the last two years we have been on the bottom of those games. We’ve won a few, but not as many as we’ve lost.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was much calmer on Monday than he finished Sunday's practice, slamming his helmet down in disgust after a breakdown in protection on the final play of the session. This morning, right tackle Zach Strief shed a little more light on how that sequence played out.
“That was an adjustment that we’ve missed twice now, and that’s not really acceptable,” said Strief. “It’s something that we’ve got to do up front but listen, he’s really competitive. That happens in practice sometimes, you guys just aren’t usually there during the season when he gets fired up.”
“He’s a perfectionist, and he expects to be perfect,” said quarterback Garrett Grayson. “That’s what he strives for every day and when something isn’t going his way for however long it’s been, he’s going to get upset. He’s a competitor and that’s the way it is.”
Payton stressed the importance of not dwelling on those types of mistakes in practice.
“You’re going to have a chance to get to the film and watch the game and I think it’s really important to get on to the next play and mentally be able to play it as fast as you can, and then after that reps over, the next thing you can control is the next play,” he said. “It’s the same way for me and sometimes I have a hard time shaking a play, but (we have to) get on to the next play with the same focus and we’ll make the corrections later.”
Perhaps it's those imperfections in practice that Brees feels the Saints need to avoid, if they hope to prevail in crunch time this season.