METAIRIE, La. — Malcolm Jenkins stood in front of his locker Monday, calm and collected fewer than 24 hours after his New Orleans Saints were finished off the Washington Redskins in the biggest upset of opening weekend in the NFL.
In spite of the questions that at times could have seemed to him as verbal artillery shelling, he never sounded the alarm of panic.
Even after a 40-32 loss to the Redskins and their rookie quarterback.
“I don’t think we ever panic around here,” Jenkins said. “We know that we prepared well. We just didn’t play well. If you didn’t play well in this league, no matter what team you play, you can lose.”
Throughout Monday’s open locker room session, players said Sunday’s loss came down to a lack of execution more than anything else.
The statistics, in part, bear that out.
The Saints (0-1) were penalized 12 times for 107 yards. Two of the penalties kept the Redskins on the field, giving life to Washington’s offense after the defense had forced a punt.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson said he had never been a part of a 12 men on the field penalty before getting caught jogging off the field after a third down stop. The penalty at the end of the third quarter kept alive a Washington drive that eventually ended in a field that pushed New Orleans’ deficit to 16 points.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Robinson said. “That was something that I was like, ‘Wow.’ It was new for me.”
Then again, Robinson wasn’t alone. The Saints offense had three false starts called against it and three holdings. The 45 yards in penalties contributed to New Orleans going an uncharacteristic 2 of 11 on third downs.
“We know how New Orleans Saints football looks,” Saints interim head coach Aaron Kromer said. “That wasn’t us yesterday and we are going to get that fixed.”
The good news, Kromer said, is that if the Saints can clean up the penalties, the rest of the problems should clear up, too.
“It’s a combination of all of those things put together that just compounds problems,” he said. “If you eliminate one, the rest of them don’t show up.”
Kromer said problems on Sunday stemmed from players trying to take on too much responsibility and do what their teammates were supposed to be doing. Without naming names, he pointed out players trying to make plays on defense outside of the scheme as well as trying to throw a deep pass to make up ground quickly instead of taking the completion that’s available.
But while that’s obvious now, the problem wasn’t plain to see until the regular season began, Kromer said.
“When we played under the lights, we realized, looking at it today, that there was some ‘I’m going to try to do more than I normally do to try to make up for something’ and that is not necessary,” Kromer said.
If anything, right tackle Zach Strief said, the loss gives reason for the players to refocus.
“Obviously with Drew (Brees) as our kind of leader, it won’t be let go,” Strief said. “It’s not going to be unsaid, it’s not going to be something where we don’t change things this week in terms of our attention to detail and our focus during the week. We’re going to get it fixed.
“It’s not comforting for us to come in and see the tape after putting on a performance on the field like that.”
Kromer, for one, isn’t worried, pointing out the experience inside the locker room. The Saints have 37 players back from last season’s 13-3 campaign and 21 players left from the ’09 Super Bowl team.
“I would be worried if I had a sense that our guys thought they did well yesterday and they lost,” Kromer said. “I don’t sense that. I sense our guys determined to make up for what happened yesterday.”