NEW ORLEANS ― Sean Payton’s post-game fireside chats can be fairly long.
They can be full of sentences that say nothing.
There’s always the possibility that they can be short and less than informative.
Sunday, after his Saints dropped an embarrassing 30-17 affair to the hapless Cleveland Browns, he was perfect – short and to the point.
And there really was no other way for it to be.
“Credit Cleveland for coming in here with a real good plan and taking it to us,” Payton said.
Indeed the Browns did.
Drew Brees uncharacteristically threw four interceptions, including two pick-6’s, but the offense characteristically got in its own way time and again.
The defense, though it played well, couldn’t get off the field on a crucial fourth quarter series that helped Cleveland ice the game.
And special teams was appallingly out of sorts, giving up a combined 130 yards on a throw-back punt return and a fake punt. Both ended in Browns scores.
When people were worried after a close game at San Francisco, it was easy to say that there wasn’t enough meat on the bones to figure this team out.
But after seven games that have ended with a 4-3 record, the trend is set – the New Orleans Saints are an average football team, or at least a good football team playing awful on game day.
That’s not going to get it cut.
Payton – and the team – know this.
“(We) did all the thing that you can’t do in order to win a game regardless of who you are playing,” Payton said. “If we continue to do that, we’ll muddle around, win some and lose some. That’s just something that’ll get you beat in this game and obviously got us beat today.”
Oh, the boys are muddling alright.
Brees has eight interceptions in the past three games, the offense has had four touchdowns scored on it on turnovers in that span and Saints can’t get out of their own way.
The definition of a team “muddling around” is the past two weeks: A vibrant, message-sending win over Tampa Bay followed by a mind-numbing, disastrous loss to Cleveland.
“Every game is not going to be dominating like that (at Tampa Bay),” left guard Carl Nicks said. “It sucks to lose like we did off the last game we played.”
Look at the remainder of the Saints schedule and it’s easy to see the muddling continue.
Next Sunday night against Pittsburgh suddenly looks like a long shot.
They follow that with a game at Carolina, where the team seems to always play poorly.
Seattle after the bye week suddenly has become no gimme and then it’s at Dallas, at Cincinnati and home to face a resurgent St. Louis.
The season ends with games at Baltimore, at Atlanta and home against the Bucs.
That doesn’t read to me like a schedule this team can fight its way through unscathed or even barely scathed.
New Orleans is not playing good football now. They realize that. But they also realize things could turn around next week just like they did following the Debacle in the Desert.
That, though, can happen if one thing happens.
“All (that is) predicated on execution and attention to detail, the same things that have led to our success at times and when that’s not there, obviously our failures,” right tackle Jon Stinchcomb said.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been this team’s MO.
In other words, strap in and get ready for an interesting ride.
Only nine games left in the regular season.