METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints have given up 922 total yards in the first two games.
They’ve given up 372 yards on the ground and allowed Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III to complete 71.7 percent of their passes.
And Carolina and Washington have recorded 14 plays of 20-plus yards.
But New Orleans linebacker Scott Shanle has one simple request.
“All I can ask for is to be a little more patient,” Shanle said. “Give us a few more games to show you who we truly are and not overreact after two games and tell us who you think we are.”
For much of this offseason and throughout training camp, the Saints preached that they would keep things the same in practice, that the system wouldn’t change in spite of all the off-field turmoil.
On Monday, however, less than 24 hours after New Orleans fell to 0-2 with a 35-27 loss at Carolina, the Saints began doing the opposite, making defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo available at the beginning of the work week instead of at the end.
Just like interim head coach Aaron Kromer who preceded him at the interview podium, Spagnuolo called the first two offenses the Saints have faced “unconventional.”
“There’s no question that that offense is unconventional,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s different. We have no excuses. Just because they run option football and we don’t get to simulate in practice, there’s no excuses there.”
A few minor mistakes and bad calls turned into gigantic game-changing plays against Carolina. Spagnuolo pointed out two plays in the first half against the Panthers (1-1) that he believes changed the complexion of the game.
Both were third-and-longs converted in the second quarter and instead of getting off the field, the defense played three more plays and four more, respectively. Both drives ended in touchdowns for the Panthers, turning a 13-7 New Orleans lead into a 21-13 halftime deficit.
“Those are the type of plays that beat yourself and change the dynamic of the game at that point,” Shanle said.
The Saints are tied for last in the NFL in points allowed per game at 37.5 and they’re last in net yards per passing play at 16.7 yards.
Still, the Saints believe they’re on the cusp of turning an 0-2 start into something special. Call it denial or call it confidence, the Saints are living by it right now.
“There’s no reason why we can’t rattle off five games and now we’re 5-2,” Shanle said. “Games come in chunks like that and hopefully we can start it off with getting a win this week.”
Said Spagnuolo, “I strongly believe in two things. I believe in our players and our coaches and I believe in the scheme. Unless something out of the sky falls, I'm not going to change in that regard.”
Still, the offense accepts some of the blame for the worst start in New Orleans in five seasons.
Against Carolina, five passes were dropped, including two at the goal line by Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham. Quarterback Drew Brees held on to the ball so long that the Panthers were able to hit him or chase him out of the pocket on nearly every play.
“I’m not sure that anybody is defending us differently,” receiver Lance Moore said. “I think that we’re just not quite as sharp as we have been in the past.”
The same confidence that pervades the defense also colors the offense, though.
“If you’re in this locker room and you’ve been a part of this team then you have high expectations,” right tackle Zach Strief said. “We know how talented this team is. I mean, there’s a lot of talent in this locker room and talent doesn’t give you wins, but it gives you chances to win games. ...
“Saying we have high expectations is just the truth. ... It’s far more defiant with the doors closed than with you guys in here.”