NEW ORLEANS ― Heading into Sunday’s game against Cleveland, the expectations were that the Saints had turned the corner on offense after an impressive showing against Tampa Bay.
After Sunday’s 30-17 home loss to the Browns, that thinking is no more.
The Browns allowed New Orleans nearly 400 total yards, but kept the Saints to 17 points by intercepting four Drew Brees passes and forcing four Thomas Morstead punts. Additionally, a running attack that eclipsed the 200-yard mark against the Bucs was held to 58 on just 18 carries.
“Four – I don’t have days like that,” Brees said. “I have had one of those days in my entire career. Despite how they happen, whether they are bad decisions or bad throws or tipped balls, it doesn’t excuse the fact that the ball was turned over.”
The problem for the Saints (4-3) all season has been inconsistency, be it due to turnovers, quarterback pressures or penalties. The bugaboos returned against the Browns after a one week respite in sunny Florida.
New Orleans was called for three offensive penalties and another, which was an offsetting one and didn’t count, nullified a touchdown pass from Brees to Lance Moore that would have made it a 10-7 game.
Instead, three plays later, Brees was intercepted by former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita.
Brees was sacked three times for 20 yards, all helping stymie Saints drives, and left guard Carl Nicks said the Browns somewhat unorthodox two down-lineman setup confused the line at times.
“It was just a lot of blitzing,” Nicks said. “A lot of moving around. Sometimes you didn’t know where it was coming from. Just execution – at the end of the day, we just didn’t execute.”
Brees has had only one other four-interception game in his career and it, too, came in the Superdome in a loss. The Tennessee Titans picked off Brees four times in a Monday night game on Sept. 24, 2007.
But that was in an 0-4 start with the Saints battling. This one came with the Saints coming off their best performance of the season and a chance to keep pace in the NFC.
“I think we are all doing a little soul searching,” Brees said. “We know how good we are and how good we can be. Obviously, we aren’t playing that way right now. We are doing things that are not like the things that we talk about, the things that we preach and the things that we understand win and lose football games in this league.”