The final play during the New Orleans Saints 27-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs pretty much summed up the entire day: Michael Thomas tries to get an extra 5 yards, instead of getting out of bounds so Saints could try a Hail Mary, but gets tackled in bounds, clock expires, and the game is over.
The Saints were so sloppy and stupid against the Chiefs, I think they had another false start while I wrote this column. The 2016 Saints won't win a single game in 2016 when they are minus-2 in the turnover battle and commit 10 penalties.
Sunday was one of those Saints losses that was more annoying than heartbreaking, as the Saints did just enough to keep us interested, but at no point in the second half did victory seem at all possible or even likely. The Saints didn't even have the sense to do anything that we could at least point and laugh at. If it's possible to lose only by 6, and yet never feel like victory was close, the Saints managed to do it.
Sean Payton was short and angry in his post game, “We're not a good enough team to overcome things like penalties, turnovers.”
He said it after a loss to Atlanta when the Saints fumbled a punt and Drew Brees threw a interception that was returned for a score and it was as true Sunday as it was then. Payton had to be pulling his hair out on the flight home because if the Saints just do about 2 less incredibly dumb things, there is a good chance they are 3-3.
The Saints quiet killer of terrible special teams returned with a nearly blocked point after touchdown, terrible kickoff in critical spot by Wil Lutz, and a Tommylee Lewis fumbled punt (Saints recovered it.)
The Saints have lost 4 games by a combined 21 points, if they had even average special teams, I think they'd be 4-2 instead of 2-4. Sean Payton is so petrified of a punt return calamity he has Jairus Byrd fair catching all punts inside the 20 yard line. People ask me all the time, “Why doesn't Byrd ever return a punt?” Because Sean Payton might choke him to death on the sideline if he DIDN'T fair catch every punt. We might be a Jairus Byrd fumbled punt away from Payton not even putting a return man out to field punts near the Saints end zone.
Better safe than sorry right Sean?
The Saints offense on the road continues to look like a corvette having one piston misfiring constantly. They had a magnificent drive to start the game but the rest of the first half were either stuck in neutral or giving the Chiefs a gift touchdown off a pick six.
When the Saints finally stopped false starting in the second half, they were able to crank up the running game. It's really hard to stay committed to running the football when you are faced with first and second and long because of penalties.
Ingram's fumble was really the death blow. The Saints had the ball 5 minutes more than the Chiefs and had grabbed control of the game in the second half and seemed poised to really make it a game. The
Saints are one of a dozen NFL teams where 2-3 plays mean all the difference every week. On Sunday, the Chiefs made all of them. If we are assigning blame for this loss, the offense has to take the lion share, as the defense got things together after a horrible first half.
The Saints defense is, of course, terrible, but there is one thing that gives it a chance to succeed, and that one thing is run defense. Sunday was the perfect example of the Saints defensive nightmares and the Saints potential to be okay.
In the first 3 quarters the Chiefs ran wild and had complete control of the line of scrimmage. In the fourth quarter the Saints run defense tightened up, forced the Chiefs into longer third downs, and held firm except for a third and 17. The 2016 Saints defense is never going to be good, but if they aren't at least decent stopping the run, they have zero chance of even being a speed bump against opposing offenses.
The Saints didn't let win slip away Sunday, as they never led in the second half, but they did fumble and false start away a chance at a victory. You might want to talk about Nick Fairley's boneheaded play late in the game, but Nick has had a heartbreaking week, so he gets a hall pass.
The good news for the Saints is Atlanta leads the NFC South but is only 4-3 so 2016 games aren't meaningless and it's not time to look to 2017...yet. Time is running out, and without some wins, Saints fans will care less about this year and more about next year before the leaves start to change colors.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.