Taking a gander back at Sunday's game against Carolina proved some invaluable points mistakes will always come back to haunt a team, the right side of the offensive line is having issues and, most importantly, the offense has found its rhythm.
I'll start with the last point first the offense easily left at least 17 points on the field and that would have stopped people in their tracks for wondering about the unit. The Saints had their best back-to-back-to-back drives of the season and finished with only a touchdown. Fumbles ended the other two drives.
The right side of the line Jahri Evans and Jon Stinchcomb are having issues. Most people would say that Evans got his money and got lazy. I don't think that's true. He's still coming up with plenty of big blocks; he's just not as dominant right now. And Stinchcomb, a long-time stalwart on the line, gave up two sacks that he wouldn't have come close to giving up last season.
And finally, mistakes. Lance Moore's fumble came when he wasn't protecting the ball properly, Chris Ivory still refused to double cover the ball in traffic and fumbles and Malcolm Jenkins' wrong reads and angles resulted in two touchdowns.
A few observations:
1.) Right off the bat the special teams get a chance to be called out. For the first three games, the kickoff coverage unit was fantastic, keeping everything at a minimum despite not having many touchbacks to work with. Against Carolina, kickoffs killed New Orleans in the field position game.
On the opening kickoff, Anthony Hargrove blew a tackle at the 24 and Marvin Mitchell had his chance at the 30. Instead, Carolina starts at the 37 and made it into Saints' territory by the second play.
On the next kickoff after New Orleans' touchdown, Patrick Robinson made a touchdown-saving tackle at the 28. If he doesn't make that tackle, it's a touchdown.
And after the Saints' second field goal to make it 14-13, the team lost backside contain and Mike Goodson made them pay, returning the kickoff to the Carolina 48.
2.) Robert Meachem missed a bit of the preseason on the PUP list because he was rehabbing his foot from toe surgery. Quietly, I've heard some people wonder if he has lost a step. On his end around in the first quarter, it appeared that he has lost a step. The play took too long to develop and it still gained nine yards. If he's as fast as he was a year ago, he gains much more than that.
3.) Pierson Prioleau's chest injury was a nasty one. His head was turned back towards the runner when Carolina rookie Brandon LaFell saw him, lowered his shoulder and de-cleated the Saints' safety. LaFell's shoulder knocked into Prioleau's chest with such force that Prioleau was nearly parallel to the ground. And on the same play, Robinson made the tackle (as previously stated). But if the rookie cornerback isn't careful, he's going to be out of the game real quickly. Robinson tackles with his head down too much and on this tackle, the side of his head hit Goodson's leg.
4.) Officiating in Sunday's game could have been better. Only eight penalties were called. More should have been.
The officials probably could have called a hi-low on Drew Brees' incomplete pass to Meachem near the goal line. Pass interference was eventually called, but Brees was hit at the ankles and on the chest.
On New Orleans' first field-goal scoring series, two penalties were misses. One was on Drew Brees. He should have been called for intentional grounding as he wasn't outside the tackle box and there was definitely no receiver near. But a few plays later, Lance Moore was interfered with by Chris Gamble and there wasn't a call.
Tracy Porter was interfered with on an interception that he could have taken back for a touchdown. And on the Panthers' final series, Sedrick Ellis was held on first-and-10 at the 40. Carolina picked up a first down four plays later.
5.) The line is up and down right now. Jon Stinchcomb is getting beaten with speed rushes to his outside. The two sacks he gave up against Carolina happened when the defensive end took off at the snap, ducked his shoulder and sped around him.
But at the same time, when the line wants to block, it can. A prime example is on Ladell Betts' 7-yard run on the series when the Saints scored their first field goal. Left guard Carl Nicks pulled to the right and opened a gaping hole that I could run through.
6.) The final three plays on defense were played almost as perfectly as they could have been played.
On Usama Young's tackle-for-a-loss of DeAngelo Williams on second-and-eight, the safety playing after the two guys in front of him on the depth chart were injured showed blitz. He stepped in and read Williams' cutback move and corralled the shifty running back for a 4-yard loss.
A player later, free safety Malcolm Jenkins showed blitz and when Jimmy Clausen changed the play at the line backed off. At the snap, he walked back to the line and, after a twist behind left defensive end Alex Brown, bee-lined to Clausen for the 4-yard sack.
And on the final play, Clausen stepped up and threw a desperation pass to receiver Dwayne Jarrett. But left cornerback Jabari Greer had perfect position and with his right hand knocked the ball out of Jarrett's hands.
For another week, no Saints player gets a hammer award. While this was a hard-hitting game, there were no really hard hits by the Saints.
John Carney spent his offseason and the first three weeks of the season with his family, doing fatherly duties he used to miss out on while he was in-season.
But he signed with the Saints on Wednesday of game week and four days later, he was going 3-for-3 on field goals, hitting two from 32 yards and one from 25. Every kick was solid.
Darren Shaper won't be allowed to play until after the sixth week according to league rules because he's on the PUP list. But while Jenkins played well the first couple of weeks, he has had issues lately. Against Carolina, two plays stand out and both were touchdowns for the Panthers.
On the 55-yard passing touchdown to Jonathan Stewart, Jenkins took the wrong man, going for the tight end in the middle instead of picking up Stewart, who Greer had passed onto him. Stewart was alone and got the easy score.
On Williams' 39-yard cutback touchdown run, Jenkins was the last defender with a chance to tackle him. And he should have. Jenkins took a poor angle to Williams and couldn't recover. Williams never flinched on his way into the end zone.
Sharper will definitely aid this team when he gets back.