NEW ORLEANS — If the Saints finish just one win away from making the playoffs, the loss to the Giants will be a game with a red star on it.
Breaking down the numbers the Saints did two things really well: They out-rushed the Giants (that’s normally a big one) and they had roughly ten minutes more in time of possession.
But this week, those were not winning numbers.
No. 4 Beaten in Chunks
Let’s start our takeaways with chunk plays. Sean Payton told his team “no easy ones” this week, meaning limit chunk plays, which the Saints did NOT do.
Against the Giants, the Saints gave up seven plays of 20 yards or more. Two of those went for 50-plus.
In the first three games, the Saints had not given up any 50-yard plays and only six 20 yarders.
The Saints, by the way, had just two plays of 20 yards or more. The Giants beat the Saints in chunks.
No. 3 Missing Lutz
The Saints miss Wil Lutz a ton.
Since 2017, Lutz has hit 88 percent of his field goals. Aldrick Rosas meanwhile, is now 1-for-4. The one he missed in an overtime game made all the difference, but it’s not just that. Sean Payton admitted his lack of confidence in his kicker does mess with how he strategizes.
On the Saints first drive, he opted to punt from the Giants 40. On the Saints second possession, at the Giants 29, they went for it on 4th-and-3 instead of trying a very makeable field goal. Then they missed on the Saints third possession, 4th-and-3 at the Giants 40 Payton opted for a 58-yard field goal and missed.
Three times to the Giants 40 turned into zero points.
The point is lack of confidence in his kicker is making for weird decision making and constant second guessing. And in this game, that hurt enormously.
Wil Lutz, by the way, is the fifth most accurate kicker in NFL history. When he’s healthy, there are no decision making weirdnesses.
No. 2 Missing Mike Thomas
The Saints are definitely missing Mike Thomas.
In this game, we got another glimpse at what Jameis Winston can do well. At one point, he hit 12 passes in a row. His quarterback rating was terrific. In fact, on the season, he’s 8th in the NFL right now. But it feels like the Saints are too run heavy because their outside weapons just aren’t getting open.
Right now, Deonte Harris leads the Saints wide receiver in targets, catches and yards, but he’s a slot guy —an inside guy. His targets and yards are 72nd best among wideouts in the NFL right now.
There is no reliable outside target. Mike Thomas will obviously change that.
Alvin Kamara had 26 carries for 120 yards and no catches against the Giants. That’s solid production, but his longest gain was just ten yards. He has 88 touches this season, third most in the NFL, but his total yards from scrimmage is 15th in the league.
Because his single longest play in the first quarter of the season is 14 yards, I think the reason is everyone is so overplaying him that he just can’t get loose.
Getting Mike Thomas back should help fix that.
No. 1 Missed Opportunity
I just can’t get away from the fact that this was a huge opportunity missed.
The Saints had an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter with the ball. The offense got too conservative and the defense didn’t get any consistent pass rush.
Sean Payton is an elite NFL coach, but this was not his best game — either in play calling or decision making.
Now, in the last four years the Saints have been slow starters that caught fire right about now. I still think this team can do that, but this was a win they should have had and won’t get back.