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Mouton: Injuries, turnovers, no run defense and struggling QB play spell losses

There’s a long way to go in the season, but Sean Payton has a lot to figure out in the next couple of days.

NEW ORLEANS — Ten games in, the Saints are still in a playoff spot, despite losing their third straight in Philadelphia.

The Saints are now hanging on in the 7th spot if the season ended now.

There’s a long way to go in the season, but Sean Payton has a lot to figure out in the next couple of days.

Here are my four takeaways from the game.

4/ Jalen Hurts. His name is a sentence. I love that, and in this case the implied direct object is New Orleans. The current version of the Saints began with that great draft class in 2017.

That’s when the newest upswing began. In regular season and playoff games, the Saints have played 81 times since 2017. Guess how many times teams have run for 200 yards against the Saints in those 81 games?

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Twice. Last year and this year with the Eagles the culprit both times. Jalen Hurts carved up the Saints last year and Jalen Hurts carved up the Saints this year. In both games Hurts ran around and through the Saints and seemed to make every correct decision. 

Hurts is the Saints killer. We’ll get to all of the Saints missing offensive pieces in a minute, but when you give up 242 yards and get destroyed in time of possession, you’re just not going to win.

Yes, the offense has massive problems, but against the Eagles, the defense was just not good enough.

3/ Turnovers – The Saints lost that battle too. An, on an undermanned team, you just can’t do that. The Saints were minus two on Sunday. And, in fact, they’ve lost the turnover battle in each of the past three weeks. They are -4 over that span and 0-3 record-wise.

This year, in 10 games, the Saints have only won the turnover battle three times and in those three games they’re unbeaten. In fact, in the last 14 games in which the Saints won the turnover battle, which dates back to 2019, they are 14-0.

On a team struggling to find playmakers, they have to find a way to do that more often.

2/ I think it’s time to make a change at quarterback. In three and a half games, we’ve seen Trevor Siemian do some good things and some not so good things. He’s been especially ineffective in the first half the last three weeks. His quarterback rating on the season is 88.9. That’s 25th best in the NFL. Hill, by the way, in bits and pieces over four seasons, has a QB rating of 91.4, which is ever so slightly higher.

But, on a team struggling to find an offensive spark, Taysom Hill could deliver passing numbers as good at Siemian and occasionally make plays with his legs. 

Hill was not healthy enough to play much of a role in Philadelphia so you can only make a change if he’s good to go.

But, managing games with Siemian just isn’t working because…

1/ The injured party is just too large. I hate blaming injuries, because, right now, no NFL team is fully healthy, but, because of the magnitude of missing pieces, the Saints offense is almost unrecognizable. 

Going back to the summer, there are six key pieces missing from the starting lineup we expected the Saints to field in 2021. And, it’s not just that the Saints are missing 55 percent of the offensive starters, it’s who they’re missing. In terms of Pro Bowl appearances, the guys you’re missing have been to 14 Pro Bowls. The guys who played have not been to one.

All of your elite talent is out – Alvin Kamara’s line is “nobody cares” and he’s right. And Sean Payton won’t answer questions about it because he still has to design a game plan to try to win with what’s left. But, unless some of those pieces come back soon, winning is going to be extremely hard to do.

And, that’s my final takeaway from the ugliness in Philadelphia.