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Mouton: Too little offense, too many turnovers doomed Saints

Too little run game, too little Michael Thomas, too little Brees effectiveness and too many turnovers.

NEW ORLEANS — The Saints season ended Sunday and it sure looks like Drew Brees’ career may have as well. We’ll get to that in a moment, but here are my 4 takeaways from Sunday’s loss.

No. 4 – We miss you Mike Thomas.  The Offensive Player of the Year from the 2019 season ended his current season without a catch against Tampa. His numbers were stunning – 4 targets, no catches, no yards. He actually had more tackles than catches with one. Last year he was the NFL’s best receiver with 149 catches, 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. This year he had less than a third of that and he didn’t score a touchdown. The fact is that after an early season ankle injury, Thomas never looked right – and now we know why, at least according to a report by Adam Schefter.

No. 3 – The Bucs were better running the ball. The Saints had been terrific at running the ball all year. Eight times they ran for at least 130 yards in a game and in those games they were 8-0.  It was their formula for success all season long. Sunday against the Bucs they ran for 104 yards – and, while the Bucs were limiting what the Saints could do on the ground, Leonard Fournette had his best day as a Buc and Ronald Jones had success too.  When the Saints were at their best, they were winning up front, but the Bucs had the edge up front Sunday.

No. 2 – The Saints could not overcome being destroyed in turnover margin. The Saints gave it away four times with the most costly likely being Jared Cook’s fumble, because, on that play, the Saints picked up a first down. There was 4:41 to go in the third quarter and the Saints had a seven-point lead and a first down in Bucs territory. The fumble wiped that out. The Bucs scored five plays later and tied the game. The Bucs caused four turnovers and the Saints didn’t get any. When the Saints won the turnover battle this season, they were 7-0. Sunday they were minus four in turnovers and you just will never win when you’re minus four in turnovers, especially to a good team.

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No. 1 – Did we see the end of an era? My guess is he didn’t announce his retirement so that the Saints could send him off in style. But, Brees exited the field like a guy trying to take it all in one last time. The unfortunate reality is that without the running game doing much, Brees could not throw the Saints back into the game. For 15 years he gave New Orleans a team to be proud of. He brought a positive national spotlight to New Orleans and a championship level toughness and attention to detail. He also brought that long-sought championship. But the sad fact is that time catches up with everyone – even a GOAT.