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Forecast: I want to give the Saints defense a hug

The defense hung tight despite offensive turnovers, bad calls and assorted other issues that have reared their head all season long.

NEW ORLEANS — If someone ever makes the mistake in the future to ask me to describe the 2022 New Orleans Saints, I will strap them to a chair, so they can't get up, make it so they can't shut their eyes, then make them watch the Saints 13-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in all it's agonizing, painfully, black comedy,

I've watched the Saints since I was 7 years old. I've seen them lose close games, get embarrassed, and get hosed by officials. I've seen incredible playoff loses like the 'No Call', Beastquake and the Minnesota Miracle, but nothing was quite like what I witnessed Sunday.

The Saints had every possible thing go against them from the start, and yet they refused to quit. It was like the greatest hits of Saints pain all played at once. Horrific officiating, comical bounces of the ball that go the other team's way, mind-melting coaching decisions, bad plays at critical moments, and
just plain stupidity. 

We've of course seen the Saints do all these things, especially, in 2022, but seeing them do each and every one of them in a 3-hour period was torment on a level I was not emotionally prepared to endure. It was excruciating and yet weirdly impressive. It was the most complete failure mixed with maximum effort I've ever seen from the Saints. 

The only thing they did right was that they played unbelievably hard for 60 minutes. They had more than enough reasons to quit in the second half and part of me kind of wishes they would have just so the pain of watching a winnable game slip away would have ended sooner.

It was like watching a toddler trying to open a cookie jar and failing every single time. Like a toddler's futile attempt to get those cookies, the Saints' attempts to score even a single solitary point were doomed.

The Saints failed to score for the first time since the George W. Bush Presidential administration. In case you were wondering the last time the Saints were shut out was January 6, 2002 or 332 games ago.

The 49ers also did the trick that day 38-0. God, I hate the 49ers so much.

The Saints of course started off doing the thing they do more than any team in 2022 – turning the ball over. Alvin Kamara fumbled and the Saints defense was forced to scratch and claw to keep the Saints from drowning. The Saints defense was up to the task for 60 minutes.

Of course, possibly the most agonizing Saints viewing experience of my entire life had to have the most egregious officiating decision I've ever seen. Yes, I know the 'No Call' meant more, but if we are just going to measure an official's decision on the shear wrongness of it, the overturning of Chris Olave's reception that would have set up the Saints' first and goal trailing 3-0 is even worse.  

Olave caught the ball, took 3 steps, and fumbled when he hit the ground. In what universe is that ruled a catch on the field but overturned on replay? On a day the officials were terrible from start to finish this was their masterpiece of bad.

Watching an exasperated Dennis Allen after the game say he didn't know what a catch was, it felt like he knows calls like that swing games.

The 4-7 Saints needed almost everything to go right to have a chance Sunday and the officials' failure to be competent doomed them early. Of course, the officials weren't done making bad calls. The illegal contact penalty that negated the rare Saints defensive turnover was a play they allowed all day and Nick Bosa was offside on the Saints' last chance 4th down play. 

If I was Dennis Allen I'd do unspeakable things to the letter the NFL is sure to send apologizing for being terrible at their most important job. 

The Saints in the second half had drives of 12, 12, and 9 plays, with 2 of those drives having first and goal-to-go situations, and they managed to score no points. I can't believe what I'm about to say in a game the Saints scored no points, but Andy Dalton was pretty good. Saints receivers dropped two scores, Chris Olave dropped another potential big play, and Alvin Kamara had probably his worst game as a Saint. 

Andy Dalton isn't the future for the Saints at quarterback, I'm not even sure he should continue to start in the present, but he wasn't the problem Sunday. 

The most frustrating thing about the Saints' offense, besides the turnovers and critical drops, was the fact Dennis Allen and Pete Carmichael Jr. refused to be bold or aggressive. The Saints never went for it on fourth down until the end. The Saints never tried anything remotely innovative down at the goal line. The way the Saints' luck was running, a crazy reverse or Taysom jump pass, probably ends up in a fireball disaster, but going up in flames would have felt better than the slow painful death we witnessed instead. 

While I want to yell bad words at the officials and the Saints' offense, I just want to give the defense a hug. They fought their absolute guts out and got nothing to show for it. 

The 49ers' only touchdown came on a play where Tyrann Mathieu makes a great play to tip the ball but Jauan Jennings catches it while practically lying flat on his back. Only the 2022 Saints could be so unlucky. San Francisco's vaunted running game managed just 96 yards on 29 carries. The 49ers spent the entire second half trying to simply run out the clock and the Saints defense refused to let them. 

It really does feel like the universe is screaming at the Saints, “2022 is not your year. Give up and go home.” and the Saints are standing in torrential downpour screaming, “We WILL NOT AND YOU WILL HAVE TO COME DOWN HERE AND RIP ALL HOPE FROM OUR COLD DEAD HANDS.” 

Tampa Bay may well do it next Monday night, but in a season that defies logic and reason, the Saints somehow some way get one final chance to be relevant in the sad NFC South. 

I'd wish them good luck but 12 games into 2022 we know good, luck, and the Saints aren't allowed to be together in the same sentence. 

Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.

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