Saints at Vikings: Many, many wounds, all self-inflicted
MINNESOTA — With the beginning of every season, there is optimism.
But, much of it dissipated quickly in a 29-19 Saints loss at Minnesota. Tuesday, head coach Sean Payton said looking at the game on video, “it was not a good tape.”
Here are some observations.
There was so much chatter about Adrian Peterson carrying only six times in the game. But the running back who was most under utilized was Mark Ingram. Coming off his best season in 2016, when he averaged 5.1 yards a carry, Ingram had only 11 touches in the game. Ingram has improved as a pass catcher, blocker, and runner. For Ingram to have only 11 touches is just not smart football.
Payton got heat for running the football on third and goal at the five. Ingram would have scored on the trap play, but it appears that right tackle Senio Kelemente, #65 missed his block on #22 Vikings free safety Harrison Smith. If Smith is blocked, Ingram scores, easily.
The Saints scored only 1 touchdown in 5 trips to the red zone. In 2016, the Saints were third best in the NFL in red zone TD percentage.
Penalties hurt. Left guard Andrus Peat was called for holding on a complete pass from Drew Brees to John Kuhn that would have given the Saints first and goal at the 5. The call on Peat was correct. He literally tackled the Viking he was trying to block.
Later on the same series, Brees missed an open Tommy Lee Lewis in the end zone.
The Saints offensive line, considered to be a strength of the team, continues to take hits. Tackle Zach Strief could miss several weeks, with what the NFL network calls a MCL sprain.
On defense, the Saints started the game with only 10 men on the field. Head coach Sean Payton called it a miscommunication.
On several occasions, the Vikings had wide receiver Adam Thielen in mismatches on linebackers. He burned backers Manti Te’o and AJ Klein on big plays down the middle. Thielen was doing what Marques Colston did for the Saints for a decade. That is wreak havoc with defenses down the middle of the field.
The Vikings had a good game plan, one that took advantage of the Saints’ inexperience at corner. Devante Harris was picked on constantly. His peek into the backfield on play action allowed Minnesota wide receiver Stefon Diggs to get behind him for an 18 yard touchdown pass.
On the touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph, Sam Bradford made a great throw. But, the play design was also excellent. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore bit on a shorter route, allowing Rudolph to get behind him. Safety Kenny Vaccaro didn’t close quickly enough, allowing Rudolph to catch one of three TD passes Bradford threw against New Orleans.
On the play, the Saints chose to rush 4, drop 7. Sam Bradford had too much time, and when that happens, one of the most accurate passers in the NFL, is almost always on target.
The Saints were only three point underdogs on Monday night, but it figured to be a much tougher game than many thought. The Saints don’t rush the passer well, and the Vikings play good defense.
The Saints had the correct plan. Head coach Sean Payton said Monday night, the Saints would stress ball security, on the road, against a noisy home crowd.
An early touchdown could have changed the game completely, but that didn’t happen.
And, while many will write the Saints off this week against the Super Bowl Patriots, remember this .. this is the NFL. Anything can happen, including a high scoring game at the Superdome that the Saints can win.
The Patriots are not a good defensive team, and were exposed last Thursday night against Kansas City.
Sean Payton likes to quote his mentor Bill Parcells.
“Each week, it is either a carnival or a catastrophe.”
This week, in the land of black and gold, festive it is not.