CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints boarded a plane to London on Sunday night with plenty of excess baggage, including a two-game losing streak and several questions at wide receiver.
Veteran starting wideout Michael Thomas left New Orleans’ 22-14 loss to Carolina with a toe injury. Jarvis Landry exited with an ankle injury and Tre’Quan Smith’s day ended with a concussion.
As if the Saints (1-2) really need any more problems on offense after failing to score in the first three quarters against the Panthers on Sunday, one week after being limited to three points in the first three quarters against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We were really down to two receivers there at the end,” coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ll have to evaluate to where everybody’s at and how significant the injuries are and where we go from there.”
Allen said he remains confident in quarterback Jameis Winston, even as the veteran battles through a back injury.
After a slow start, Winston completed 25 of 41 passes for 353 yards with one touchdown pass to Marquez Callaway and two interceptions, although one of those came on a Hail Mary pass from his own 1-yard line on the final play.
“I think in this situation everybody is looking for a place to place blame,” Allen said. “There’s enough mistakes to go around that I don’t want to go there. I feel confident with Jameis. Certainly we all need to do better. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Winston didn’t get much help early from running back Alvin Kamara, who put the Saints in a 7-0 hole when he was stripped of the ball by Frankie Luvu, allowing Marquis Haynes to return it 44 yards for a touchdown.
With both teams in an offensive rut in the first half, that was a huge play and stood as the only touchdown for the first three quarters as the Panthers built a 13-0 lead.
Winston said it’s time for the Saints to “dig deep and persevere” beginning this Sunday when they face the Minnesota Vikings, who battled back to beat the Detroit Lions 28-24.
The quarterback pointed to the Saints needing to start faster and finish drives.
However, it’s unclear if they’ll be able to do that with potentially limited weapons on offense.
“We’ve got a bunch of resilient guys,” Winston said. “Hopefully, we can get those guys back and get us a win in London.”
If there is some good news for the Saints it’s that rookie wide receiver Chris Olave looks like an emerging star.
The 11th overall draft pick from Ohio State had another strong game with nine catches for 147 yards against one of the best defensive backfields in the league.
Olave has 268 yards on 17 receptions through his first three NFL games — despite playing in a backup role. He may be pressed into a starting role this week if Thomas and/or Landry are unable to play.
Allen said he wouldn’t use the word “surprised” by the Saints’ struggles on offense, suggesting there are some growing pains involved.
“We’ve got a lot of new pieces and really didn’t get a chance to work in training camp as much as we would’ve liked,” Allen said. “But we’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to go out there and play better and we’ve got to go out there and perform better. We’ve got to coach them better. That starts with me.”