Two consecutive losses have put the New Orleans Saints at 5-7 and well outside the playoff picture for the first time since 2008.
A tumultuous offseason that’s still lingering around like day-old fish, an unsettled coaching situation and inconsistency on defense has lead the usually-powerful Saints to be also-rans in the NFC landscape.
A 5-1 stretch in October and early November gave hope that this team might be able to overcome its 0-4 start to the season. But the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons laid back-to-back 10-point beatdowns on New Orleans over the last two weeks to erase almost all postseason hope.
Quarterback Drew Brees, who threw five interceptions in the Saints’ loss to Atlanta, told the Times-Picayune that he’s going to stay aggressive over the last quarter of the season and attack defenses, just like he always has. It’s the only way to put a poor performance behind. It may be the only way to cash in on the tiny mathematical chance New Orleans has at qualifying for the playoffs.
“We are in a situation this season now where we are 5-7 and the margin of error is very tight,” Brees said. “We understand if we want a shot at postseason play we probably have to win out."
Winning out won’t be enough. The Saints also need a whole lot of help from the seven teams ahead of them in the wild-card race.
Three important features of the New Orleans defense were upgrade Thursday. Safety Roman Harper (rib) was a full participant after being limited on Wednesday.
Cornerback Johnny Patrick (illness) and defensive end Martez Wilson (toe) both sat out of Wednesday’s practice but were full participants Thursday.
Offensive tackle Charles Brown (knee) and cornerback Corey White (knee) missed Thursday’s practice. Brown hasn’t practiced all week.
Junior Galette, who hasn’t played since Week 9 with an ankle injury, has four sacks and a forced fumble this season and looks like he may be ready to get back out onto the field to bolster the Saints’ pass rush, according to the Times-Picayune.
Every time the Saints lose, suspended head coach Sean Payton’s stock rises just a bit.
How many more wins would New Orleans have if Sean Payton had been the coach all year?
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the NFL world—fan or expert—who believes the Saints would be 5-7 if Payton had been running the show all season. Former interim coach Pete Carmichael’s reign was far from stellar, and while current interim coach Joe Vitt has done a good job turning things around, he’s still no Payton.
The Saints and Payton have been given permission by the NFL to negotiate a contract, even though Payton can’t have any contact with the team outside of that.
With every loss, especially the long stretches of weeks without a win, Payton gains an extra bit of leverage for his negotiations with the team.
It’s likely a temporary dip, but Drew Brees hasn’t been playing well of late. He threw five interceptions against Atlanta in Week 13 and posted a horrid 37.6 quarterback rating.
The week prior, Brees threw two interceptions against the 49ers and finished with a 86.1 rating.
Nakia Hogan of the Times-Picayune asked if Brees was trying to hard? Or was it his lack of offseason workouts with the team that have caught up with him?
Brees has a lot of weight on his shoulders. It’s not just because he’s a perennial All-Pro and the leader of this team. It’s also because the Saints have dug themselves into a deep hole, and no one seems ready to give up just yet.
If New Orleans can win those, and then the remaining two on its schedule, a 9-7 record still might not be good enough to get into the playoffs.
With the large number of teams ahead of the Saints that control their own destiny, the outlook doesn’t look good for New Orleans.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.