On Sunday, the 6-2 New Orleans Saints went to MetLife Stadium and got their collective butts kicked by a much more physical New York Jets squad. The final score of 26-20 was not indicative of how New York truly imposed its will.
By piling up close to 200 rushing yards—with former Saints' running back Chris Ivory gaining 139 yards on 18 carries—the Jets were able to control the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of their rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Smith was a putrid 8-of-19 for 115 yards, but he made plays when necessary.
The Saints managed 366 yards through the air, but only 41 yards on the ground on 13 carries. The ability to stop the run or run the ball themselves finally caught up with the Saints as they lost the turnover battle two to zero.
The Saints must quickly regroup, as the Jets were supposed to be a prelude to the meat of the schedule.
In the NFL, you should never take an opponent lightly, especially one that can control the clock, create turnovers and pressure the quarterback.
Here are my takeaways from the Saints' surprising loss to the Jets on Sunday.
This was by far the worst game Brees has played this season. His indecisiveness caused the Saints to burn three timeouts in the first quarter alone, and he was the culprit of multiple delay of game penalties. Also, his accuracy left a lot to be desired.
In his defense, he was running for his life throughout the majority of the contest due to leaky line play (as usual). His 30-of-51, 382-yard, two-touchdown performance might look good in the fantasy world, but in reality, it's the type of play that was common throughout last season's debacle.
His two interceptions were back-breaking and gave an average team some much needed confidence at home. His own confidence seemed to wane at times as well, as he started seeing ghosts in the form of a pass-rush.
For the Saints to have any shot at making the playoffs and advancing, Brees needs to be at his finest because the Saints have no shot if they plan on leaning on the non-existent running game.
This opponent in that environment was the exact kind of scenario the Saints will see in the playoffs. Do any of you have confidence if that prognostication comes to fruition?
Things that make you go hmmm....
Eventually, there had to be a game where the Saints' opponent would stay committed to the run.
So far this season, the Saints have had the luxury of having the opposition abandon the running game in an attempt to catch up with their prolific passing attack. With the Jets leading a great deal of the game, however, that aspect was nullified.
Chris Ivory, the former Saints back, carved up New Orleans like a Halloween pumpkin. His 18-carry, 139-yard performance (one touchdown) will be one that will sting for a long time. Ivory would be the best back on the Saints, by far, if he weren't traded in the offseason.
This is not to mention that the Saints struggled to generate much yardage on the ground themselves.
The fact that the Saints do a great job of getting pressure on the opposing quarterback is no excuse for being Charmin tissue-soft against the run. Improper run fits combined with poor tackling have been the primary reasons the Saints are one of the worst in the league against the run.
It'll only get tougher from here, as the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks all appear on the schedule. The inability to stop the run could eventually be the Saints downfall, as the playoffs usually reveals who the toughest of the elite teams are.
That means that finesse teams need not apply.
A running game? What's that?
The running game has become an afterthought in New Orleans. In fact, it should be put along the same mythical lines as unicorns and Big Foot.
Saints' running backs Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram both looked effective when given the chance; Thomas went for 24 yards on six carries, while Ingram managed 19 yards on four carries. However, it's the fact that the Saints only had 13 total carries that's the kicker.
This particular contest was close throughout, which means there's no way the Saints shouldn't have come up with at least 20 carries. By comparison, the Jets ran the ball 36 times!
With Brees struggling with accuracy and turnovers, running the ball would have been an excellent elixir for the Saints offense.
The inability to stop the run or run the ball should remind people of the Saints 2010 playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. This is a scenario that could very well repeat itself again this year if these aspects are not corrected quickly.
It's funny how the Saints season could come down to coach Sean Payton's ability to call a balanced game, which is something I'm sure most Saints' fans have little faith in.
Receiver Marques Colston has been a major disappointment this season, but anytime you see No. 12 out on the field, you get the feeling that he will ultimately make a play in a crucial situation, as he's done the majority of his career.
With Colston being a surprising pre-game scratch, and with primary target tight end Jimmy Graham being hobbled due to injury, it was interesting to see if one of the young receivers would step up in a game on the road.
What we got were veterans Lance Moore (six catches for 70 yards) and Robert Meachem (four catches for 93 yards) stepping up like the old days. This is also not to mention that Graham went off to the tune of nine catches for 116 yards.
With some fans claiming that inconsistent rookie Kenny Stills has arrived, his three-catch 35-yard performance against the Jets should quiet them down for a week or two. Fellow rookie Nick Toon also had a rough day, dropping a couple of balls, one being a sure touchdown on a beautiful out-and-up.
Relying on rookies is not what championship teams do, and it was very refreshing to see the vets step up when called upon.
Imagine what can happen when everyone puts together a complete game...
For as accomplished as the Saints are, they execute in the mental game about as well as the totally inept Jacksonville Jaguars, who are still winless on the season. Nine penalties for 59 yards; does that sound like championship football?
On any given Sunday, any team can be defeated. Wins are hard to come by in the NFL, so why assist a team with an extra 59 unwarranted yards? We've questioned the scheme, we've questioned the talent, and now, it's now time to question the coaching.
When you commit effort-based penalties, it's bad enough. When many of your penalties are of the pre-snap variety, you have a slew of problems on your hand. Coach Payton should make the mental game a major point-of-emphasis throughout practice this week.
Hidden yards are not something the average person takes into account, but a general rule of thumb is to take those penalty yards off the total offensive production (or add it to the defensive stats) and you get a sense of how well the team really played.
The Saints had a bad game, no matter how you slice it.
Jimmy Graham is a bad man.
The Saints' offense is at its best when Graham is stretching the field by way of seam routes. His foot injury was supposed to retard his ability to be a deep threat, but if this game is any indication, he may be fine moving forward.
His nine-catch, 116-yard and two-touchdown performance was highlighted by a 51-yard touchdown that saw him utilize his speed and power. The Saints are a vertical passing team at heart, and with no proven threat outside of a Graham, the ability to gain yards in chunks would be greatly diminished without him.
At times, Graham looked like he had a hitch in his giddy up, but overall, he looked like his health is getting better by the week. Here's hoping he continues to display the talent and skills that made him September's Player of the Month.