The Saints’ improbable wining streak has finally come to an end. Up until today’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, the team had accomplished something never before achieved in the Superbowl era by winning eight straight games after losing their first two. However, it’s no mystery that players will feel this loss far more deeply than they recognize the win streak. But there’s still a feeling of calm underneath the disappointment. The thing to remember is that this 2017 team is not the “same old Saints” just because of this loss. This is an entirely evolved ball-club in caparison to its last few years. This 20-26 loss in Los Angeles stings, but it doesn’t equivocate to the pain we’ve felt the last three 7-9 seasons.
Looking ahead to the rest of our schedule, there isn’t a game that’s not winnable ahead of us. In the closing five weeks we take on the Panthers at home, The Falcons twice, The Jets at home, and the Bucs in Tampa. That’s three games at home and two very winnable away games, the toughest being against the up-and-down Falcons. There’s potential to finish this season with a more than respectable 13-3 record, but could completely dematerialize into a .500 ball club if everything falls apart. However unlikely the latter may be.
The run game is still percolating. Even with Ingram having an uncharacteristically low-production game, Kamara hurdled his way to a huge day. On his way to gathering 188 total yards on only 11 touches, he ran for 87- including a 74 yard touchdown run. Kamara single-handedly did everything he could to keep the Saints’ stifled offense in the game. In the next five weeks, Kamara and Ingram will face three run defenses (including the Falcons twice) near the bottom half of the league.
The passing attacked was easily the most disappointing element of this contest. But not in the “it can’t be fixed” or “we were completely outplayed” kind of way. It was more like the Saints offense simply wasn’t winning. The offensive line played one what looked like one of its worst games so far this season allowing 3 sacks and 3 hits. Albeit against one of the better pass rushes in the league. But even beyond that, Drew Brees had a lackluster day until it was simply too late. To be fair, he did put the team in position for another fantastic comeback drive, however the onside kick didn’t work in their favor. You’ve got to imagine that most of what took place on the weak offensive performance is both dianosable and treatable. One of the most glaring difficulties was third down efficiency. The Saints were 3-13 on third down which was a big deal with the Rams only going 3-14 on third down. The Saints offense had plenty of opportunities but couldn’t turn them into points, stringing together only 4 possessions of more than 5 plays.
While De’Vante Harris continues to be a liability, the defense really did minimize the amount of damage that could have been poured on by the league’s second-highest scoring offense. A 26 point defensive turnout should have been easily eclipsable by the, until today, explosive Saints offense. I’d go so far as to say that while the defense wasn’t outstanding, it didn’t lose the game any more than the offense did. Cam Jordan continued his dominance on the defensive line adding 2 more sacks to his total of 10 so far this season. He was also a big presence in the run game with the absence of Alex Okafor. The defense held the Rams to only 88 rushing yards, but gave up a total of 415 with 327 through the air. The lone turnover that was forced in the game was an interception by P.J. Williams off of a Sammy Watkins deflection. The Saints offense turned that turnover into a three and out. Had they have been able to get into the endzone there, it could have been a huge turning point.
While its no excuse, we traveled to LA without playing our two starting, stud Cornerbacks Mashon Lattimore and Ken Crawley. Saints coaches also waited far too long to bench De’Vante Harris. Starting him at all was a curious decision and you have to wonder how many more shots he’s going to get. Hopefully we never have to see him on a #1-#3 guy again if we get Lattimore and Crawley back next week against Carolina, with whom we are now tied for first place in the division.
So while this loss was a painful one, I don’t think 8-3 isn’t worth the panic button. Let’s see how we rebound next week against a division rival in a battle for first place in the South. Sometimes it’s not about what you do wrong, it’s about what you do next.