After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Steelers

Juwan Johnson pulls in the Saints lone TD reception against the Steelers.
Juwan Johnson pulls in the Saints lone TD reception against the Steelers.(New Orleans Saints)
Published: Nov. 13, 2022 at 6:25 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: This is a bad football team.

There are so many layers to the Saints current situation. At some point, though, reality sets in, and the truth becomes apparent, they’re just not a good football team.

Tyrann Mathieu echoed those sentiments in the locker room after their embarrassing, 20-10, loss to the Steelers Sunday.

“It’s obvious, we’re not a good football team right now,” Mathieu stated.

It was actually refreshing to hear the cold, hard truth come from a well-respected player. The 2022 New Orleans Saints consistently do what bad teams do.

They’re undisciplined. They lack energy. They’re wildly inconsistent in their execution.

It all adds up to a 3-7 team, that frankly deserves to be right where they are.

Take Two: Penalty problem

On the Saints first offensive snap Sunday, Juwan Johnson was called for a false start. It would be the first of ten penalties on the day, and it felt like every single one of them proved costly.

On defense, it extended multiple drives. Late in the first quarter, Kentavius Street got called for roughing the passer on 3rd & 8 with the Steelers at their own 22-yard line. Instead of forcing a punt and getting good field position, they got a fresh set of downs. Six plays later, they added a field goal. In the fourth quarter, Paulson Adedo got called for pass interference in the end zone on 3rd & goal with the score, 13-10. Without the penalty, the Saints would’ve forced a field goal and stayed within a score. Instead, Pickett scored a touchdown on the very next play to go up, 20-10.

On offense, penalties kept putting them in early down holes. On the first play of the third quarter, Andy Dalton completed an 11-yard pass to Jarvis Landry, but Landry was called for an offensive pass interference, which turned a first down at the 46-yard line into a 1st & 20 at the 25.

On special teams, Rashid Shaheed’s early 41-yard return was negated by a Tre’Quan Smith holding penalty. The call ended up being about a 28-yard swing in field position.

It’s not rocket science. Even in the best of circumstances, that’s a lot to overcome in the NFL. But it’s certainly not possible for a team like the Saints, who’s margin for error is very slim.

Take Three: Gashed and grounded in the run game

For the second week in a row, the Saints couldn’t run the ball nor stop the run. It’s one thing to struggle against the Baltimore Ravens, but it’s quite another to do so against the Steelers, who were near the bottom of the league in that category coming into Sunday.

In the end, the Steelers rushed for 217 yards, while the Saints rushed for 29. Alvin Kamara only had eight attempts, while Taysom Hill had three.

That’s not a formula for success with the way this current team is constructed. Running the ball and stopping the run are two ‘musts’ that the Saints need to win. Without it, they will struggle and have struggled.

That disparity in the run game, combined with third down inefficiency, aided in an almost 18-minute edge in time of possession for the Steelers. That comes a week after the Ravens held a 15:30 edge in that same category.

Take Four: Quarterback question

Calls for a quarterback change will only amplify after the second straight week of offensive struggles. Andy Dalton finished his day 17/27 for 174 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. The first interception was a tipped pass that Jarvis Landry likely could’ve caught. The second was a deep ball to Kevin White, who couldn’t come up with the jump ball.

Regardless, the argument for keeping Dalton as the starter was the offense was in rhythm, and they weren’t the reason for some early struggles. While there certainly was merit to that claim, over the last two weeks that side of the ball has really stalled out in production. Things are not flowing as well as they were the first few weeks Dalton was under center.

How much of that they officially attribute to Dalton will likely determine if a move is made at that position.

As I’ve stated multiple times, the fact that there’s a legitimate argument for all three players shows that this team really doesn’t have THE player.

In the short term, the Saints will have to make a decision based on who gives them the best chance to win week-to-week for the rest of the season. But in the long term, this organization will never be where it wants to be until they find THAT player again.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • Rookie cornerback Alontae Taylor was called for three penalties on Sunday. The Saints love his competitiveness, but he has to get a little bit more disciplined.
  • T.J. Watt made a huge difference in his return to the lineup for the Steelers.
  • The Saints defense doesn’t create takeaways. They came close when Najee Harris fumbled one play after Dalton’s first interception. Somehow though, the ball was able to end up in a Steeler player’s hands. The Saints could sure use some game-changing plays like that from the defense.
  • 3rd down was once again a problem for the Saints. They only converted 3/12 on offense, while the Steelers went 9/17.
  • 3-7 is the worst record the Saints have after ten games since 2005.
  • An interesting site in the first quarter of the game when a flock of pigeons stayed on the field for quite some time. They didn’t stick around for the second. Honestly, I don’t blame them.

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