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Barry Hirstius

5 Biggest Saints “Winners and Losers” in Loss vs. the Patriots

The New Orleans Saints, only 6 days removed from a disappointing season opening loss at Minnesota, went from bad to worse yesterday during a 36-20 loss to the visiting New England Patriots on an epic scale.

After yielding big numbers to Vikings QB Sam Bradford in Week #1, yesterday the Saints got flat-out embarrassed by future Hall of Fame Patriots QB Tom Brady; who recorded several career highs including 177 passing yards and 3 TD passes in the 1st quarter alone.

Brady's near-flawless 30 out of 39 pass attempts, 447 yard performance sent the Saints to an (0-2) record to start off the regular season, for the 4th straight year.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Now as most Saints fans know: we normally do a list where we pick 5 "winners and losers" after each week's game during the season; but with yesterday's performance being as bad as it was, it seems a bit foolish to have ANY players or coaches be recognized this week as "winners".

There were certainly some noteworthy performances: Drew Brees passed for 356 yards and 2 TD's, Brandon Coleman had 82 receiving yards and a TD, and rookie CB Marshon Lattimore basically shut down Patriots WR Brandin Cooks in man coverage, which drew praise from Pro Football Focus.

But naming any "winners" this week after what we witnessed by this Saints team as a whole yesterday, just feels a bit disingenuous when they just got their ass kicked.

So instead, this morning we'll focus solely on the biggest 5 "losers" --- from yesterday afternoon's embarrassing loss to the defending World Champion New England Patriots......

 

 

THE BIGGEST LOSERS

 

#5. ALEX ANZALONE, LINEBACKER

Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe

For Saints rookie linebacker Alex Anzalone, it was simply a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Anazlone got victimized by Patriots All-Pro Rob Grownkowski late in the 1st quarter, when the New England star got behind Anzalone in coverage (although Anzalone had no support whatsoever from the backend of the secondary) and then rambled right over and then past safety Marcus Williams' broken tackle attempt for a 53-yard TD that set the tone for the remainder of the contest.

The folks over at Pro Football Focus actually credited Anzalone with 2 receptions for 72 yards and 2 TDs, which made him the worst graded defender for the Saints defense yesterday on a day of historically bad defense for the New Orleans franchise.

Make no mistake: Anzalone more than likely has a very bright future with the Saints and in his NFL career. However, yesterday won't be a game that he'll remember with much fondness in years from now.

 

#4. DENNIS ALLEN, DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR

Photo courtesy of WWL TV New Orleans

777 passing yards allowed, the most allowed in franchise history through two games and the 6th most of any team since the NFL-AFL merger. 12 defenders on the field early in the 2nd half, just one week removed from having 10 men on the field on the first snap from scrimmage last week at Minnesota. 

Those are just a few of the egregious "non-achievements" made so far by the godawful Saints defense, which appears to be headed for a 5th year out of the past 6, as one of the NFL's very WORST.

And what was considered all of this recent off-season to be the team's #1 overall improvement from last year -- the overall play of the entire defense -- appears to have been simply nothing but a false hope. But there's no Gregg Williams to blame, or a caricature-type individual to make fun of like Rob Ryan.

All there is: defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and his scheme that has been his own to run for the last year and a half, with similar results. The argument can be easily made that Allen's not responsible for a lack of talent, but ultimately he is responsible for the play of his unit --- and they have under-performed on a monumental scale.

 

#3. THE ENTIRE SAINTS DEFENSIVE PASS RUSH

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

We called out the Saints defensive line last week for their poor performance against Minnesota in which they appeared to be physically beaten by the Vikings "down in the trenches"; but yesterday the entire Saints defensive Front 7 was virtually non-existent in their attempts to provide any sort of pressure on Brady in order to prevent him from finding the open man.

With the lone exception of a sack by defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha late in the 2nd quarter, Brady had his way with the Saints defense, including that incredible 1st quarter performance where he threw for 177 yards, 3 TD's, and helped the Pats put up 20 1st quarter points on the scoreboard.

After a successful Pre-Season in which the team recorded 17 sacks in 4 games, the Saints pass rush seemed to have been one of the team's biggest improvements. After 2 games into the regular season, now it might be the team's least improved area, and DEFINITELY this team's glaring #1 weakness.

 

#2. KENNY VACCARO, SAFETY

Wow, what more (if anything) can be said about the day that Saints 5th year veteran safety Kenny Vaccaro had yesterday?

Vaccaro started off the day being linked to more potential trade rumors by the national media, and then proceeded to go out a few hours later and maybe play the worst game of his entire life.

Vaccaro was out of position on several occasions and also appeared to be totally out of any smart-decision making capability; as he was at times either tentative or sometimes actually overaggressive on a variety of erratic plays in both man and zone pass coverage, which eventually led to his benching by head coach Sean Payton. Vaccaro was eventually replaced in the line-up by 2nd year safety Vonn Bell.

After the game, an incredulous Vaccaro told the media: “I don’t know. I don’t what happened. I don’t know why I got pulled out the game. I didn’t understand.”

Just look at the film later, Kenny. It will all make sense to you, then.

 

#1. SEAN PAYTON, HEAD COACH

Last week, we had Saints head coach Sean Payton at #1 on our biggest 'losers' list and deservedly so; since he and his team had months to prepare for their season-opening game but instead gave a disappointing performance in a 29-19 loss to start the new season off on a "bad foot".

However after yesterday's dominant performance by the Patriots, the Saints' 2017 regular season might actually now appear to have been placed under an outright voodoo curse. But all jokes aside, this now has become no laughing matter, and it all points back directly to Payton -- which is why he's the biggest 'loser' for a 2nd straight week to open the season.

While we all know Payton's "specialty" is offense, he nevertheless is still the head coach and is ultimately responsible for the team's overall performance; and now on his 4th defensive coordinator during his 10 seasons as head coach, also ultimately responsible for the total failure of the Saints franchise to field a competent NFL defense in 5 of the past 6 years. 

In just 2 weeks time, the Saints defense has been "sliced and diced" by QB's Sam Bradford of Minnesota and Tom Brady of New England to the tune of 793 passing yards, six passing / receiving touchdowns and zero interceptions. Their combined passer rating is an unbelievable 141.4, and they completed 80% (yes, EIGHTY percent) of their passes.

That is an EPIC FAILURE on a grand scale, and one that simply cannot be written off or overlooked; and it falls squarely within the responsibilities of the man in charge of the team's overall performance, Sean Payton. The Saints are now 0-2 for a 4th straight season, and another 7-9 season (at best) almost seems like a foregone conclusion at this point.

Yesterday, there was talk of the now decade-plus old Sean Payton-Drew Brees Era in New Orleans possibly coming to an end after this season. If Sean Payton doesn't find a way to get his team back on the winning track and do it very soon, it might come to an end a whole lot sooner than he ever imagined..........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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