September Success Elusive
Saints are 1-10 in September since 2014
The Saints haven’t had a winning record since the end of the 2013 season and are 1-10 in September since 2014.
It’s not happening again. Can’t be. I don’t believe it.
We were supposed to see something different in the 2017 Saints. They were finally coming up for air after being caught in a salary cap dead money rip tide that kept the team from competing on level economic terms with their NFL brethren. They made moves to improve a defense that has been at the bottom of the league by sacrificing weapons from one of the best offenses ever assembled.
Unfortunately, the results were the same they’ve gotten for the past several years. The team looked like it wasn’t crisp, focused, or ready to start the season. For the fourth straight year, the team opened with a loss.
After a 29-19 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night, in which the final score was not indicative of the beating the Saints took, head coach Sean Payton started his postgame press conference saying, “I don't know where to begin.”
It was a punch to the gut for fans who have been supporting him and his team through thick and thin, and awakened anxiety that after just one game this season may be a lost cause, too.
The defense started the game with just 10 men on the field and played the rest of the night as if they were a man down to the Vikings’ 11. Journeyman quarterback Sam Bradford had a career night completing 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. While rookie running back Dalvin Cook gashed the defense for 127 yards on 22 carries.
The offense wasn’t strong enough to put the team on their backs and carry the Saints to victory.
The excitement of adding running back Adrian Peterson and his first game against his former team fizzled by half time. The future Hall of Famer ended the game with 18 yards on six carries. Rookie Alvin Kamara gained 18 yards on seven carries, while Mark Ingram picked up 17 yards on six carries.
With both starting offensive tackles out with injuries, the offensive line couldn’t give quarterback Drew Brees much time to set himself up to move the ball forward. He seemed to miss the familiarity of working with the same receivers he has for the past several years. The Saints had arguably the best wide receiver trio in the NFL last season with Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, and Willie Snead. Thomas, in his second season in the league, was the only one on the field for the team Monday. Snead was serving the first of a three game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy with a DUI arrest over the summer. Cooks, of course, was traded to New England in the spring.
When word broke that the Saints were shopping Cooks, it was thought they would get the Patriots’ stud cornerback Malcolm Butler in return. They ended up giving up the speedy receiver and a fourth-round draft pick for New England’s first- and third-round draft choices. The Saints picked up offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who was pressed into action Monday, and linebacker Trey Hendrickson, who was out with illness, with the picks.
While the Vikings game was scary, a more terrifying presence looms. This week, the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots come to the Superdome. In the opening game of the season, the Patriots, too, were humiliated in prime time in front of a nationally televised audience. While both teams have something to prove, most believe only the Patriots will be able to enforce their will.
Five-time Super bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady will look to take the bitter taste of last week’s defeat – as well as their 2009 loss to New Orleans, in which he was benched – out of his mouth by drubbing the Saints. I have no doubt that Cooks will do all he can to help his new team put a whooping on his old team.
The Saints are 1-10 in September since 2014. Not surprisingly, they haven’t had a winning record since the end of the 2013 season.
After the Patriots, the Saints go on the road to Carolina then to London to face the Miami Dolphins. After a bye week, they get the Lions (3-0 against the Saints in the last three seasons) at home and the Packers (seven consecutive post-season trips and counting) on the road. Yikes. With a lineup like that, I don't know where to begin.