5 Positives/Negatives To Take From Saints’ Loss To Bucs
Below are five positives, and also five negatives, to take from the New Orleans Saints’ 16-11 road loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon.
The setback dropped the Saints to 5-8 on the season, and guarantees their third-consecutive non-winning season.
1)—Stephone Anthony: Filling in for the injured Craig Robertson, and back at the middle linebacker spot, a position he led the team in tackles at last season, Anthony had a solid game, leading the team in tackles, with 9, including one for a loss. I think moving him to the outside has made this pretty much a wasted year for him, one of the team's two first round draft choices a year ago. Explain to me why the Saints signed James Laurinaitis once again?
2)—Safety Play: It’s never a good thing when your safeties make a ton of tackles, but that’s also doesn't mean it was their fault. Roman Harper, Jairus Byrd, and Vonn Bell finished 2, 3, and 4 in tackles, with 8, 7, and 7, respectively. So, they combined for 22 tackles, including 11 solo stops, while also preventing a few really long gains. Honestly, they didn’t anything special, but their play deserves credit, especially on a day where there weren’t a lot of positives. Playing without Kenny Vaccaro, this group held up well.
3)—Nick Fairley: Fairley, a former first round draft choice of the Detroit Lions, who has underachieved in his career, seems to have found a home in New Orleans. He's been one of the better free agent acquisitions, and played solid again on Sunday, making 6 tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. He has earned himself a nice little contract, from the Saints, or somebody else, in the offseason.
4)—Dannell Ellerbe: When he plays, he’s very good, and makes the Saints better. Ellerbe had 6 tackles, including one for a loss, provided good pressure off the edge, and played well in space. Let’s just hope he stays healthy for a prolonged period of time now.
5)—Tim Hightower: He provided a spark for a running game that did nothing early on in the game. Granted, 32 yards on 6 carries won't get you in the Pro Bowl, but he ran hard, and at least gave a team with an injury-depleted offensive line a legitimate ground threat.
1)—Drew Brees: This is the only the second time Brees has made the negatives list this season, and with good reason. He’s been great all year, putting together his best season since 2011. But he's now made this list for two-consecutives weeks, and it's no coincidence that the team has also not scored a touchdown for two consecutive weeks. Now, not all of the blame falls on Brees, as the Saints dropped one potential touchdown against the Lions last week, and two more on Sunday. But Brees has unquestionably made some poor throws, and poor decisions, being picked off 6 times over the last two weeks. He also missed a wide open Brandin Cooks in the end zone on a potential touchdown pass. If Brees doesn't play well, then the Saints are unlikely to win.
2)—Brandin Cooks: He dropped a potential touchdown pass which would have given the Saints the lead, and possibly changes the complexion of the game. He did make a 38-yard reception, but averaged only 6.0 yards-per-catch on his other 4 catches. Cooks had an opportunity to make defenders miss in the open field a couple of times, but failed. It was an opportunity for Cooks to step up, with leading receiver Michael Thomas out, and he just didn't do enough.
3)—Delvin Breaux: He left the game in the second half with an apparent shoulder injury. If the injury keeps him off the field next week, and beyond, the secondary could be in trouble.
4)—Offensive Line: Granted, the offensive line was playing short-handed, with starting center Max Unger sidelined. That being said, the front five didn't open many holes for Saints' running backs, as the team averaged only 2.9 yards-per-carry, with a long run of only 9 yards. Brees was also pressured too much, and there were a few costly penalties.
5)—Third Down Efficiency: The Saints entered the game leading the NFL in third down efficiency, but finished only 4-of-13 in that department on Sunday. Frustrating, but it's been a frustrating year, with the Saints losing 6 of their 8 games by less than a touchdown. If Cooks or Travaris Cadet catch potential touchdown passes, maybe things would have been different. But it's been that kind of year. Now 5-8, the loss guarantees that the Saints will have a non-winning record for the third-consecutive season, and probably knocks them out of any kind of playoff contention. Going even deeper, the loss guarantees a third-consecutive season in which the Saints have never been above the .500 mark.