It’s Enough Already; The Saints Embarrass Themselves Again on Thursday Night

Rams wide receiver, Demarcus Robinson (15) stiff arms Saints cornerback, Paulson Adebo (29); CREDIT:

It has been a tumultuous season to say the least for the New Orleans Saints. A few weeks back the team found themselves in a 5-7 hole and losers of three straight games, but were able to climb back up to .500 in “dominating” wins versus the dysfunctional Carolina Panthers and the “red hot” 5-8 New York Giants.

This all led up to Thursday night’s matchup versus the Los Angeles Rams who are a legitimate playoff contender, and it was another chance for Dennis Allen and Derek Carr to convince the city of New Orleans that they are improving and headed in the right direction. A chance to raise their playoff chances from under 45% to nearly 75% with a path at both a division win or wildcard birth. Instead, as it has been time and time again throughout Allen’s tenure, the team came up short in embarrassing fashion in the latest litmus test for the state of this team.

The 30-22 final score obviously does not indicate how close the game actually was, as the Saints found themselves in a 30-7 hole at the beginning of the fourth quarter. This result was a clear indication of Dennis Allen’s shortcomings as an NFL head coach, which was clear from the game’s opening snap.

Carr’s offense had opened the game with a rare strong drive that found themselves inside the 35 rather quickly, however, following a third down sack that pushed the Saints back to the 37, Allen elected to send Lou Hedley out for a punt. This resulted in the Rams starting out on their own 5-yard-line, making this decision look rather smart. Following a 16 play, 95 yard opening scoring drive where Sean McVay and his Rams offense drove down the field essentially unrestrained, Carr worked the Rams defense back down inside the 40 yet again, but faced another fourth down. This time, Allen elected to be aggressive and send the Saints offense back out to go for it on 4th and 5 and this resulted in a nine yard sack which set up the Rams with a short field for their second drive.

In this sequence everything that Saints fans had suspected and pretty much knew to be true reared its head: Dennis Allen continues to have no feel for in game situations of whether to be aggressive/conservative, Pete Carmichael has no plays that he feels confident going to in these big play 3rd/4th and medium situations because the result is so often bad, and Derek Carr continues to show shortcomings as a processor because he takes sacks in these situations where that absolutely cannot happen.

The Saints were able to overcome such a demoralizing start to a game with a 45-yard touchdown strike to Rashid Shaheed followed by a Rams three and out on their ensuing possession. This set up the Saints on the 35 their own 35 yard line with 1:41 left in the opening half down 10-7. Again Carr worked the offense down near the Rams 40 before being faced with another 4th and 5 with just over a minute to play in the half.

Again the Saints elected to go for it and another example of the shortcomings of all three entities listed two paragraphs ago showed itself on this very play. Carr dropped back and threw an outbreaking route to Juwan Johnson who hadn’t turned his head to track the ball until it was essentially on the ground. More miscommunication from this offense 16 weeks in, and another short field for the Rams which predictably resulted in a touchdown and a 17-7 halftime lead with the Rams receiving the kickoff to open the second half.

Allen was asked about these fourth down decisions after the game.

“We came into this game wanting to be aggressive, and knowing the type of team we were playing… field goals weren’t the way to try and win this game,” he said. “We didn’t want to be reckless, but we felt like in both of those situations we had plays we liked.”

The modern NFL head coach must know how to go about these situations efficiently and show confidence in doing so. To this point, Dennis Allen has shown that he has no clue how to navigate these situations, and – being a defensive coach – does not have the power to make play calls in these situations. He says they liked the plays they had called in these situations, but that does not show itself in any way to be true based off the way they played out. He says they want to be aggressive but not reckless, the decision to go for it isn’t necessarily reckless, but when you take a sack or have miscommunication between quarterback and receiver on these plays it is incredibly reckless and loses you games.

Whether it is on Carr or Carmichael, it is clear in these key play situations the Saints always come up short and shoot themselves in the foot, and they should be held accountable. As the weeks go by, the Saints defense continues to fall short when they need a play most, and for a team that obviously is reliant on playing strong situational defense – they really are weak in these spots, which Allen should be held accountable for.

The Saints three best opponents in their incredibly weak schedule this year have been the Rams, Lions and Jaguars. In those games, the Saints have faced a deficit of 30-7 last night, 21-0 against the Lions and 24-9 against the Jaguars. Those are likely the only clear playoff caliber teams they have faced and they are clearly outmatched by every single one no matter what the final score says. If you want to throw in Minnesota as another playoff level team even though they were missing Justin Jefferson and their starting quarterback, Josh Dobbs, has since been benched, the Saints found themselves down 27-3 in that matchup as well.

It is clear something is systemically wrong with the Saints organization, and the longer the franchise takes to accept change, the more wrong things will continue to go. There is no repairing at this point, everyone who is most to blame whether that is Allen, Carr or Carmichael has shown who they are, and as NFL legendary head coach Bill Parcells once said, “if someone shows you who they are – believe them.”

NFL Insider, Ian Rapoport talked about the state of Dennis Allen’s job secruity on NFL Network this morning.

This is not news that Saints fans will enjoy hearing, of course, but Mickey Loomis and the franchise as a whole has often shown that they rarely believe major change is the answer. In this situation, they are clearly dead wrong.

Dennis Allen is 22-46 as a head coach in the NFL – in fact, 7-8 is far and away his best record through 16 weeks in his career. Last night’s loss moved Allen to a whopping 1-13 versus teams who are .500 or better in his time as the Saints head man. What more do you need to see if you are Loomis and the rest of the Saints brass?

Like it or not, the Saints will begin next season with Derek Carr as their starting quarterback, and the team’s final standing will likely remove them from draft position for all of the blue chip quarterback prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft in Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and – the fanbase’s dream scenario – LSU Tiger, Jayden Daniels. There is no way they will be able to sell another year of Allen, Carr and Carmichael to the locker room much less the fanbase, and their confirmed opponents of the 2024 schedule looks to be incredibly daunting, so the results would undoubtedly be worse than 7-8 this time next year.

The team will close the season on the road in Tampa and at home versus Atlanta in weeks 17 and 18, and don’t expect the mere 15% chance they have to make the playoffs and 13% chance to win the division to affect their effort to win these next two games. If this team finds a way to finish 9-8 and even sneak into the playoffs, nothing will have changed and everything stated in this article will continue to be true. It’s just a matter if the Saints will be able to see that or not – and fans should expect the latter.

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