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Five Things We Learned From The Saints 20-26 Loss To The Rams

Well that was fun. The Saints tore up the NFL over the last 8 weeks. Moving up different website’s Power Rankings, the NFL’s rankings and the hearts and minds of all Who Dats across the country. Then the Saints met the Rams on Sunday in LA. One thing is for sure, the 2017 version of the Saints is full of drama. Here are a few things we learned after the game was over.

The Saints need more from the offense against the elite teams of the NFL.

This is one of those things that you read and you say to yourself, “DUH!” But the 2017 version of this Saints team has relied heavily on the stout running game behind the dynamic duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Looking at the top teams in the NFL there is one thing that they all have in common. Good Defense. The Eagles, Rams and Vikings are a few examples. Coincidentally, two of the Saints three loses have come from that list of elite teams.

The Saints went into the game needing to rely on the offense after going into the game short-handed on the defensive side of the ball. The Saints failed to convert on third consistently (3-of-14), failed to control the ball (24:34 to 35:26), and committed way too many penalties. Then, to add icing to the cake, left tackle Terron Armstead left the game with an injury. Our own, Brian Pavek, said it best “Terron Armstead is the best left tackle in football 6 games out of the year.”

Brees was consistently under pressure and was noticeably rattled throughout the day. Thanks to the pressure, Drew Brees was inconsistent and probably should have thrown about four interceptions. Needless to say, Sunday was not Brees’ best day.

One thing was for sure. When facing the league’s elite the Saints need more from their offense that just Kamara.

Speaking of, Alvin Kamara is the TRUTH.

If it wasn’t already clear who should win Offensive Rookie of the Year, running back Alvin Kamara firmly put himself ahead of the pact with another stellar showing on Sunday. Listening to Kamara during the post game questioning, he sounded humble about his achievements thus far in his pro career. It’s becoming more expected to have 188 total yards from scrimmage on 11 touches than anything else. So far though the season, Kamara has 546 rushing yards and 548 receiving yards with 9 touchdowns.

But even with a great day from Kamara the Saints offense just couldn’t get going. In fact, the running game never lived up to its lofty expectations on Sunday. Another reason why the offense has to be more than a one trick pony.

De’Vante Harris just isn’t that good of a corner.

This isn’t breaking news by any means. The Who Dat Nation has been calling for Harris to be benched all season. While veteran Sterling Moore wasn’t perfect when he came in for Harris he wasn’t nearly as bad. It makes you wonder why Harris was the starter in Week 1 and 2 and why he has stayed ahead of Moore on the depth chart.

If the opening drive touchdown by the Rams on Harris wasn’t bad enough, it took until the third quarter when Harris badly missed a tackle for the Saints coaching staff to pull Harris in favor of Moore. Without starters Lattimore and Crawley missing action, it was no surprise to see the Rams test the banged up secondary and it didn’t disappoint for them.

Two terrible plays that come to mind where when running back Todd Gurley gained 31 yards after juking Harris in the open field during the second quarter and in the third quarter, tight end Tyler Higbee had a 38 yard reception that would have been shorter had Harris just made the tackle. That play would be the nail in Harris’ coffin, as he was pulled from the field after that.

The Saints need to get Lattimore and Crawley healthy, because the drop off from the starters to the back ups is just too large.

Sheldon Rankins can play Defensive End?

When Alex Okafor went out last week it was a gut punch to the entire defensive line. Not that Okafor was the best defensive end in the NFL (he wasn’t even the best on the Saints), but what he provided to this team can not be over stated. Okafor was stout against the run and was able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With him out the thought was that the Saints would rely heavily on rookie Trey Hendrickson and third year pro Hau’oli Kikaha. On passing downs Rankins stayed in his natural position of defensive tackle with Kikaha manning the end position. But in running situations Rankins slid to the outside with David Onyemata and Tyeler Davison manning the tackle positions.

It will be interesting if they continue to use this strategy in the coming weeks.

The Saints are 8-3 and can’t really afford to lose many more games.

It’s crazy to say that after 12 weeks the Saints have only lost 3 games but can’t afford to lose many more. However, the Saints remaining schedule consist of Carolina, Atlanta, the Jets, Atlanta again and Tampa. Four of the Saints five remaining games are divisional games. The Panthers are also 8-3 and the Falcons are 7-4. These three games are going to be crucial for the Saints to win and can only survive maybe one loss. Then, if that is not worrisome enough you still have the 7-4 Seahawks and 6-5 Lions still in the thick of playoff contention.

The Saints need to do everything they can to remain perfect down the stretch. Getting their secondary healthy will help tremendously. But for the Saints to truly be a championship caliber team will be to get more out of their offense. Kamara is great, but he can’t carry this team. Drew Brees is a Hall of Fame quarterback and now we need him to play like that.