This game did not end the way I expected. I thought the Saints were going to win; I thought the defense would hold up against one of the worst offensive units in the game. I was wrong.
The defense started the game well. The first two Titans possessions, they forced 3-and-outs. There were more than enough reasons for Saints fan to be optimistic. I knew the absence of Hau’oli Kikaha and Dannell Ellerbe, two of the Saints’ best linebackers, would be significant, but I didn’t expect it to be game-changing. In more ways than one, it was.
The Saints’ defensive woes were the result of numerous factors. First off, the Saints weren’t able to establish any pass rush. This is where Kikaha was greatly missed. Hau’oli Kikaha, a second-round draft pick, had 4 sacks coming into this game. He has been a constant force on the edge, and has forced many offensive linemen to hold. The Titans allowed 7 sacks last week. Whenever a team is going up against a rookie quarterback, pressure needs to be put on them. The stadium environment is certainly a factor, but a pass rush is most effective in making the quarterback flustered. Constant pressure is likely to force a quarterback to make a bad decision. The Saints could’ve used an interception.
Well, maybe interceptions are a sensitive topic for Saints fans right now. DBs Keenan Lewis and Jairus Byrd collided with each other and dropped what would’ve been an interception. Keenan Lewis was going back on the ball, and Jairus Byrd was coming in on the ball. That ball wound up in the hands of tight end Delanie Walker. He ran that ball for a 61-yard touchdown. When I think of this loss, this is the play I will look back to.
The Titans ran for 112 yards whereas the Saints only ran for 61 yards. Yikes. Quite frankly, Drew Brees had to take the team under his wing yet again.
With their first possession of the game, the Saints scored a touchdown. Brees connected on a deep ball to both Brandin Cooks and Brandon Coleman. The Saints then went on to score touchdowns on their next two possessions. However, rookie Marcus Murphy fumbled the ball on the punt return that would have led to the Saints’ second possession of the game.
In the end, Drew Brees threw for 387 yards and accounted for all 4 of the Saints’ touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was a rushing touchdown where he hopped to get the ball over the goal line. He threw 1 interception which once again proved costly. Not to mention it was thrown in the end zone. It appeared like a miscommunication between Mark Ingram and Drew Brees. Brees was under pressure and threw the ball up. Unfortunately for the Saints, Mark Ingram stopped running and the defensive back had no problem with catching the ball.
Despite the fact that Drew Brees threw an interception that took away potential points, I’m not going to give him a bit of fault for this loss. The run game was stopped, and he was forced to make plays. Let’s not forget he was sacked 4 times, that sure doesn’t help the cause. At the end of the day, the offense was hot most of the game.
The defense just failed to do its job. Quite frankly, I don’t know who to blame. Do I blame the players or defensive coordinator Rob Ryan? I’m going to go with both. The players failed to make several key tackles, the secondary was ripped apart, and the pass rush was nonexistent. Then again, Rob Ryan failed to stop Marcus Mariota and the Titans. This Titans team had a head coach in his first game; they never should have had a chance of winning.
Penalties continue to harm the Saints’ defense. It seems like Brandon Browner prefers to hold the opponent when it matters most. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few times when I think the call was arguable, but when someone penalizes as much as Brandon Browner does, they are going to be targeted. Reportedly there was a situation between Brandon Browner and a reporter after the game as his emotions boiled over.
Now, I think this loss has the chance to ruin the Saints’ chances at making a playoff run. Quite frankly, this should have been their easiest matchup of the year. If the Saints want to be a playoff-caliber team, they need to beat the teams they are supposed to beat. I’m waiting for the day where the entire defense is healthy. Keenan Lewis is still not 100%; fortunately for the Saints, he looks to be improving. Damian Swann has suffered from 2 concussions as of now and the Saints need the depth he provides. Once Hau’oli Kikaha and Dannell Ellerbe return, the group of linebackers will be at maximum strength. Brandon Browner’s role needs to be reduced, but this can only happen if other DBs Keenan Lewis and Damian Swann return to full strength. I truly do believe this unit can be solid when everyone returns.
We can’t do anything to change the results of this game, but the team can work hard to better themselves. I don’t expect anything less. If us Saints fans have learned anything this year, it is that this team is resilient. They won’t give up. I’m looking forward to next Sunday where the Saints take on the Washington Redskins. Go Saints!