As the scoreboard inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome flashed the final score yesterday — Denver Broncos 25, New Orleans Saints 23 — a stunned crowd of Saints fans sat in silent disbelief.
Almost immediately after the game’s conclusion, the reaction from the Who Dat Nation throughout all mediums of Social Media (especially on Facebook and Twitter) was swift and unrelenting.
Yes, he stepped out of bounds. Yes, the NFL under this “commissioner” is BLATANTLY CORRUPT. Yes, every single one of Lutz’s kick attempts are TOO LOW. Yes, rookie WR Micheal Thomas KILLED the Saints with two key 4th quarter fumbles.
Okay, now all that is out of the way; the question must be asked:
Were the Saints really “robbed” of a victory yesterday?
Or…..were they simply just a victim of their own mistakes?
Nov 13, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) turns the ball over against Denver Broncos free safety Darian Stewart (26) during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Broncos defeated the Saints 25-23. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
It could be easily argued that yesterday’s loss should never have come down to the extra point, to begin with.
And even if the Saints make the kick, it could also be argued that Denver would have still gotten the ball back, and drove down the field for the game-winning kick.
There was still 1:22 on the clock, which for any NFL team (no matter who the QB is or isn’t) is way too much time.
Every Saints fan this morning is talking about the blocked extra point and controversial return, but the 4 turnovers that were committed yesterday by the Saints offense, could very easily be pointed at as the reason why the Saints lost.
Another thing that many Saints fans seem to have completely forgotten: after Broncos kicker Danny McManus hooked a 42-yard field goal attempt wide left, the Saints got the ball back leading 17-10 with a chance to “put away” a Denver team that they clearly had “on the ropes”.
But instead the Saints “left them off the hook” — when the rookie Thomas coughed up his first of two fumbles that gave Denver a golden opportunity to get back in the game, which they did quickly in rather swift fashion.
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What now makes the loss to Denver just that much more of a very bitter pill to swallow, is the fact that the Saints had a chance to make up ground on Atlanta in the NFC South race. The hated arch-rival Falcons lost to Philadelphia on Sunday, but the Saints failed to take advantage of it.
Yet, somehow the Saints must now gather themselves together somehow despite the shock and disappointment, and simply move on.
A match-up in just 3 more days from now against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football, will be here before you even know it.
“It’s disappointing, but we’ve had tough losses and the sky is not falling today,” Saints coach Sean Payton said to reporters in the Post-Game press conference.
That may be true of course, but it doesn’t make a large portion of the Who Dat Nation any happier this morning, as they come to grips with yet another heart-breaking loss among several of them in the last few weeks alone.
However, there is still something “good” that Saints fans can take comfort in.
Nov 13, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) talks to wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) after his fourth quarter touchdown catch against the Denver Broncos at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Broncos won, 25-23. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
If this were a boxing match, it could have easily been called midway through the 1st quarter as a TKO (technical knockout) in favor of the Broncos.
The showdown between “strength vs strength” (Saints offense vs Broncos defense) did not materialize during most of the first half.
Saints receivers were not getting open against Denver’s secondary, and the Broncos pass rush was getting fast pressure from the outside (although Brees did a great job of buying extra time by stepping up in the pocket).
Drew threw 2 consecutive interceptions, which contributed mightily to a 10-0 lead for the Broncos. Late in the first half New Orleans finally put together a nice drive for a field goal, cutting their deficit to 10-3 at the break.
The second half showed a much more effective Saints passing attack. Overall, Brees found eight different receivers, had 5 plays of over 20 yards, and finished with 303 yds with 3 touchdowns; with a 111.7 QB rating — the first QB this season to break over 100 against the Broncos stifling and #1 ranked pass defense.
Nov 13, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks to throw against the Denver Broncos in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Broncos won, 25-23. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
The offensive line protected their future Hall of Famer fairly well, considering the fearsome pass rush that they were facing.
As expected, the Saints coaching staff put together nice pass protection packages; and while the Broncos linebackers were of course factors, they did not control the game.
The Saints outstanding WR trio of Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Michael Thomas were held completely in check by the Broncos secondary, often struggling to get any separation.
Rookie Thomas had easily the worst ggame of his young career, fumbling twice and bobbling a reception that led to one of Brees’ interceptions.
Snead did have 2 touchdown catches, and all three of Cooks’ receptions were big plays down the field at key moments; including the late “almost” go-ahead touchdown.
The future is still bright for this group.
Nov 13, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead (83) celebrates after a touchdown catch during the third quarter of a game against the Denver Broncos at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The running game was effective at times, but frankly not consistent enough; either in results or attempts, disappearing for portions of this game.
It does appear notably that Mark Ingram has earned the trust back of Saints coaches, though #2 RB Tim Hightower will still continue to see significant action.
Surprisingly, it was the New Orleans DEFENSE of all things, that kept the Saints from being blown out of this game early (yes, you read that correctly).
Just as what was pointed out in our piece yesterday morning; the Saints did give up some yards, but they did come up with some solid plays all game long.
Cam Jordan, Nick Fairley, Sheldon Rankins and Dannell Ellerbe (yes, you read that right also) pressured Broncos QB Trevor Siemian all game, sacking him a Saints season-high 6 times.
Nov 13, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian (13) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive ends Cameron Jordan (94) and Paul Kruger (99) in the first half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
The Broncos ran the ball very effectively most of the game, which allowed Denver’s offense to have just enough balance to move the ball well.
Back to back 2nd and 3rd down short yardage stops for the defense near midfield on the opening second half drive seemed to give the entire team a gigantic boost of momentum. Saints rookie DT Sheldon Rankins needs to be on the field for this defense on every play possible, pure and simple.
Nov 13, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) catches a pass for a touchdown while defended by New Orleans Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux (40) during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
The one on one battle between Saints #1 CB Delvin Breaux and Broncos #1 WR Demaryius Thomas was difficult to look away from; with two true All-Pro players battling for every inch. Although Demaryius “won” a large number of these battles, any true football fan would love to see this match up again with Breaux at 100% full health (because presumably, he was not).
Vonn Bell and Sterling Moore both had solid outings, but it was abundantly clear that the New Orleans secondary simply doesn’t have the TALENT beyond these players, along with Kenny Vaccaro, to be competitive against a professional-caliber passing game.
The Broncos first touchdown, a pass to Jordan Taylor, was the result of Breaux releasing inside to cover Denver’s inside patterns and thinking he had safety help for coverage on the outside receiver (Taylor) — but the problem with that was that the safety on the play was Jairus Byrd.
Byrd, as has become typical of him, put forth INEXCUSABLE play recognition, then took an even more inexcusable angle, and then gave what seemed to be egregiously bad effort on the play.
Nevertheless ladies and gentlemen, this is a HARD fighting team that really seems to be very “close” to turning the proverbial corner — and for Jairus Byrd to even be allowed to wear the same uniform is downright shameful.
Nov 13, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Jordan Taylor (87) makes a touchdown catch while defended by New Orleans Saints free safety Jairus Byrd (31) in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Thank goodness this wasn’t a boxing match, because instead of being “stopped” early, fans instead got to see the Saints “pick themselves up off the canvas” and match the battle tested Broncos blow for blow; and often getting the better of the defending World Champs.
Yes, the New Orleans playoff hopes took a bit of a shot.
But do try to take solace in the fact that some of the key teams that they’ll be battling with for a Wild Card playoff spot also lost yesterday (Green Bay, Minnesota, and Carolina all went down to defeat).
This was a heart breaking defeat for sure, but this young team needs to grow and gain strength from it, because victory was literally a kick away.
They need to regroup quickly, because they are on the road, in a short week, against a division rival also desperate for a victory. The fate of their season depends on it.
As for being “robbed”? That will be determined eventually at some point, but it has become painfully evident that the NFL has a HUGE problem with officiating that needs to be addressed immediately.
Nov 13, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints fans after a game-winning extra point was blocked by the Denver Broncos late in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Broncos won, 25-23. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports