The New Orleans Saints lost a two-point shootout to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14 and the worst takeaway from the game is around the defense.
The New Orleans Saints needed to win in Week 14 against the San Francisco 49ers in order to take control of the NFC and give themselves a good situation to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
That ultimately was not what happened as the Saints dropped a 48-46 shootout and now find themselves all the way down in the third seed. If the Green Bay Packers win out and the 49ers go 2-1, regardless of what the Saints do, then the Saints will be the third seed in the NFC.
The Saints need the 49ers to go 1-2 and the Packers to go 2-1 and win out to get the top seed in the NFC. It is a lot to ask in this loss.
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There were a lot of takeaways from this game and even some pretty big frustrations that rang true long after the final whistle. However, when all the dust settled, the one thing that remains the biggest concern is the way the defense played.
Granted, the defense does have a bit of an excuse. A.J. Klein and Kiko Alonso were both out of this game, which did make an impact on the defense. Plus, the 49ers threw the entire kitchen sink at New Orleans, which included a double-reverse touchdown pass.
But there is no way in getting around it: the secondary was not great, even with Marshon Lattimore healthy and in the game. The glass-half-full approach of looking at this game would say that this was just one down game for the Saints.
However, while I do not think that the defense will be this poor in the playoffs, I think this defense is much closer to the actual product on the field than the “stellar defense” that we all though the Saints had early in the year.
We did write an article earlier in the year stating that the defense still had to prove it against a good quarterback as all of the quarterbacks that the team played, outside of Deshaun Watson, were poor.
And if we look at the defense’s two most impressive games now, which came against the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, they are not as impressive. The Cowboys have not beaten a single winning team and scored fewer than 20 against both the Patriots and Bills.
Yes, on paper the offense looks like one of the best in the league, but when their backs are against the wall against a good team they crumble.
The Jaguars’ offense is even worse. Jacksonville has scored a combined 57 points in the last five games, which is an average of 11.4 points per game in that span.
Lattimore has excelled against elite receivers but he has also dropped the ball against average receivers, his production is just too shaky. Eli Apple has not been great, Vonn Bell is average and Marcus Williams is really the only consistent saving grace.
At their best, this Saints defense is good enough to limit, not stop, a great opposing offense. At its worst, it allows big play after big play and struggles to come up with stops when they matter.
We saw this against the Texans when Drew Brees bailed the defense out, say this against the Panthers when Joey Slye bailed the defense out and now against the 49ers, where the team had no chance to bail the defense out.
While I would not press the panic button with the New Orleans Saints defense, I definitely would not take this performance with a grain of salt.