While a 7-9 record was good enough for a second place finish in the NFC South in 2014, the New Orleans Saints just weren’t the team they needed to be at the time.
After an 11-5 mark the year before, last season was an unexpected step backward for Sean Payton’s team. Fast forward to the first week of the new season, and the Saints are already feeling the blues.
In what was obviously going to be a tough road game against a Cardinals team that made the playoffs last year, New Orleans struggled to survive in a 31-19 loss.
There really weren’t any glaring statistics that caused the loss (although 7 of 18 on third down wasn’t particularly impressive), as it was Arizona that scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to seal the opening week victory.
Offensively, Drew Brees threw the ball nearly 50 times, and the Saints only had 20 carries on the ground. That’s not all that surprising given what we’ve come to expect from this offense, but balance will be important if this team wants to get back on the right track.
Carson Palmer had a big day for the Arizona offense in throwing for three touchdowns and having a relatively easy go of things, leaving many Saints fans to once again question if the defense will be good enough to get New Orleans back to the playoffs.
That’s sort of how it’s been for this franchise. The offense has the firepower, but the defense hasn’t been able to stay consistent enough to give the Saints the balance that they need.
Now though, it simply has to get better. There’s enough young weapons on this offense that New Orleans shouldn’t have a ton of trouble scoring points. Sure, the Saints only managed 19 in Week 1, but let’s remember that the Cardinals may be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The good news is that the Saints defense may be able to find a bit of momentum sooner rather than later. New Orleans hosts Tampa Bay in game number two, which likely has both the offensive and defensive units salivating after the Bucs were shellacked by the Tennessee Titans in their first game of the season.
Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston made plenty of mistakes, and you can bet that he’ll make more in what will be a rocking Superdome on Sunday.
At least on paper, the Bucs should be just what the doctor ordered for the Saints. With a difficult October slate that includes Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Indianapolis, beating Tampa will be crucial to New Orleans’ success this season.
One game doesn’t make a season, and the Saints have plenty of time to turn things around. That turnaround should start against the Bucs.
From there, the Saints will go as far as the defense will take them.