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Monday, December 16, 2013
Upon Further Review: Saints Week 15

By Mike Triplett

ST. LOUIS -- An examination of four hot issues from the New Orleans Saints27-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome.

Playoff scenarios: As bad as the Saints’ loss was at St. Louis, they can quickly make up for it with a win Sunday at Carolina. If the Saints (10-4) beat the Panthers (10-4), they would clinch the NFC’s No. 2 seed. But if the Saints lose, they’ll need a win and a Panthers loss in Week 17 to claim that No. 2 seed. And while we’re looking at worst-case scenarios, the Saints still haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet. They need to win one more game or hope for some losses by other teams.

Brown
Jobs in jeopardy: Two starters are on shaky ground after their performances Sunday. Left tackle Charles Brown was pulled during the third quarter after coach Sean Payton said he “saw enough” of Brown struggling against pass-rusher Robert Quinn. It will be interesting to see if Payton puts Brown back in the starting lineup against Carolina -- a team Brown played well against in Week 14.

Meanwhile, kicker Garrett Hartley’s job could also be in jeopardy after he missed two field goal attempts (one of which was blocked). Payton mentioned the field goals first when listing the areas that bothered him after the game Sunday. And the Saints brought in a handful of kickers for tryouts last month when Hartley was struggling. Could this have been the last straw?

Road woes: Payton and quarterback Drew Brees finally admitted that their road performances have become a serious problem. Previously, the Saints had bristled at questions about their road record. My take is that they were obviously aware of their road issues but always confident they could fix them. Sunday, I think they were genuinely shocked at how poorly they played and how flat they were in a lackluster atmosphere at St. Louis.

“No one in here is blind or ignorant that we have not played as well on the road,” offensive tackle Zach Strief said. “When you get interviewed in this league, you don’t send out panic. That doesn’t mean that when we’re together and our doors are closed that we’re not looking at ourselves in the mirror and saying, ‘What’s going on?’ ... The fact of the matter is that there’s no time for figuring anything out right now. It’s you figure it out now or you go home.”

What went wrong: I’ll break down the specifics in my film studies this week, but it was pretty obvious that there were four problem areas that doomed the Saints: 1. Turnovers (Brees’ first interception and his fumble were due to pressure from Quinn, but the second interception was a poor decision). 2. Pass protection. 3. Missed tackles (more than we’ve seen all year, especially early; safety Malcolm Jenkins, cornerback Corey White and linebacker Parys Haralson missed three bad ones on long touchdown plays). 4. Missed field goals.