Saints Need Second Half Surge

Now is not the time to lose faith.

This was supposed to be the year the New Orleans Saints returned to their winning ways. The team missed the postseason the past two years, after posting a 9-8 record in 2021 and sliding to 7-10 last year under first-year Head Coach Dennis Allen. But with a new quarterback, the emergence of a trio of downfield receiving threats, and Alvin Kamara and one of the NFL’s best defenses returning in a season with a wide-open NFC South, it looked like the Saints could reclaim the division they won four straight years from 2017-2020.

After wins in the first two weeks, things looked great. After the next two — a collapse in Green Bay and being keel-hauled by Tampa — there was finger-pointing and many calling for Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael to lose his play-calling duties, if not his job.

Now two months into the season, the Saints are looking for consistency -— positive consistency wherever they can find it.

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With Drew Brees at quarterback, Saints fans grew accustomed to lighting up the scoreboard. In his 15 years leading the team, the Saints averaged 28.1 points per game. Last year, with a revolving door at QB, New Orleans averaged almost 10 points a game fewer (19.4). Even though the Saints defense was ninth in the NFL in average points allowed, they gave up an average of 20.3 points per game.

New Orleans signed veteran signal caller Derek Carr to a four-year, $150 million deal to bring some stability under center. While the Saints D has kept teams from putting up big points this season, the offense hasn’t been able to sustain the long, clock-eating drives needed to give the team’s defenders rest, nor has it manufactured the points needed to top the opposition. But with more than half the season to go, there is still a lot of football to be played.

It takes faith to be a Saints fan, and there is still hope that with nine of the 17 games remaining the team’s offense can continue to become well-adjusted to each other’s tendencies and expectations and become a prolific unit.

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While Carr suffered a sprain to the AC joint in his throwing shoulder early in the season — which may have impacted his performance in subsequent games — it should be less aggravated as the season continues. Hopefully, that means he can start targeting wide receivers Michael Thomas, Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed, as well as tight ends Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau and Jimmy Graham on big passing plays.

After sitting out the first three games due to suspension, Kamara, a five-time Pro Bowler, should be able to get into form and should be rejoined by Jamaal Williams, who led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns last year but has been limited by a hamstring injury, and rookie Kendre Miller, the team’s third-round draft pick out of TCU, who rushed for 1,399 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2022 .

Looking at the remainder of the season, the Saints have four of their six games against NFC South rivals remaining. The next game against the Bucs — which could decide the division — will be played in Tampa on New Year’s Eve. A lot can happen for each team between now and then. Carolina has not had a great start as QB Bryce Young, the top overall pick in this year’s draft, is going through a steep learning curve. They have to come to New Orleans on Dec. 10. Atlanta’s QB Desmond Ridder hasn’t been exceptional, and their defense is vulnerable.

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This month starts with games against Chicago (home) and Minnesota (road), and a bye week to rest and game plan for a road game at Atlanta the Sunday after Thanksgiving. In December, they play three home games — Lions, Panthers, Giants — before hitting the road to play the Rams on Thursday Night Football and, with nine days rest, the Bucs. They’ll close the regular season against the Dirty Birds on Jan. 7.

Because of the potential on this roster and belief in the team, the start of 2023 season was frustrating for the Who Dat? Nation, but there is time for the Saints to turn things around. The team, likely, will not go undefeated in the last half of the season, but — barring injury up and down the roster — they should win most of their remaining games.

Playoffs? You talking about playoffs?

Yes, Jim Mora. There is still a strong possibility. Have a little faith.


Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football.

 

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