ZERO DISCIPLINE: Do Saints Defensive Struggles Show They’re Not Super Bowl Faves?

Green Bay Packers on Twitter (Original by Brett Duke)

Sloppy. Undisciplined. Haphazard. Inconsistent. Confused. Discombobulated.

There are a handful of different terms that are appropriate this morning to describe the performance by the New Orleans Saints starting defensive backs in their loss to the NFC rivals the Green Bay Packers last night, and none of them are very complimentary.

That’s because for a 2nd straight week, the team’s defensive secondary put forth a sub-par effort that’s been responsible for the team’s unimpressive and somewhat embarrassing performance in their past two games — which suddenly has now left the Black and Gold with a (1-2) losing record 3 weeks into the new 2020 NFL Season — and is causing concern the team might not be one of the Super Bowl favorites this year that many Who Dat fans hoped they would be.

Clearly with a whole 13 games still left to play on their Regular Season schedule, it’s probably too early for Saints head coach Sean Payton and his defensive coaching staff led by coordinator Dennis Allen, to press the proverbial “panic button” just yet.

But following the team’s 37-30 loss that saw the defensive backfield get ‘torched’ by Packers 3rd year undrafted wide receiver Allen Lazard time and time again, it’s become evident that New Orleans has a lot bigger problems to worry about moving forward than 20th year veteran starting QB Drew Brees — whose solid performance last night alleviated most of the concerns that had been surrounding his performance thus far —  after the team’s lackluster performance the prior week before at Las Vegas.

Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders on — Original by Isaac Brekken

The Saints continued their disturbing trend of committing the most penalties among any of the 32 teams in the entire League, mostly by the Saints DB’s for defensive holding, illegal contact. or blatant pass interference.

Last night they committed a total of eight penalties for 83 yards (including a couple by Saints #2 CB Janoris Jenkins), increasing their lead as the NFL’s most-penalized team yardage wise to 24 total penalties for 331 yards, most of them by the Saints defensive backs who have clearly struggled with covering receivers and tight ends specifically.

As it was, the turning point or key moment in the contest actually came for the Black and Gold midway through the 4th Quarter on the offensive side of the ball, when Saints back-up QB and offensive weapon / “jack-of-all-trades” Taysom Hill fumbled the ball on a big-time hit by Packers defensive end / linebacker Za’Darius Smith.

But yet it was clearly the Saints secondary and its obvious lack of discipline among several key starters, that was the biggest reason for the disappointing end result that now currently leaves New Orleans one game behind the (2-1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South Division.

The Saints got burned badly on two deep passes from Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers to the former Iowa State University star Lazard (on two deep throws that went for 48 and 72 yards respectively), who got the start for Green Bay last night with Packers Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams held out because of a hamstring injury.

The first time came when Lazard victimized Saints All-Pro Marshon Lattimore on a catch-and-run early in the 2nd Quarter that went for 48 yards before Lattimore was able to catch him from behind near the goal line.

But the biggest play by Lazard came very early in the 3rd Quarter on a key 3rd-Down-and-10 play just three plays into the 2nd Half, when the 24-year old Des Moines, Iowa native essentially eviscerated Saints veteran CB PJ Williams in coverage that went for 72 yards from scrimmage before Williams was able to catch him from behind near the goal line.

Lazard finished the night with 6 catches for 148 receiving yards and a TD, and his performance was the 2nd week in a row that the Saints had difficulty covering an opponent’s best pass-catcher, after they struggled mightily last week in covering Las Vegas Raiders Pro Bowl TE Darren Waller.

As it was noted by ESPN beat writer Mike Triplett, New Orleans had given up only two passes of more than 30 yards all season before last night, in a less-than-stellar effort that left both Saints players and coaches alike in a state of bewilderment — as the team tries to find ways to get these suddenly worrisome issues addressed (and hopefully fixed) rather quickly — with a road trip to face the Detroit Lions next week looming ahead on their upcoming schedule.

“Talent really doesn’t get you much in this league on paper, especially when you’re as undisciplined as we’ve been playing, mainly on defense,” veteran 12th year starting safety Malcolm Jenkins said to reporters in a Zoom teleconference interview with reporters after the game.

“Whether it’s been penalties, assignments here or there. … It’s early in the season, and those are things we can correct, but we gotta do it if we want to be the team we set out to be.”

“For me personally, I feel like that was what I was brought here to do. So up to this point, I feel like I’ve been failing in that regard. But I think it’s definitely something, between myself and other team leaders on defense, [we] can get fixed.”

Jenkins’ observation was backed up wholeheartedly by Payton, who noted that the team’s lack of discipline especially in the defensive secondary, will be a focus for them starting with the film review of last night’s performance later on this morning.

“It’s been a while since we felt that, but three years ago, we were 0-2. A little bit of a gut check, and yet we aren’t playing well enough. Let’s not fool ourselves,” Payton said. “We’re making too many mistakes. We aren’t playing disciplined enough on both sides of the ball. That’s really just the truth.

“You’re frustrated as a coach because that starts with us. We have to do a better job. We have to get ready to play a better game against Detroit [on the road next week].”

Even the Saints’ biggest star from last night’s game, Saints All-Pro RB Alvin Kamara — who had 197 yards from scrimmage and two TD catches — agreed that the Black and Gold has plenty of issues that need to be addressed moving forward, particularly the lack of discipline on the defensive side of the ball that this morning that has left the Who Dat Nation in a complete uproar.

“I think we just gotta find more,” Kamara said. “We gotta find more on offense, we gotta find more on defense, we gotta find more on special teams. We all gotta do more. We gotta correct the mistakes.”

“It’s little things killing us — penalties, some of the same stuff that went on last week. We just gotta play smarter. We gotta play better.”

Kamara isn’t kidding. and while last night’s overall performance by him, Brees, and the Saints offense was very encouraging following last week’s uneven effort at Las Vegas. there isn’t nearly as much enthusiasm this morning over the play of the Saints defensive secondary.

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on

Certainly coordinator Dennis Allen and DB / secondary coach Aaron Glenn have plenty to get corrected this week as they prepare for the Lions, especially the poor performances in back-to-back games that has led many to now question the Saints’ viability of being one of the teams who should be favored to contend for a trip to Super Bowl LV (55) in Tampa, FL  in February.

Three games into their 2020 NFL Season, the New Orleans Saints and their defensive secondary in particular, have absolutely ZERO DISCIPLINE — and it could possibly be an indication that shows the Black and Gold just might not be the Super Bowl favorites, that fans hoped they would be….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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