The New Orleans Saints ended the season just like it began – with questions about players, coaches, and front office personnel.
Although New Orleans (9-8) beat archrival Atlanta (7-10) handily 48-17 on Sunday, the Saints dug too deep of a hole to clinch the division outright. Needing help from other teams across the NFC, the cards did not fall in the favor of the Saints, and for the third season in a row, the team will be home when the playoffs begin later this month.
The final game
Even though stagnancy haunted New Orleans in the first half as it had throughout much of the season, they found a way to control the clock and head into the locker room with the score tied at 17-17. The Falcons had two first quarter touchdown passes from Desmond Ridder to Jonnu Smith and Bijan Robinson paired with a field goal. The Saints had a passing touchdown from Derek Carr to A.T. Perry and a rushing touchdown from Kendre Miller paired with a field goal.
After halftime, New Orleans scored 31 unanswered points while forcing three turnovers, making for the team’s most impressive half of the season. It was also the most impressive performance of the season for Carr, who finished 22 of 28 passing for 264 yards with four touchdowns. Both running backs – Miller and Jamaal Williams – had second-half scores while three different receivers also found the end zone – Rashid Shaheed, Chris Olave, and Perry.
On the defensive side of the ball, the turnovers included interceptions by Tyrann Mathieu and Alontae Taylor. A third-quarter shotgun fumble was recovered by Payton Turner. The unit also accounted for four tackles for loss and a sack.
Looking back at the season
Despite having a strong preseason and winning the first two games of the season, New Orleans went cold and there are multiple parties to blame. Losing seven of the next 10, the Saints had to get it together at the end of the year to even keep their playoff hopes alive and they did. It just wasn’t enough.
Sunday’s victory over the Falcons made for four wins in the last five games, but with Tampa Bay beating the Panthers and holding the tiebreaker, New Orleans needed Arizona to beat Seattle and Chicago to beat Green Bay. They got neither.
Throughout the year, the defense had its hiccups but was overall more consistent than the offense, which struggled with an identity crisis week in and week out. Whether it was play calling from the sidelines or Derek Carr having multiple outbursts with his teammates, the offense never found any consistency.
Here’s the full play and heated argument between Derek Carr and Erik McCoy after the sack in the Saints win over the Panthers. James Hurst was trying to calm McCoy down as they went to the sideline. @wdsu pic.twitter.com/SnoZ23zBdz
— Sharief Ishaq (@ShariefWDSU) December 11, 2023
Derek Carr is not happy with Chris Olave pic.twitter.com/eRbMu4OZFO
— Bussin’ With The Boys (@BussinWTB) October 20, 2023
Even though Carr finished the year with nearly 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, was $150 million worth the tension that has seemingly built up?
Injuries, arrests, and suspensions didn’t help, but with the easiest schedule in the NFL, no excuses hold much weight. The Saints only played against five teams all season that will be part of the playoffs.
Is Dennis Allen safe?
Coming off his first winning season as an NFL head coach, Dennis Allen may have saved his job in the last five games of the season. Per multiple sources, Allen went into Sunday’s game with the front office already informing him that he will be back for the 2024-25 season.
In his first season in the Big Easy, Allen’s squad went 7-10. This year’s 9-8 record is an improvement on paper but could be overvalued due to a weak schedule. Nonetheless, if Allen is back next season, expect some new assistants on the sidelines. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael has seemingly been on the hot seat all season, but the wins at the end may have calmed that down temporarily.
Will stars return?
As of now, no Saints players have come out and said they are looking for a new home. But don’t be surprised if that is the case. Michael Thomas is already being rumored as a trade piece with the Saints having few picks in the upcoming draft. Sources say tight end Jimmy Graham is also mulling retirement.
As for the veterans, defensive end Cameron Jordan and linebacker Demario Davis may demand a trade if schemes on both sides of the ball don’t change. Kamara, who is in the last year of his contract, publicly complained about the coaching staff’s preparation and how they don’t adapt to opponents.
“I think that’s how we’re all used to playing. Matchup ball,” Kamara said on Oct. 20. “It’s tough cause sometimes I feel like we’re not playing matchup ball. We’re just playing.”
If there is a silver lining, the Saints have the ability to maintain one of the most talented rosters in the league with 12 guys who have made the Pro Bowl either this year or in years past. Rookie play was also an upside with Miller, Perry, defensive lineman Bryan Bresee, defensive back Jordan Howden, and kicker Blake Grupe all having good seasons.
What does the front office need to do?
Even though general manager Mickey Loomis reached 200 career wins this season, Saints fans are tired of missing the playoffs and praying for another Drew Brees to swoop in. Can Carr turn the corner and end the team’s playoff drought?
While the 2010 Super Bowl sometimes feels like it was just yesterday, it also sometimes feels like it was a century ago. To make it back to the big game, changes are going to have to be made – especially with the salary cap once again looming. Somehow someway, the organization is going to have to make smart trades and smart coaching changes. If that doesn’t happen, don’t be too sure of how long Loomis is kept around as the feeling of mediocrity will continue.
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