Some are beginning to wonder if the Saints, who fell to 3-2 on Sunday, are going to recapture the form they displayed on their way to winning the Super Bowl last season. They have dropped two of their last three games and their once-potent offense is averaging just 19.8 points, which is about 12 points fewer than they averaged last season.
The Cardinals beat the Saints, 30-20, on Sunday, and Arizona's only offensive touchdown came on a fumble recovery by OLT Levi Brown. Arizona scored two defensive TDs and kicked three field goals. QB Drew Brees was uncharacteristically sloppy, throwing three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and RB Ladell Betts lost a fumble, which also was returned for a touchdown.
Head coach Sean Payton said some of his team's issues are easier to "get a handle on," but he singled out the turnovers as a serious concern.
"Do I think we can play better? Yes," Payton said on Monday. "That's the thing that's encouraging; that's the thing that gets you here and started on the next plan and that's the thing that keeps you driven and motivated. We don't have to identify (the loss) as anything other than a setback. Any time you lose a game, we feel like it's disappointing but what's most important is what you do about it."
The PFW Spin
The season has taken an unexpected turn heading into Week Six, as the Saints are looking up at their next opponent, the Buccaneers, in the NFC South standings, but I agree with Payton.
It's not time to describe the Saints' situation as a crisis just yet. Panic might start to set in a bit if they lose to the Bucs, however.
The Saints have to be encouraged by the way their defense has played, and I have a hard time betting against Payton getting the offense back on track.
Injuries are part of the Saints' problem, too, particularly at running back. New Orleans was without RBs Pierre Thomas (ankle) and Reggie Bush (broken leg) and starters DE Will Smith (groin) and CB Tracy Porter (knee surgery) vs. the Cardinals, and all of them are expected to be back before too long. While Porter and Bush are going to need at least a few more weeks to recover, Smith and Thomas could play next week against Tampa Bay.
The Saints are a resilient team that's quite capable of overcoming its latest rough patch.