Coach Dennis Allen is keenly aware that New Orleans Saints fans are frustrated, with the team 5-6 and on a two-game losing streak entering Sunday's game against the Lions in the Caesars Superdome.
The Saints have a matching overall record to Atlanta in the NFC South Division, but the Falcons nudged into first place by virtue of their 24-15 victory over New Orleans on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
In the last two games, the Saints have seen run defense leakage peak (353 rushing yards and three touchdowns allowed) and against Atlanta, red zone inefficiency struck bottom (0 for 5, including two turnovers inside the 10-yard line, one of them returned 92 yards for a touchdown)
"I think it is critically urgent," Allen said of the mood inside the facility. "I think the message to the team was, that's unacceptable. We've got to be better.
"Just because we stand up here and we're able to talk in a tone and in a way that doesn't necessarily say that, we understand the sense of urgency and I can certainly appreciate the fans' urgency. And I can assure you that the people inside the building feel the same sense of urgency."
Relieving some of the urgency won't be easy, since Detroit's offensive strength appears to mirror New Orleans' defensive problem.
The Lions rush for 136.9 yards per game, sixth-most in the league, while the Saints allow 124 rushing yards per game, 10th most in the NFL, and have given up 169.7 per game over the last three games.
On Atlanta's final offensive possessions before the game-ending kneel down – a 95-yard touchdown drive and 54-yard drive that produced a field goal – the Falcons ran for 81 yards on 14 carries.
"I don't think the run defense was as good as it needed to be," Allen said. "I thought it was decent early on. Really, the thing that was disappointing to me defensively was really the last two drives. We basically had given up seven points on defense, and then we gave up 10 points in the last two drives. So our inability to finish the game defensively was frustrating to me."
On offense, New Orleans totaled 444 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per play, but quarterback Derek Carr's interception was returned for a touchdown for, at worst, a 10-point swing, and Taysom Hill's fumble was recovered at the 5 to take at least another three points off the board, and possibly seven. The Falcons manufactured their 95-yard touchdown drive after the fumble recovery.
"I thought we did a lot of really good things offensively, being able to move the ball," Allen said. "In between the 20s we moved the ball pretty well. It was really once we got into the 25-, 20-yard line where we made some mistakes that either put us behind the chain, or we turned the ball over down there. That was frustrating.
"I knew that this (Atlanta) was going to try to run the ball, I knew this was a team that was able to run the ball effectively. And we allowed the game to be one of those games where they were able to run it (41) times. When you allow a team that wants to run the ball, and they're good at running the ball, and you give them 40 opportunities, it begins to wear on you.
"I would have liked for us to have been able to capitalize on…we turned the ball over down there on the 5-yard line, I'd like for us to think that we could stop them down there, change the field position, give our offense another chance."
Ultimately, Allen said, the game again came down to the Saints failing to take advantage of their opportunities.
"We had seven drives that we got into scoring position, and we weren't able to capitalize for a multitude of different reasons," he said. "Three penalties hurt us – two holding calls and an offensive pass interference. And then we had two turnovers down there, and we had a missed opportunity to (Rashid) Shaheed down there on the goal line on the second drive of the game.
"That's been an issue for us, we haven't been able to get that corrected, it's going to continue to be a focus of ours because as I look at that game, I think if we're able to capitalize on a few of those opportunities, I think the game plays out differently."
RECEIVER ATTRITION: The Saints entered the game a little light at receiver, with link-placeholder-0 having been placed on injured reserve last week. The depth took a major blow during the game, when Shaheed (quad) and Chris Olave (concussion) both left the game early. Defensive end Cam Jordan (ankle) also left the game in the waning minutes and did not return.
Allen said the Saints hadn't yett discussed pursing a remedy outside the building, but that, "I think the answers that we're going to be looking for are inside the building."
The Saints finished with A.T. Perry, Keith Kirkwood and Lynn Bowden Jr. available as receivers. Allen said tight end Jimmy Graham, who has been inactive the last four games, could help provide relief. Graham has one catch – an 8-yard touchdown against Green Bay – in seven games this season.
"Could he potentially help us in certain situations, maybe down in there in the red area? I think that's something we've got to explore," Allen said.