Undeniably, there were coverage lapses in the secondary on Sunday for the New Orleans Saints.
That much is evident by the sheer volume of numbers that Tampa Bay was able to accumulate in a 48-40 victory over the Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Those include 417 passing yards and four touchdowns on 21 completions in 28 attempts by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who wasn't sacked once, and seven completions of at least 20 yards – five of which gained at least 35 yards.
But Saints Coach Sean Payton said on Monday's teleconference that coverage busts actually weren't the main culprit.
"There weren't as many breakdowns," said Payton, who also credited Fitzpatrick for his precision and execution. "There weren't as many communication or coverage busts as there were technique, (lack of) pressure. I felt like we took a lot of snaps there defensively and I felt like, as the game wore on, our pass rush deteriorated and I felt like that really put stress on the back end, too.
"Overall, our pad level was high. The early run defense, we struggled. There's a lot we have to clean up today. But I don't feel like we dropped coverage in regards to an assignment as much as our technique needs to improve. That would be the starting point."
Payton said early in the season is where large strides in improvement can be made.
"I believe that to be true," he said. "Now, if that's to happen, then today has got to be a day where we're willing to shoulder and not deflect. That's me as the head coach, and everyone in that room.
"What I mean by that is accept I've got to do this better, I've got to find a way to improve this, rather than try to deflect. I think the mood from everyone (in the locker room) is disappointment. They know it's going to be a tough film and yet, this turnaround is going to be quick and we're going to have to get ready to play better next week."
SMOOTH RUNNING KAMARA: Running back Alvin Kamara responded to a higher-than-usual usage rate with one of his most productive games. Kamara had a career-high 112 receiving yards and a touchdown on nine catches, and tied a career high with two rushing touchdowns on eight carries (for 29 yards).
"I think he had 50, 51 (snaps), probably up 10 from his normal average," Payton said. "He's somewhere in that 40 count. I felt like he's in excellent shape, I thought he played exceptionally well yesterday and yet, it turned into one of those space, matchup games where we were throwing it more than we would like."
That, in itself, wasn't in the script that the Saints wanted to follow. New Orleans had 45 pass attempts (Drew Brees also was sacked once) and 13 rushing attempts.
"I hate when a game becomes one-dimensional," Payton said. "We've just experienced that too often and it becomes more of a 50-50 proposition. I wouldn't say that game unfolded the way we would have liked."
THE EYE IN THE SKY DON'T LIE: Payton, assessing the defense: "We struggled in coverage, our technique wasn't great. One of the goals in this game was to limit the explosives. We didn't do that. There weren't a lot of positives. Today is a tough day in our league, obviously, after a loss like that. But we've got to make a number of corrections. It wasn't a good tape. It wasn't good film."