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Communication can help remedy protection issues that arose for New Orleans Saints

'Once we struggled to handle a look or two, we just got more of it'

The New Orleans Saints take on the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season.

Fort Worth, Texas – The things that stood out most for Coach Sean Payton in Monday's film dissection of the New Orleans Saints' 26-7 loss to Carolina on Sunday pretty much were the things he indicated as areas that concerned him immediately after.

The Saints (1-1) didn't protect well on offense (quarterback Jameis Winston was sacked four times and Carolina was credited with 11 quarterback hits), and didn't get off the field on defense (eight successful conversions in 15 third-down attempts by the Panthers).

"The No. 1 area was in protection," Payton said. "Offensively, our communication and being able to handle some of the pressure looks that we got from Carolina, there were just a number of things that we need to clean up. That would be the one thing that stood out.

"Secondly, the big pass plays, we limited fairly well and yet, we allowed a lot of run after catch. The yards receiving for Carolina after the catch was something that stood out. We didn't tackle as well in space as we had the week before.

"Offensively, there was really no rhythm there and that's something that we'll spend a lot of time on this week."

The process of improvement will take place as the Saints prepare to play New England at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Sunday. Payton said the Saints can expect to see more of Carolina's defensive formula until New Orleans proves it can handle the pressures.

"That's the way the tape is," he said. "We've got to be prepared and be able to handle some of those double A-gap walkups more efficiently and we've got to be able to handle the communication more effectively. And then, relative to our gameplan, be able to make those adjustments and understands ways in which we want to attack that."

He said a collective effort would be necessary for the cleanup project.

"It's the group in its entirety," Payton said. "It's our offensive line, it's our quarterback. It's us, also, relative to a gameplan, of having good answers vs. some of the looks we got. And quite honestly, once we struggled to handle a look or two, we just got more of it.

"We've got to have a better plan – I said that after the game – and that starts with me. We've got to have a better plan to put our guys in a better position. But it's not one group."

Negative plays plagued the Saints offensively. In addition to the sacks, five of the Saints' 11 penalties were on offense.

"If you just looked at our third downs and the distance necessary to get a first down, when you have as few a snaps as we had, there's generally one common denominator – your third downs were third-and-longer situations," Payton said. "Whether it was a minus play, whether it was a penalty.

"But the negative plays, be it through penalty or sacks or anything that's going backward, puts you in a much more challenging predicament on third down. That's the one thing, our early-down efficiency has to be better."

Early-down defense also was a problem Sunday, defensive tackle Malcolm Roach said.

"We learned we've got to be more consistent (from watching the film)," said Roach, who had an interception and two tackles in the game. "Come out there and make good plays, and then come out there and make not-so-good plays. Just got to be consistent and work toward consistency every day. Just try to win every rep and that adds up as the game goes on.

"We just, as a defensive line, I feel we didn't play consistently enough, getting them in third-and-longs and things like that. We didn't play consistent enough on first and second down. It's hard to play good defense when teams are having third-and-shorts and things like that. They're able to dictate to you now, instead of you dictating to them. We've got to do better being consistent on first and second down so we can get to those third-and-longs."

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