Each unit has done its job well in spots, but it hasn't often done it often enough and at the same times for the New Orleans Saints.
After nine games, the Saints – 3-6 entering Sunday's game against the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh – still are seeking the consistency that possibly can smooth out their season, which finds them just one game out of first place in the NFC South Division behind Atlanta and Tampa Bay.
"I just think more consistency is what we're looking for," Coach Dennis Allen said Tuesday, the day after New Orleans' 27-13 loss to Baltimore on Monday night in the Caesars Superdome. "We haven't done it consistently enough where we've put offense, defense, special teams together and we've had too many games where there has been a phase or two that hasn't operated in a way that we think gives us an opportunity to win.
"I think that's the biggest thing, just team consistency and putting all three phases together for a full 60 minutes."
New Orleans managed that in its previous game, a 24-0 victory over the Raiders. But against the Ravens, the offense managed just 243 yards and converted only 3 of 11 third-down attempts, and the defense allowed just 319 yards, but 188 of them were rushing yards (after giving up 38 rushing yards to the Raiders), and Baltimore converted 9 of 15 third-down attempts while gobbling up 37:47 in time of possession.
"We talked a lot about third down being a big factor in the game, and really they had nine conversions on third down, six of which were third-and-1 to 2," Allen said. "Just our ability to get guys into longer yardage situations. The two plays that hurt, I think they had two third-and-7, third-and-8 conversions. Those are the ones that we really needed to eliminate."
Each of those conversions – in the first and second quarters, respectively – kept alive drives that led to touchdowns for Baltimore.
The Saints also were struck by some critical injuries on offense and defense, arguably the most prominent being center Erik McCoy (calf) and linebacker Pete Werner (ankle).
McCoy's injury prompted Cesar Ruiz to move from right guard to center, with Calvin Throckmorton sliding in to play right guard. Ruiz made the same move last year, when McCoy was injured in the season opener.
"I thought he did a pretty good job overall," Allen said. "That's not an easy thing to do, to go from working all week at guard and then moving to center in the middle of the game. But he's done that before. I thought he handled that transition just fine."
Kaden Elliss stepped in for Werner, who entered the game with a league-leading 53 solo tackles (74 total) and two forced fumbles, with three passes defended.
"I thought there were some good things that he did in the game," Allen said of Elliss, who finished with a sack, a quarterback hit and five tackles. "I also felt like there were some things that he needs to do better at. He knows the things that he's got to improve on and that'll be something that we'll have to do moving forward, and start getting him some more reps at Will (linebacker)."
LATT UPDATE: Allen said that cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has missed the last four games with an abdominal injury suffered against Seattle, is moving closer to a return.
"We'll monitor him throughout the week," Allen said. "He's picked up the intensity of his workouts in terms of the rehab process. I'm hopeful that we'll get him back sooner than later. It's a tough injury to come back from and he's working hard to get back.
"It's a painful injury to come back from and he's working through it. I think he's getting closer. When he's healthy enough and able to go out and do his job the way he's capable of doing it, he'll be back out there."
ROSTER MOVES: The Saints waived guard Wyatt Davis and terminated the practice squad contracts of running back Jake Funk and quarterback Brett Hundley.
New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 9 game against the Baltimore Ravens.