There was a lot more juice left in the squeeze.
Yes, the New Orleans Saints were efficient enough – particularly in the second half – to grind their way to a 16-15 victory over the Titans in the season opener on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome. But offensively, the Saints weren't at peak efficiency, which is a level they'll again attempt to attain on Monday night, when they play the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
New Orleans produced one touchdown in four red zone trips against Tennessee and wound up with field goals on drives that ended at the Titans' 8- and 14-yard lines. New Orleans worked its way into first-and-10 at the 11 and first-and-10 at the 14 on those drives.
Quarterback Derek Carr said the team understands what went wrong, and how it can be rectified.
"I keep most of it in house, that we know certain things," Carr said. "I can tell you that there were things that we talked about – and I always talk about myself. There were a couple of plays there where I left points on the field, and we talked about that after the game. I think it's just getting the decision making, the timing, all those things that each position has to make. As an offense, all 11 guys have to do the right thing for a play to work.
"On defense, typically, if you have a good pass rush on someone, it can work out. So, us as an offense, I think executing at such a high level is going to take all 11 guys doing the right thing every single time, and I think that'll help us with scoring touchdowns and things like that."
The Saints were 0 for 2 in the red zone in the first half, when pass protection was a noticeable issue. With that issue sufficiently addressed in the second half, Carr, who was sacked four times in the first half, wasn't sacked in the second half and the Saints scored a touchdown on one of two red zone possessions. The red zone possession on which they didn't score a touchdown was the final drive of the game, where Carr kneeled at the 9- and 11-yard lines to close it out.
In the second half, New Orleans provided a little more pass protection help to left tackle Trevor Penning, a first-round pick last year who made his second NFL start in the season opener.
Coach Dennis Allen said the team has seen, and will continue to see, growth from Penning.
"I think just, you know, continue to see a little bit of improvement each and every week," Allen said. "Look, this is a young player that didn't play a lot last year, missed a majority of the offseason and was kind of limited in training camp. So we just want to see him continue to work and continue to get better, and he will.
"We know that as there is with any young player, you have some growing pains. But the only way that they're going to improve is to be out there working and playing and so, we're going to let him play through some of the rough patches. We drafted him for a reason and we think he's going to be a good player. Sometimes those things just take a little bit of time."