The New Orleans Saints didn't give themselves much of a chance.
Teams that commit five turnovers, and have one of them returned for a touchdown, simply create too much of a hill to climb, too much of an obstacle to overcome. That was the result for the Saints on Sunday in a 20-10 loss to Tampa Bay in the Saints' home opener in the Caesars Superdome, which evened New Orleans' record at 1-1 entering next Sunday's road game against Carolina.
OFFENSE: In seven of the eight quarters the Saints have played this season, the offense has struggled to find a rhythm. Throw out the 17-point fourth quarter against Atlanta, and the Saints have scored 20 points and the passing game has been out of sync. There were opportunities against Tampa Bay, especially on deep pass attempts from quarterback Jameis Winston to rookie receiver Chris Olave. But the timing was just a little off and when the two finally did connect, Olave fumbled at the end of a 51-yard reception when he lost his balance and the ball dislodged against the turf. The running game improved (102 yards on 20 carries), but Mark Ingram's lost red zone fumble in the third quarter – at the Bucs' 10-yard line, with the score tied at 3 and the Saints poised to take the lead – almost singlehandedly made any improvement an afterthought. It shouldn't need to be said, but Winston's three interceptions were backbreakers. NFL quarterbacks who turn over the football that much don't give their teams much of a chance to win.
DEFENSE: New Orleans played good enough on defense to win. Period. Thirteen points allowed – three of them off a short-field field goal following an interception – and 72 rushing yards surrendered on 30 carries is plenty good enough. Overall, the Saints gave up 260 yards, stopped the Buccaneers 12 times on 17 third-down attempts (including a couple of third-and-1 stops), recovered a fumble and held Tom Brady to 190 passing yards and a touchdown on 18-for-34 passing. New Orleans' defense isn't a fluke, especially against Tampa Bay. Brady was able to find Breshad Perriman for a 28-yard touchdown, but New Orleans' defense was just as formidable Sunday as it has been against the Bucs since Brady joined the team in 2020. Big, big improvement for the unit from Week 1 against Atlanta.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Given the ebb and flow of the game, it's not much of a shock that kicker Wil Lutz didn't line up for that 57-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter that might have given New Orleans a 6-3 lead. Obviously, Lutz could've made it. But if he'd missed or if the attempt had been blocked – lower trajectory is required on longer field goal attempts – the Bucs would've taken over possession with a short field and been in position to score at the end of the half, and then receive the kickoff to open the second half. So, probably not as big a deal as it may have appeared to be. Not much hopped off the page for the units but if the offense continues to sputter, special teams may need to generate a little more in terms of field position and, possibly, a touchdown.
New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 2 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.