"We weren't real sharp and we got what we deserved."
It wasn't "Sugarcoat Monday" for New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, who wasn't inclined to delve into any romanticism regarding Sunday's 26-9 loss to Atlanta in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which ended New Orleans' winning streak at six games.
The Saints (7-2) next play Tampa Bay (3-6) on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. But before moving on, there was the addressing of New Orleans' shortcomings against the Falcons, who entered the game on a six-game losing streak and proceeded to outplay the Saints in every phase.
"Both teams had a drive and a field goal (on their respective opening drives)," Payton said. "I think this was first quarter through fourth quarter. It's a low-scoring game at halftime, we've been on the field a lot defensively, offensively we had trouble staying on the field. Despite maybe not playing our best football, we're still in a position to win a football game, and we weren't able to.
"I think – and I said this – Atlanta deserved to win that game. They were ready to play, they outplayed us, outcoached us and the tape shows it. It's that simple."
The Saints struggled with penalties (12, for 90 yards) and protection (Drew Brees was sacked six times, the most times he'd been sacked since Carolina got to him six times on Dec. 22, 2013). And the team wasn't efficient in terms of stopping or converting third downs; Atlanta was 6 of 15, New Orleans was 3 of 12.
"I didn't think we played well up front on either side of the ball," Payton said. "The third-down statistic tells you everything. And then, there's an additional three third downs that they're going to convert because of penalties. Factor all those in and one side of the ball is going to have the high 70s snap count and the other side, before we got into our hurry-up, we were in the 40s."
Payton also was displeased with what he saw of the Saints' run defense, which entered the game allowing 84.3 yards per game, and surrendered 143 to Atlanta, including 67 in the first quarter.
"They did a good job with their tempo," he said. "They were a little bit more of a hurry-up. I thought we did a poor job of setting the edge. There were two or three runs that just went right around our support, whether that was in the secondary, whether that was linebacker or in the front. There were too many runs that went uncontested to five, 10 yards into our defense."
It made for a Monday film session that was less appetizing than the previous six.
"We've got to be able to get something out of today, relative to the details, the things that we're wanting to correct," Payton said. "Shame on us if we can't.
"That's the reality of Monday. You come in here – it's not gonna taste good going down, but it's gonna go down. And tomorrow, the focus shifts immediately to Tampa Bay and it will for me as well. But right now we've got to clean up some of these things, or else it'll just repeat itself at some point."
Payton said he expected the Saints to lean on experience to rebound.
"I think we've got good leadership here. I think these guys understand the process," he said. "They understand the importance of the work week relative to how you win in this league.
"They've been in big moments, they've experienced postseason play and they recognize the importance of winning in the regular season. So you lean on your leadership. These guys will work on getting it corrected, coaches as well. We've got to be better. And you focus on the next challenge."