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John DeShazier: Far too many penalties for Coach Sean Payton's liking

Saints commit 10 for 115 yards in loss to Bucs

The laundry list of corrections highlighted that needed to be made was significant after Sunday's 26-19 loss to Tampa Bay at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, dropping New Orleans to 0-2 entering Sunday's game against Carolina in Charlotte, N.C.

"There's some obvious things from that game that are hurting our chances in winning a football game," Coach Sean Payton said Monday. "The turnover statistic, we thought would be important and we were able to create a couple defensively and that was encouraging, and yet we had two fumbles, an interception.

"The penalties, we have to get that cleaned up. There's way too may hidden yards in that end of the spectrum. We had 12 total called on us, not 12 accepted – seven defensively, four offensively, one in the kicking game. We really just weren't able to take advantage of some of the opportunities we got from our defense.

"I thought we lost the battle in the kicking game with (71) yards of returns given up, and (23) for us, particularly right at the end of the half (when the Saints allowed a 37-yard kickoff return following a touchdown, which led to Tampa Bay's touchdown before halftime). There are a number of things we've got to work on cleaning up, and there's a sense of urgency to get those things corrected or we'll have the same type of result."

Chief among the concerns, though, was the penalties.

The Saints were not a highly penalized team last season. Its total of 80 (five per game) made New Orleans the second-least penalized team in the league in 2014. But a trend that began in preseason (45 in four preseason games), so far, has carried over to the regular season, where the Saints have committed 17 penalties in two games, including 10 (for 115 yards) against Tampa Bay.

The Saints currently are tied for 10th in penalties committed, and it's a category that Payton said is very troubling.

"The penalty number bothers me because, is it being called in a fashion that's a little different?" he said. "I thought looking at the film – it's one of the better (officiating) crews we get each season – so when I go back and watch the tape…I didn't see a lot of calls where all of a sudden I'm on the phone with the league office wondering what just happened.

"I think it's us focusing on ... the penalty, to some degree, is a mental error. It's a decision to do something either by being out of position, or maybe it's pre-snap. That's troubling, just jumping offside at home. Those things, we've got to clean up quickly.

"If I were looking at a number of calls that I looked at and thought, 'Man, I can't believe they're calling that.' But I'm looking at calls that I understand what they're seeing.

"Some of the penalties that were called in that game are troubling, that have to be corrected."

Defensively, the Saints made strides from Game 1 to 2. After allowing 427 yards, not producing a sack and watching Arizona convert on all three red zone opportunities, New Orleans held Tampa Bay to 333 yards, sacked Jameis Winston three times, kept the Buccaneers out of the end zone three times in five red zone chances and forced two turnovers.

"There are things we could have done better," defensive end Akiem Hicks said. "With the position that we were in, we did our best to maintain that position and move forward.

"Toward the end of the game there were some things that didn't fall our way, some things that did. We just look to, next game, capitalize on things that fall our way."

Center Max Unger said the team won't linger on its start. Last year, his Seattle Seahawks started 3-3 before winning nine of their last 10 en route to the playoffs and a berth in the Super Bowl.

"People make the big deal about your record early on, (but) there's a lot of football to be played, we can turn this ship around pretty quickly," Unger said. "We've just got to get back to what we've done well historically in this program. We've just got to be better at winning the close games.

"People are going to say a lot of things and you have to be ready for that, that's what happens when you don't start very well in the season. You have to be ready to handle that criticism, take it in stride and move on and kind of go back to work."

Photos from the New Orleans Saints vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)

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