OFFENSE: Too much meat left on the bone. Five trips to the red zone against the Minnesota Vikings resulted in four field goals and a touchdown, and that's just not good enough against a good team on the road. The New Orleans Saints will stew over this offensive performance because of the lack of execution on drives that reached first-and-10 from the Vikings' 20, first-and-goal from the 9, first-and-goal from the 8 and first-and-goal from the 10. That's not the Saints offense that we're accustomed to seeing, and it's not one that we'll consistently see throughout the season. But it's the one that was on the field against Minnesota at U.S. Bank Stadium, and the one that has to be cleaned up by Sunday. The offensive line struggled against a formidable Vikings front seven, and it didn't help that right tackle Zach Striefleft the game with a knee injury. Sixty rushing yards, on 21 attempts, also are numbers that have to be improved. There's a lot of work to be done before New England steps into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
DEFENSE: Actually, the Saints started off well defensively. But they crumbled under a hailstorm of breakdowns, and soon the Vikings began to have their way. Quarterback Sam Bradford(27 of 32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns) and running back Dalvin Cook(22 carries for 127 yards) led the way, as the Saints saw some of the same issues that plagued them last season rear their heads again. They weren't efficient on third-down stops (Minnesota converted nine of 14 attempts) and, in particular, they gave up several when the down-and-distance was favorable. They didn't apply enough pressure up front – defensive end Cam Jordanhad a sack, two quarterback hits, a tackle for loss and a pass defended, but he didn't get nearly enough help. And the secondary didn't hold up, partly due to the lack of up-front pressure and partly due to not making plays on the ball when the opportunities were there. Bradford completed 11 of 12 passes in the second quarter; that can't happen.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Thomas Morstead(three punts for a 57-yard gross, 53.3-yard net) was his usual brilliant self, kicker Wil Lutzmade all four field-goal attempts and the snap-hold-kick operation was smooth even though long snapper Zach Woodwas signed less than a week ago. Also, rookie running back Trey Edmundsdisplayed one of the reasons he made the 53-man roster, with a couple of tackles on kickoff returns (he packs a wallop). The Saints will want to address the kick coverages when Edmunds didn't produce (the Vikings averaged 27 yards on four kick returns), but Morstead's punts were fabulous and the coverage was there (5.5-yard average on two returns). And the Saints will want to work on their own return teams, too; Ted Ginn Jr. Jr.didn't gain a yard on his lone punt return, and Edmunds and Alvin Kamarareturned two kickoffs for a 24-yard average.