Just when New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton and his staff believe an area of concern has been addressed and corrected based on what they see on the field, some of those concerns resurface anew.
That repetitiveness reared its head Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, when the Saints failed in an opportunity to climb above .500 via a 34-28 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak by the Saints (4-5), ended a six-game losing streak by the Titans (2-6) and had Payton on Monday looking at least as closely, if not more, at the effectiveness of the teaching as he was at the capabilities of the students.
"One thing you see on the tape is, you preach details and in each phase, there's elements where the little things come up and hurt us," he said. "We felt like we had a little bit of early momentum that we weren't able to capitalize on, those guys hung in there and all of a sudden, it became one of those long games. And we didn't play well enough.
"Some (mistakes) were maybe new to this game, and others were ones that weren't necessarily new.
"There are some things where we look at the tape – it's a lot like your children. If the behavior continues, you're either allowing it or aren't making the corrections. If the child is noisy at the grocery store five weeks in a row, at some point I look at the parent, I don't look at the child."
The parents and children equally were displeased with Sunday's result.
The Saints committed eight penalties, following consecutive weeks of 12 in victories over the Giants and Colts. And in a trend that has been present more often than not, several of the infractions were committed by members of the secondary. Cornerback Brandon Browner has a league-high 15 accepted penalties.
"We're talking about the fundamentals of understanding," Payton said. "There's times, within the framework of what you do and the ways it's being officiated now, you're going to have a call or two. But it's technique, it's alignment, it's all the details. Like I said last week, it's a challenge for all those guys in coverage. It's not just one player or two players.
"We want to reduce penalties on the back end. That's something that we'll do."
For the second consecutive week, returner Marcus Murphy fumbled a punt; teammate Willie Snead recovered for the Saints against the Giants, but Titans linebacker Steven Johnson recovered Sunday and the Titans transformed the gift into their first points of the game, a field goal to pull to within 7-3.
There was another miscue in the kicking game, which allowed the Titans to block Kai Forbath's 46-yard field-goal attempt that potentially would have won the game in regulation. The snap-hold-kick cohesion has been an area of concern most of the season.
"The protection on the field goal was poor," Payton said. "The snap was poor. The timing sequence was fine. It was a low snap and the protection was poor in two areas."
The running game was knocked off track; after rolling to a combined 286 yards against the Colts and Giants, it produced 59 on 26 carries against the Titans. And Drew Brees was sacked more times against Tennessee (four) than he'd been sacked in the previous three games combined (three).
That said, the Saints one game below .500, and two behind the Falcons for second place in the NFC South standings.
"The sky's not falling today," Payton said. "It's a game and it's disappointing. (Tennessee) hadn't been a team that was scoring a lot of points and that hadn't been a team that was moving the ball as effectively as they did against us.
"That's something that as a head coach, you take note of that and say we've got to be better than that. We've got to be better than that."
Photos from the New Orleans Saints vs Tennessee Titans game. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)