There wasn't much time to backtrack and address what went wrong in the New Orleans Saints' 30-26 loss to Cincinnati. That's the good and bad of a short week. Forge ahead and prepare for the next opponent, which happens to be Arizona at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Either the Saints (2-4) or Cardinals (2-4) are going to move ahead to 3-4. Here are a few ways that it can be the Saints:
1. DEE UP: On offense, the Saints have averaged 30 points per game over the last three, but only have a 1-2 record to show for it. Frankly, if this defense had been what it has been and believes it still is, that record would be flipped at worse, clean at best. Instead, New Orleans allowed a 53-yard drive that led to Minnesota's game-winning field goal, six explosive plays in a win against Seattle, then a crucial explosive play and was unable to get a red zone stop in a loss to Cincinnati. The defense has had stretches where the cleat was on the other foot – 13 points allowed in a loss to Tampa Bay, 15 allowed in a loss to Carolina. That unit really needs to step up against Arizona, especially with receiver De’Andre Hopkins making his season debut after serving a league suspension. Twelve sacks in the last four games is a good sign for New Orleans' defense, and linebacker Demario Davis gets to the quarterback as well as anyone when he blitzes. But New Orleans has to be disciplined in its rush against Kyler Murray. He'll hurt you with the run, he'll buy time and the secondary will have to plaster longer because of it.
2. RUN IT BACK: New Orleans has found something on the ground the last two games – 463 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 62 carries. A wee bit involved trickery (a 44-yard jet sweep by rookie receiver Rashid Shaheed), but the rest has been line-up-and-try-to-stop-us offense, with Alvin Kamara leading the way (202 yards on 42 carries). Arizona only allows 104 rushing yards per game, but on 4.3 yards per carry. The Saints may need to grind out another one, to control the clock and to impose will, especially if it helps keep Murray and the Arizona offense off the field. Taysom Hill has 14 carries for 151 yards and three scores in the two games, but went 9 for 112 and all three touchdowns in one game. He and Kamara, plus Mark Ingram, could be used in heavy doses again and they need to be ready on a few days' rest.
3. RED ALERT: The Saints were 1 of 5 in the red zone against Cincinnati. It's hard to win NFL games with that level of inefficiency close to the goal line. That has to be remedied. It's as simple has that.
4. SURE TACKLING: New Orleans had a tackling issue against Cincinnati, and in large part, it cost the game. This will be another tackling test. Murray gets loose in the open field, and Hopkins is one of the best and most elusive receivers in the league. When the opportunity presents itself, because it's impossible to corral players that good for the entirety of a game, New Orleans' defense has to get them on the ground. In the secondary, that means Bradley Roby, Paulson Adebo, Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye have to take the correct angles and when it's straight up, they have to be able to make a one-on-one stop or, at least, occupy long enough for help to arrive.
5. HOLD ON: New Orleans has failed to hold a fourth-quarter lead in each of its last two losses. The defense hasn't gotten timely stops, the offense hasn't produced a needed score and the result has been a couple of losses that probably shouldn't be on the ledger. If the Saints are in that position again, will they be able to finish off the Cardinals?