Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4 of the 2023 NFL season.
There simply weren't many positives for the New Orleans Saints to sift from Sunday’s 26-9 loss to Tampa Bay in the Caesars Superdome, which evened New Orleans' record at 2-2 and pushed the team a game behind the Buccaneers in the NFC South Division.
With a chance to reverse that scenario – raise their record to 3-1 and take a game lead over the Bucs and Falcons in the division – the Saints pretty much struggled across the board on offense and defense and submitted their most incomplete performance of the first four games.
OFFENSE: Quarterback Derek Carr plowing through his AC joint sprain to start seven days after suffering the injury to his throwing shoulder, and running back Alvin Kamara making his season debut after a three-game suspension wasn't enough to spark the offense. The Saints totaled 197 yards, were 5 of 14 on third down, failed to score touchdowns in two trips to the red zone and committed three turnovers. Carr averaged 5.5 yards per completion (23 of 37 for 127 yards), New Orleans added only another 70 yards on 19 rushing attempts and the longest gain of the day was a 20-yard pass to Michael Thomas. Everything was a struggle, and it has been that way for the last six quartersl.
DEFENSE: Understand, this unit has been forced to carry an unusually heavy load this season. It has been required to be near perfect in order for the Saints to have a fighting chance, and the result has been two victories. But, too, understand this: The unit has to be better than it was Sunday, when the Buccaneers converted 8 of 15 third-down chances, quarterback Baker Mayfield bought extra seconds time and again en route to completing 25 of 32 for 246 yards and three touchdowns and Tampa Bay was able to gain 114 rushing yards on 33 attempts. Yes, New Orleans produced a sack and a turnover (Isaac Yiadom's interception), but Lonnie Johnson Jr. should have had his second pick of the season and one sack wasn't nearly enough. In the last five quarters, the mobility of the opposing quarterback has been a monumental thorn and requiring defensive backs to plaster for extra seconds isn't a sustainable model. The defense will have to be even better than it was in the first two games. It's going to have to capitalize on every takeaway/scoring opportunity and it can't allow a 53 percent success rate on third down, at least not until the offense finds some kind of rhythm and provides some assistance.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Blake Grupe rebounded from his missed 46-yard field goal attempt against Green Bay with successful kicks from 37, 32 and 44 yards. The short kicks are the ones in which the Saints fail to cross the goal line once they reach the red zone, so at least Grupe is producing. Rashid Shaheed came close to popping another punt return (two returns for a 22.5-yard average) and three of Lou Hedley's four punts were downed inside the 20 (one punt was returned for seven yards). Overall, the most positives produced by a Saints unit Sunday.