As vehemently as we suggested the New Orleans Saints should purge their season-opening, 38-3 victory over Green Bay, is how vehemently we hope they moved on from their 26-7 loss to Carolina in the second game.
No need to bask too long in victory or defeat, especially in a league where the next opponent wants to impose its will upon you.
For the Saints (1-1), the next opponent is New England (1-1), on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Each team is attempting to find its footing offensively with a new starting quarterback, and each defense will look to force that quarterback to make mistakes.
Here are a few things that can lead to a Saints victory:
1. TIME IS OF THE ESSENSE: Saints quarterback Jameis Winston \was sacked four times and hit 11 times by Carolina. Put any quarterback under that pressure, and the likelihood is that he played for a team where the offense struggled. The pressure packages that flummoxed New Orleans against Carolina are packages that the Saints should expect to see, and will see, until they show they can do something about it. Winston and the offensive line took blame for the inability to solve the pressure, so a better collaborative effort is of the utmost importance – especially on the road, against a good New England defense.
2. THE A.K. FACTOR: Running back Alvin Kamara had just 12 touches against the Panthers. That's not nearly enough if the Saints are going to be a decent offense this season. Credit the Panthers – and some Saints errors – for keeping New Orleans' offense off the field and Kamara on ice. The Saints have to get themselves into manageable situations on third down, and going to Kamara early can help there. While the Patriots have managed five interceptions and allowed just one touchdown pass, they've shown a little more give as a run defense. The first two opponents ran for 226 yards and 4.2 yards per carry. True, Kamara always is a target, but New Orleans has to make sure he's involved early and often. He's too critical to the offense not to be.
3. SHAKE THE ROOK: Rattling New England's rookie quarterback, Mac Jones, sounds good in theory. It sounds good in theory that he can be confused. But in New England's first two games, Jones had 30-plus pass attempts and a 70-plus completion percentage, so he has been accurate and decisive. New Orleans didn't apply nearly enough pressure to Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold in its last game; two sacks and an interception don't come close to suggesting how much time Darnold was afforded to throw. Rookie defensive end Payton Turner showed some pop and muscle as a pass rusher, but New Orleans needs more of an impact from left defensive end Cameron Jordan. Jordan almost had a strip-sack of Darnold, but he expects more of himself than "almost," as does everyone else. Sunday would be a good day for him to break into the sack column and add a few quarterback hits.
4. MISTAKE FREE BALL: This shouldn't need to be said, but we'll say it anyway: The Saints can't afford to play sloppy, mistake-filled football against a team that traditionally is as disciplined as is New England. New Orleans committed two turnovers and 11 penalties against Carolina. Accordingly, the Saints lost by 19. Since 2001, the Patriots are 108-7 at Gillette Stadium in games that the opponent has committed more turnovers. Enough said.
5. HANDLE THE CROWD: The crowd noise affected the Saints a few times against Carolina. Expect it to be louder at Gillette Stadium. False starts on offense and an inability to communicate clearly cannot be issues if the Saints want to be successful. The easiest way to combat the crowd noise is to take an early lead, and to keep it.
ZATARAIN'S KEY INGREDIENTS RECIPE OF THE WEEK:
BLACK BEANS & RICE CHILI
Turn Zatarain's Black Beans and Rice Mix into a one-skillet chili meal that the whole gang will love. Corn and red bell pepper add color and texture to create a flavorful dinner idea.