It began with great promise, but the promise faded.
In the end, the New Orleans Saints' 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Allegiant Stadium on Monday night served to show what can happen if New Orleans (1-1) isn't clicking on most – if not all – cylinders offensively and defensively.
Leads of 10-0 and 17-7 disappeared as the Raiders (2-0) scored 24 unanswered points, while the Saints' offense disappeared and the defense couldn't get off the field. Still, there were noteworthy performances by a few Saints.
OFFENSE: Running back Alvin Kamara was borderline phenomenal against the Raiders. Kamara ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, and caught nine passes for 95 yards. He has scored four touchdowns this season but, more, he has looked healthy and strong. Putting the ball in Kamara's hands was New Orleans' best offensive play against Las Vegas. His shiftiness is there, his speed is there and though 22 touches might seem to be a few more than optimal, he's seems to be absorbing minimal contact. Kamara has carried a heavier load than usual due to an absence before (when Mark Ingram was suspended), and he seems to be prepared to do so again while Michael Thomas is sidelined by his ankle injury.
DEFENSE: This is a hard one, because the defense played poorly overall. The first quarter was nice – a shutout, and three sacks – but it went downhill from there. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson had a couple of penalties, including a roughing the passer. But, too, he also had his second sack of the season, applied pressure on quarterback Derek Carr, had two tackles for loss and added five tackles. Hendrickson has steadily improved in his career and when he's needed as a starter, as he has been the first two games of the season, he has held up well.
SPECIAL TEAMS: There were no jump-off-the-page moments for the units, which had several of them in the season opener against Tampa Bay. But there's nothing wrong with being solid, either. Thomas Morstead, who was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his work against Tampa Bay, punted three times for an average of 36.3 yards. But two of them were downed inside the 20, and the one that was returned only went for five yards. Morstead either pins a team deep, or he gives the punt cover team ample time to reach the target. You can't ask for much more than that.