To call it uncharacteristic would be about as sizable an understatement as could be made.
When the New Orleans Saints defense looked at film Monday, it probably wondered who was wearing its uniforms during Sunday's 48-46 loss to San Francisco in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Because the Saints were just that uncharacteristic in their execution.
New Orleans (10-3) allowed 17 more points than the previous season high scored by an opponent, and San Francisco amassed 516 yards while popping big gain after big gain against the Saints.
In the passing game, especially, the Saints proved vulnerable: The Niners had completions of 75 (touchdown), 39, 35 (touchdown), 31, 25, 21 and 20 yards.
"You're playing down-safety defense, but we've got to be able stay on top," Coach Sean Payton said. "We've got to, quite honestly, play better at the deep safety position.
"They beat our corners. They beat our safeties. And we didn't have much of a pass rush to affect the passer. So all those combinations aren't very good. So I don't think it's just one thing."
The Saints will look to recover the footing they'd gained the previous three games, all victories, against Indianapolis on Monday night in the Superdome, and re-establish the standard they'd set this season.
After Jimmy Garoppolo completed 26 of 35 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns, with an interceptions, the Saints are up to 244.1 passing yards allowed per game. That's still down from 252.6 passing yards per game allowed last season, but San Francisco's chunk plays were concerning. The Saints were missing starting linebackers A.J. Klein and Kiko Alonso, but Payton said that wasn't the sole cause.
"We've got some guys nicked up, at linebacker particularly, and we've got to get those guys back," he said. "And at the same time, there were a number of guys that didn't play well.
"As a head coach, you look at the tape, you watch it, you're disappointed with it in a tough game like that, you've got to bounce back against a team (Indianapolis) here this Monday night. We can't kid ourselves; we've got to play a lot better, we've got to coach a lot better."
He said errors also were made on offense, even though the unit scored 46 points.
"We had a number of MEs (mental errors) on offense," Payton said. "We've got to get those corrected. We took minus plays. We turned the ball over (once). We could have turned the ball over two or three times, the ball was out."
But, clearly, the biggest struggle was on defense.
"I thought we played poorly on the back end, I thought we played poorly up front," Payton said. "In the kicking game I was encouraged; I thought the return yards were real big. And I thought that helped us."