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Offensive penalties put New Orleans Saints in difficult situations against Atlanta

Sean Payton: 'It was frustrating watching the tape'

The New Orleans Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Caesars Superdome in Week 9 of the 2021 NFL season.
The New Orleans Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Caesars Superdome in Week 9 of the 2021 NFL season.

As could have been expected, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton wasn't all that pleased by what he saw on film after Sunday’s 27-25 loss to Atlanta in the Caesars Superdome.

Especially in terms of penalties.

The Saints (5-3) committed 10 for 74 yards overall and on offense alone, seven infractions were committed for 55 yards.

"Too many offensive penalties," Payton said. "I'll be honest with you, it was frustrating watching the tape (Monday). Atlanta did a really good job in getting that win.

"We're trying to focus on, not only just that game, but the technique and the details that are going to move you forward so that they don't happen again. So I just think there were a number of things that are teaching moments that we have to clean up. It's not cliché. We're still in that race to get better.

"I hear the term, 'Margin for error.' I don't know who has the margin for error, really. Does Buffalo have it? I don't know. They didn't play as well as they would have hoped (in a 9-6 loss to Jacksonville). And so in our league, there is a weekly margin for error and I think that the details matter so much that regardless each week of who the games are, there's really good players on each side of the ball.

"So those are the things we're focused on cleaning up and in the meetings, and making sure we see these things and we're addressing them. How do we go about fixing them? How do we go about becoming better with this technique?"

Penalties haven't been a significant issue for the Saints this season. In their 26-7 loss to Carolina, they committed 11 for 115 yards, but the other high game had been seven penalties for 90 yards in a 13-10 victory over Seattle. Even in New Orleans' other loss, 27-21 in overtime to the Giants, they only committed five for 35 yards.

Payton said that the cleanup must be easily correctable.

"It has to be. It has to be," he said. "It's hard to score in our league. It becomes a lot harder when you're 15 or 20 yards on the first down. So we have to be able to clean that up."

He did add that quarterback Trevor Siemian graded out well in Sunday's performance.

Siemian, who made his first regular-season start since Week 2 of the 2019 season, completed 25 of 41 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns, without an interception. He lost a fumble on a sack.

"He graded out pretty well," Payton said. "I thought the decisions came quickly, he got us in and out of a number of different plays. I thought we could have helped him more outside with some of the playmakers.

"I felt like we had our hands on a few balls, and watching the tape, we did. I'd say pretty steady, pretty calm demeanor, especially when we fell behind in those final drives. He made enough plays, really, got us back in the game. Overall, I was pleased."

Payton said overall, he liked Siemian's ball placement (seven incompletions were drops) on his passes.

"We had one where I didn't like the location," he said. "And it's also finding ways to create separation. We got a lot of man coverage (Sunday). And so, how do we find ways to get access and how do we find ways to get separation, and they were able to do that in some cases. Deonte (Harris) had some big plays for us and obviously some of our bunch sets, even later in the two-minute. I think that's the key."

Payton said designed plays can assist receivers with creating separation.

"You can do it with formation, you can do it with motion, and then you can do it with release patterns," he said. "You know, you line up in clusters and bunch, is what we did for a number of these plays (Sunday). It forces you defensively – it's harder to get your hands on someone. You've got to back off sometimes if the receivers are stacked.

"We had a number of those type of formations (Sunday), so we'll keep looking at that. But this league is filled with man-to-man coverage technique, and we're going to have to be able to beat that and handle that."

New Orleans also allowed several large gains defensively in the passing game. Atlanta completed passes for gains of 64, 49, 39 and 34 yards.

"We obviously want to be able to affect the quarterback better," Payton said. "If you just watch the game, (Atlanta's Matt Ryan) had more than enough time. And there's some specifics in coverage that, clearly, we're better than or we can be better than.

"If those don't get cleaned up then you'll consistently have periodic teams that have an open receiver. We've got to be better than that. And we've got to also be able to apply pressure to the quarterback better."

The New Orleans Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Caesars Superdome in Week 9 of the 2021 NFL season.

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