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Quarterback Andy Dalton, New Orleans Saints offense warmed to task in second half against Minnesota

'I thought overall, he operated the offense efficiently'

New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

After a seven-point, 82-yard first half on Sunday against Minnesota at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, quarterback Andy Dalton and the New Orleans Saints offense found their legs in the second half of the 28-25 loss.

New Orleans totaled 18 points and 256 yards on three scoring drives – and barely missed a fourth scoring drive when Wil Lutz's 61-yard field-goal attempt caromed twice off the goal post as time expired.

Dalton, starting in place on injured Jameis Winston, completed 20 of 28 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions, and lost a fumble in the first half. In the second half, he completed 12 of 19 for 183 yards.

"I thought overall he played pretty well," Coach Dennis Allen said Monday. "I think there's probably a few plays that he'd probably like to have back – obviously, the fumble right before the half was a big play. So, sure, that was one that he'd like to have back. I think there was a couple of places that he might have been able to have another completion that he might would want back.

"But I thought overall, he operated the offense efficiently. Particularly the way that we played in the second half, I thought was really pretty good once we were able to kind of get the run and the play-action game going."

Allen said the team needed to evaluate Winston's status before a judgment can be made as to how it will proceed this week, with Seattle set to visit the Caesars Superdome on Sunday for a noon kickoff. Winston, with back and ankle injuries, was inactive against Minnesota.

"I think the first thing we need to do is find out exactly where Jameis is health-wise before we make any decisions," Allen said. "I think that's where we're at right now, I don't have complete information on that today. Hopefully, we'll get a better feel for exactly where Jameis is over the next 24 hours and then kind of see where we go from there."

New Orleans (1-3) again was plagued by issues that have hounded the team this season: Turnovers (two lost fumbles) and penalties (10, for 102 yards). On Minnesota's lead-taking touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, which put the Vikings up 25-22, three defensive penalties were called on third down (two on the same play). Allen said that two of the penalties are ones that wouldn't have been coached or played much differently.

"There's some things that we've got to clean up just from a fundamental and technique standpoint, really with everybody but in the back end that we've got to clean up," he said. "It's the third-down penalties that are killers because there's three of those and we're off the field, at least potentially off the field and forcing a punt rather than having to continue to defend the drive. Those are big plays in the game."

The turnovers are a significant issue; New Orleans leads the league with 11 in the first four games, and its minus-7 ratio also is last in the league.

"We're going to incorporate some more turnover-takeaway drills," Allen said. "We've got to take the ball away more on defense and in the kicking game, and we've got to protect it better when we're in the return units and on offense. We're going to even make it a bigger point of emphasis in terms of what we're doing in practice.

"The key is eliminating those things that keep you from winning. And if you can identify that it's coming from a certain area, then I think there's some changes that may need to be made. We're going through that process, we're evaluating everything. We've got to perform better and we've got to coach better. There's some things that we have to improve on and we all have to take ownership in that. It starts with me and works all the way down through the coaching staff, on to the players."

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