The New Orleans Saints packed a lot of good inside the first half on Sunday night against Green Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, enough to take a 17-13 lead at halftime.
"We forced field goals, we took advantage of some red zone opportunities and then of course, the two-minute at the end of the half was significant," Coach Sean Payton said Monday.
New Orleans, in fact, produced a third-down stop in the red zone to force a short field goal (33 yarder), scored touchdowns twice from the red zone (11- and 10-yard touchdown passes to Alvin Kamara and Emmanuel Sanders) and worked the two-minute drill to near perfection. The Saints' final touchdown drive of the half was an 11-play, 61-yard march that lasted 2:34 of the 2:40 that was remaining on the clock in the first half.
"But then the second half, we weren't as consistent," Payton said.
On offense or defense. The Saints were outscored 24-13 in the final two quarters. The Packers scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half, turned over the ball on downs, then added a field goal and a touchdown on their next two possessions of a 37-30 victory while the Saints went field goal, touchdown, fumble, punt and field goal.
"The importance of the film review today, and the critique not only just in the players but also us as coaches in improving, I think is going to be critical and vital to our success as we move forward," Payton said.
Offensively, New Orleans posted overall numbers more closely aligned with the expectations of the team. The Saints were three yards short of 400 in total offense, converted five of 11 third-down attempts, ran for 6.2 yards per carry and quarterback Drew Brees completed 81 percent of his passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns.
"There's some encouraging things," Payton said. "There's still some details that we need to work out, but I think Kamara was outstanding in space. There's still some things though, some small things, that we've got to continue to work out to be as efficient as we hope to be."
But defensively, several lapses led to a couple of deep wounds, 48- and 72-yard receptions by Allen Lazard – the latter on third-and-10 – that led to touchdowns.
"We had a couple coverage breakdowns that we've got to get cleaned up, (that) opponents will see," Payton said. "The thing that was most disappointing to me are the (bootlegs), the swap boots. There were too many – gosh, I can't even count – four or five of these nakeds where there's someone open right in the flat right now.
"The communication, being able to pass off and understand the motion and who's got the flat, that's the one thing that we've got to get cleaned up. The second thing, and I knew from last week with goal line or short-yardage personnel down in tight, we got beat on a couple play-action passes by the Raiders and then sure enough, in a critical situation (against the Packers).
"So those will continue to come – opponents see that – until we're able to make the adjustments and get our eyes right. What I mean by that, you're disciplined enough to have your eyes on the right spot and your coverage in place."
Left tackle Terron Armstead said the Saints are close to being what they believe they can be. But, there's the current dose of reality.
"Bad teams beat themselves and that's right now what we're doing," he said. "We're being a bad team, we're beating ourselves and that's the definition of a bad team.
"So the good news is we're more than capable of eliminating those mistakes, not putting ourselves behind the chain, not having a negative play, staying on the field on third down, getting off the field on third down on defense.
"It won't just happen from us saying that we eliminated bad plays. We have to practice, focus on, emphasize. But we have everything we need to get rolling. No playoff picture has been put together at all. So we have time, but at the same time, a sense of urgency to get that going and start moving forward."
DAVENPORT DEBUT? Payton said defensive end Marcus Davenport possibly will make his season debut Sunday, against Detroit (1-2). "Hopefully, we have Davenport back this week," Payton said. "We think that he can provide some added rush."
FLOAT LIKE A PACKER: The Saints are calling "shot" plays, but opponents aren't coordinating. Kamara's 52-yard touchdown catch – a checkdown pass on the left sideline – was a shot play that the Packers had covered downfield. "I think last week (against the Raiders) there were two plays specifically where had we had the protection clean like we wanted, (Brees has) got two real good opportunities. But he's hurried, he's got to get off his spot.
"And then (last) week in practice, I thought he threw the ball down the field as well as I've ever seen him. We got a lot more coverage (Sunday) night. (The Packers are) playing a real good complementary game right now. When I say that, it's a little bit of rope-a-dope on defense where they're going to keep the ball in front of them, we're going to have to be patient and execute sometimes the underneath passing game. But a little bit more split safety, a little bit more shell (Sunday) night, which makes it a little bit harder to get those shots down the field. I think those big-play opportunities each week, we're looking for, we have up in the script. But I think (Sunday) night we got a little bit more of a softer zone coverage, which forced him to go appropriately to the underneath throws."