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Turnovers, penalties again undermine New Orleans Saints in loss to Carolina

Three turnovers and seven penalties prevalent in 22-14 loss

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan in action during their 2022 Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan in action during their 2022 Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers.

The New Orleans Saints have identified their biggest enemy and, unfortunately, it hasn't been any of the three opponents they've faced so far in 2022.

In Sunday's 22-14 loss to Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, which dropped the Saints' record to 1-2 as they prepare for next week's game against Minnesota in London, New Orleans again did things that are difficult to overcome for teams in search of victory.

They don't have to be reminded of it. The examples were sprinkled through all three units against the Panthers.

OFFENSE: Three more turnovers, one of which was a lost fumble that resulted in a scoop-and-score for Carolina, were more than enough to offset numbers (426 yards, 6.7 yards per play) that looked pretty good until they were held up to the light. Running back Alvin Kamara lost the fumble that directly led to a Carolina touchdown, and quarterback Jameis Winston threw his fourth and fifth interceptions over the last two games. Add in seven penalties for 58 yards – five for 40 yards in the first half – and New Orleans is putting itself in too many untenable situations offensively. When first-and-10 swells to first-and-20 because of pre-snap penalties, or a third-and-7 conversion is erased because of a chop block, the accumulation becomes an added hurdle that the struggling offense doesn't need and hasn't consistently shown the ability to overcome. The Saints have to clean up, and they have to do it now.

DEFENSE: There are worst things than allowing 293 yards and 15 points, which is what the Saints did on defense. The explosive play allowed (a 67-yard touchdown pass, when New Orleans desperately was attempting to make a fourth-quarter comeback) and the rushing yards surrendered (145 total, including 108 to Christian McCaffrey) are concerning. Frankly, the unit can't afford to have slips that allow explosive plays and it can't have 100-yard rushers because effective running games mean balanced opposing offenses, which are difficult to control. But they're concerning mostly because the defense is having to pursue perfection while the offense struggles, and every slip is magnified. The Saints produced stops on 10 of 14 third-down attempts and forced a turnover on downs with a fourth-down stop, and Baker Mayfield completed just 12 of 25 passes for 170 yards. The defense hasn't been perfect, but it has played to a high standard that routinely has been able to help produce victories.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Wil Lutz has earned all the confidence and leeway he can be afforded. But one blocked field goal and another missed attempt against Carolina were a possible six points that New Orleans desperately needed. Again, he has to be clean because the offense needs every sliver of assistance it can receive nowadays. The return game missed Deonte Harty and, hopefully, he'll quickly return after being inactive Sunday. Andrew Dowell narrowly missed blocking a punt, and New Orleans might have to have that kind of play from this unit to help spark the team.

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New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers.

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