METAIRIE, La. – The film didn’t look any better than the statistics did.
It was clear to anyone paying attention to the New Orleans Saints’ 48-41 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday that the Saints’ pass defense was poor.
When Saints coach Sean Payton reviewed the film Monday morning that assessment was reinforced as he made note of the variety of issues that enabled Ryan Fitzpatrick to pass for 417 yards and four touchdowns and avoid any sacks or turnovers.
“Number one, our pass rush plan hurt us at times,” Payton said. “There were some pivotal moments where the quarterback was able to flush and do enough damage to gain a first down. We struggled in coverage. Our technique wasn’t great (nor was) our disruption plan at the line of scrimmage with the release patterns.
“One of the goals in this game was to limit the explosives and we didn’t do that. There weren’t a lot of positives. We have to make a number of corrections. It wasn’t a good film. There were not as many third downs (8 of 13). In other words, we want to get off the field on third down and yet the production they were having on first and second down, really became troublesome.”
Fitzpatrick completed 21 of 28 passes and had touchdown throws of 58 yards and 36 yards to DeSean Jackson, 9 yards to Chris Godwin and 50 yards to Mike Evans.
“Fitzpatrick had a hot hand and played exceptionally well,” Payton said. “There were not as many communication issues or coverage busts as there was technique pressure (issues). I felt like we took a lot of snaps there defensively (62) and I felt like as the game wore on our pass rush deteriorated and I felt like that really put stress on the back end too. … Our technique needs to improve and that would be the starting point.”
As for the offense, Payton said he was encouraged by a unit that had 432 yards passing and 41 points, but he didn’t like the fact that New Orleans wound up with just 13 rushes.
“It's not the design,” he said. “We had our opening series scripted, that went smooth (producing a touchdown). Most of the first quarter, early on based on what they were doing we were going to throw it a little bit more kind of go after a few of the personnel matchups we like.
“I hate when a game becomes one-dimensional and we've just experienced that too often. It becomes more of a 50-50 proposition. I wouldn't say that game unfolded the way we would have liked certainly into the second quarter in the second half.”
RB Alvin Kamara had 17 touches (eight rushes, nine receptions) in the first game of Mark Ingram II’s four-game suspension. Payton has said he doesn’t want to over-work Kamara, who as a rookie last season averaged 13 touches (eight rushes and five receptions). Kamara was on the field Sunday for a career-high 52 snaps, nearly 20 more than the 32.5 snaps that Kamara averaged in the final 14 games last season after New Orleans traded Adrian Peterson and focused on the Ingram-Kamara tandem. “I felt like he's in excellent shape and I thought he played exceptionally well yesterday,” Payton said. “And yet, it turned into one of those games where we were throwing it more than we'd like. The challenge is there are a number of plays you want him in and yet, there can be diminished returns if you are not careful and so we will be smart that way.”
RB Mike Gillislee and RB Jonathan Williams are ultimately the guys to whom Payton would prefer to give the touches that would normally go to Ingram. Gillislee ran three times for 9 yards and lost a fumble that the Bucs returned for a crucial touchdown and Williams had one carry for no gain.
TE Ben Watson was effective in his return to the Saints after spending the last two seasons in Baltimore. He caught a pass each time he was targeted, finishing with four receptions for 44 yards. In 2015 in New Orleans, Watson caught 74 passes for 825 yards.
WR Tre’Quan Smith was a star in training camp and the preseason, but wasn’t a factor in his NFL regular-season debut. The third-round draft choice from UCF was targeted once and didn’t catch a pass.
LB Demario Davis led the team in tackles in his New Orleans debut. Davis, who led the Jets in tackles last season, started at the Sam position and finished with eight tackles, including one for loss.
DT David Onyemata provided much of the little pass rush that the Saints generated, but all he had to show for it was two roughing-the-passer penalties for hits on Fitzpatrick. Onyemata did not record any other stat.