The New Orleans Saints offense, particularly in the red zone, is a tough watch. Tight end Foster Moreau didn’t make that any easier with a wide-open dropped pass on 3rd and goal that would’ve tied Thursday night’s game against the Jaguars. It’s as bad of a botch as you’ll see in that situation.
Derek Carr even appeared to tell Moreau before the play that he believed in him and that he was going to get the ball.
Devastating to say the least, especially when you factor in all the adversity Moreau has had to endure off the field just to return to action.
Background for those unaware: Foster Moreau was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma this offseason, and thankfully, three months later, he announced that his cancer is in full remission. https://t.co/pmLeClzssv
What could’ve been one of the most inspiring subplots of the NFL season so far was a mere microcosm of New Orleans’ inability to punch it in the end zone once the ball at the opponent’s 20 or closer.
Let’s have some perspective here and first acknowledge how cool it is that Moreau is back in action. Sucks that he dropped the ball, but as you can see, he is taking the horrendous blunder head-on and owning it.
Having said all of that with all of those qualifiers, though, the Saints are fortunate to have a mini-bye to figure out whatever the heck is going on in the red zone. It’s truly strange what they’ve been doing as far as their play-calling and execution.
Until hybrid weapon Taysom Hill punched it in from one yard out behind a block from a defensive lineman standing in as a fullback, this was the hard truth:
The #Saints have now gone 5 straight red zone drives without a TD, tied for their 2nd-longest streak in the last 10 seasons, per @ESPNStatsInfo.
They failed on 6 straight red zone drives last season.
Now you just heard me criticize play-calling, only to point out a successful one-yard play with a gadget QB and defensive player on offense. I applaud that effort by offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, yet it’s still nowhere close to good enough across the board.
The Saints have struggled in this department regardless of who’s been QB. Although Sean Payton was calling plays up until 2021, the song remains the same (or even more out of tune?) in NOLA:
I apologize for that earlier graphic. This is the CORRECT red zone for the Saints the past five years through their first 6 games. 2021 was the mistake. pic.twitter.com/Tr5QX72JZU
Expectations to see quality football on Thursdays should be curbed in general due to the quick turnaround and brief recovery times for players. However, these red zone blues are something New Orleans has dealt with for far too long and failed to make proper adjustments to.
Carr did throw a 17-yard strike to Michael Thomas for a score, but when he looked for Thomas at closer range, the results weren’t as pretty. In fact, Carmichael dialed up no fewer than four plays last night where a goal line fade appeared to be Carr’s primary read.
A goal line fade is pretty much the most inefficient play you can possibly run when you’re deep in the red zone. Google it. The first hit you get is an ESPN article by Mina Kimes from 2020, which shows that only 13.5% of them were caught for TDs in 2019. I don’t feel compelled to seek out other years…
Unless you have years of built-in chemistry, or a wide receiver who can separate with pure speed or crazy quickness off press coverage, it’s very hard to pull off. This is what it looks like when you don’t have one or both of those things:
Derek Carr and the Saints ran four plays deep in the red zone where a goal line fade looked like the first read.
And that’s how you lose 31-24. I get wanting a one-on-one matchup with a guy who you think can win. But Michael Thomas ain’t who he once was, and who knows what Chris Olave is even doing on that last play/route. “Impreciseness on the route” is being kind about it.
With the game on the line? Really? That low-percentage throw is the best we can do, Pete Carmichael and Derek Carr? Help me understand.
Some of the facts, personnel usage and local commentary to emerge from this fiasco are as hilarious as they are befuddling.
The #Saints went to Alvin Kamara throughout the entire last drive but didn’t draw anything up for him on the last 4 plays. He’s too versatile to not be used in the red zone on the game-tying drive.
Down 31-24, the Saints had four shots at the end zone from the Jacksonville six with 40 seconds to play. TE Jimmy Graham was nowhere to be seen. Dennis Allen called it a "staff decision." https://t.co/OtZDt4V4Pu
"You know, I just recently got a root canal," Bobby Hebert said, "and watching the Saints in the first half against the Texans and the first half against the Jaguars, I think I’d rather have a root canal every week.”https://t.co/XJ54Vz6U6N
While it bodes well that the Saints can move the ball pretty effectively down the field and were still in it to win it against a solid 5-2 Jacksonville team, they need to wake up. Otherwise, that NFC South division that seems to be anyone’s title for the taking will slip through their fingers. They seem to have the best, most talented team and a QB in Carr who you’d assume is the best of the underwhelming division. Maybe that isn’t the case. Maybe it’s Tampa Bay’s Baker Mayfield after all.
Pretty easy fixes for the Saints in the scoring zone. Mix up personnel more. Feature Taysom Hill more often as a ball-carrier. If you’re gonna throw a jump ball, perhaps put it up to 6-foot-7 ex-basketball player/Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. Come up with more creative designs like the one that led to Moreau’s drop.
It’s wild how folks overreact week to week in the NFL. New Orleans’ red zone woes were deep enough not to be fixed from a Sunday loss in Houston to a Thursday matchup with a legit AFC contender in the Jags.
The Saints are closer to being really, really good than the numbers or naysayers would lead you to believe. I’ll be fascinated to see how they execute before their Week 11 bye against three opponents with non-winning records on tap in the Colts, Bears and Vikings.