NFC South Reporter
Sunday’s 10-7 loss to Carolina was frustratingly acquainted for the Saints, as their 2022 season, like so many video games alongside the best way, was a possibility that simply did not finish nicely.
“Obviously disappointed in the record,” coach Dennis Allen stated Monday, chatting with reporters. “It’s certainly not the standard that we want to be here. Our goal is to win championships here. This year, in that regard, was not good enough. I think we all know that. We’re going to work extremely hard this offseason to get those things fixed and put ourselves back in a position where we’re competing for championships.”
The Saints completed 7-10, only a recreation out of first place within the NFC South however their worst file since 2005. And greater than half their losses got here in video games wherein that they had an opportunity to win, letting them slip away within the fourth quarter:
- Tied with the Bucs with eight minutes left in Week 2, they gave up 17 factors whereas turning the ball over on 4 straight drives.
- Leading the Vikings with 5 minutes left, they gave up a landing, then after tying the sport, misplaced on a subject aim with 0:24 left.
- Leading the Bengals many of the fourth quarter, they misplaced on a 60-yard landing move by Joe Burrow with 1:57 left.
- Tied with the Steelers within the fourth quarter, they gave up the sport’s closing 10 factors on two interceptions and a turnover on downs.
- Leading the Bucs 16-3 with 5 minutes to play, they gave up two landing drives, the final with 0:03 left to lose 17-16.
- Tied with the Panthers late within the fourth, that they had a subject aim blocked after which misplaced on a subject aim as time expired.
The Saints have the hole comfort of proudly owning the perfect level differential within the division — minus-15, 30 factors higher than the division-champion Bucs — however that’s only a reminder of how simply this might have been a playoff group in a nasty division.
“[A record of] 7-10 is not where we want to be,” Allen stated. “But we’re not as far off as maybe some might think. There’s areas we have to improve on.”
That Allen was in a position to discuss to reporters for 28 minutes Monday, that he anticipates he’ll be again for one more season, is greater than 5 head coaches can say in a league that has little persistence for disappointment. Allen may need modifications inside his teaching employees, probably together with offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who has been in that function since 2009.
On offense, the Saints averaged 19.4 factors per recreation, rating twenty second out of 32 groups, a slight drop from averaging 21.4 in 2021 to rank nineteenth. Neither is something near Drew Brees’ closing 5 seasons, when the Saints ranked within the high 5 in scoring annually from 2016-20.
Jameis Winston began the primary three video games at quarterback, was sidelined by a again harm and by no means returned, with Allen sticking with veteran Andy Dalton, who threw 18 touchdowns in opposition to 9 interceptions. The Saints bought an preliminary spark from Dalton, scoring at the least 24 factors in his first 5 begins, however then did so simply as soon as within the closing 9 video games. Dalton is a free agent, and whereas Winston is below contract, his 2023 wage of $12.8 million just isn’t assured, so he may very well be launched.
Offseason enchancment will not come straightforward, because the Saints gave up their first-round decide, tenth total, to the Eagles in April in buying and selling as much as get receiver Chris Olave. New Orleans is over the projected wage cap greater than another group within the league, $52 million over in keeping with Spotrac, so the Saints should restructure offers and make cuts earlier than they’ve any house to re-sign their very own free brokers or make any substantial additions.
The Saints are formally third within the NFC South standings, which provides them a small break within the three 2023 video games decided by divisional standing. While the Panthers need to play three playoff groups in these video games, the Saints will play only one, internet hosting the Giants and touring to face the Rams and Patriots. Especially if Tom Brady is not again with the Bucs, the division can be seen as wide-open after a season wherein no group completed with a successful file, probably with 4 new beginning quarterbacks.
Small modifications to the roster may result in small modifications on the scoreboard, and 2022’s shut losses may flip into totally different outcomes if the Saints can simply discover a strategy to shut out winnable video games subsequent season.
“Certainly, we’ve got to do a better job of finishing,” Allen stated Monday. “I can think of Cincinnati, Tampa, this last game against Carolina, go back earlier in the year against Minnesota, I think there were some opportunities for us to close some games out and finish some games. We didn’t get that done. That’s going to be an area where if we can learn how to finish games and close some of those games out … seasons in the future will be different.”
A season of disappointing finishes truly began with the alternative, because the Saints trailed the Falcons by 16 with 12 minutes left within the season opener earlier than rallying for 17 factors and a 27-26 victory. That comeback included two landing catches by receiver Michael Thomas, who like Winston did not play after the third recreation of the season as a consequence of a toe harm. Injuries have been a limiting issue for the Saints all season, however the shut losses can function a motivation for gamers shifting ahead.
“There were so many games this past year where we could have won in those [final] minutes,” stated defensive finish Cam Jordan, who had 8.5 sacks and missed the Pro Bowl for the primary time since 2016. “That’s the difference in going to the playoffs and being a high seed to not being in playoff contention at all. We have to figure out how to close those games. … The facts are we did not do it. The facts are we ended the season at 7-10 and for whatever reason, our postseason is the offseason.”
That offseason may deliver troublesome cap-related choices, however the Saints stay assured they will emerge with a group able to contending for the division and extra, figuring out there are seemingly bigger penalties if that does not occur in 2023.
“Ultimately, I’m responsible for the success or failure of the team,” Allen stated. “I understand that responsibility and I look forward to the challenge of improving our team … I see a path to success as we go into the future.”
Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, masking the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his tenth season masking the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having hung out on the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can comply with him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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