The New Orleans Saints gave up their second loss of the season Sunday afternoon, losing at the Meadowlands to the New York Jets, 26-20.
It was a game punctuated by a weak offensive line, questionable play calling and an inability for Rob Ryan’s defense to adjust to the Jets’ run game.
Ryan is now 0-5 in his NFL career versus his twin brother Rex, the coach of the Jets.
Chris Ivory, the former Saints running back traded after last season to New York, had a stellar game, racking up 139 yards on 18 rushing attempts (93 of those yards came in the first half), and a touchdown. His longest run, a 52-yard scamper in the second quarter, helped set up the Jets’ second score, a 21-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
Folk made all four of his field goal attempts today, as well as two extra points, and is so far perfect on the year, making all 23 of his 3-point attempts.
Garrett Hartley hasn’t been so stellar. After missing two kicks against the Buffalo Bills last week, he missed a 43-yard attempt wide left to cap the Saints’ opening drive. Hartley came back with a career long 55-yard kick late in the third quarter, and another 43-yarder with 3:11 left in the game.
The Saints turned the ball over twice — interceptions of Drew Brees in the first and second quarters — and almost gave it away a few more times, including twice on the same third quarter drive: an interception of a pass intended for Robert Meachem that was reversed on a holding call against the Jets, and a Brees sack and fumble covered up by Jimmy Graham after he botched a blocking assignment.
The Saints burned all three of their first half timeouts in the first quarter, and couldn’t find much of any rhythm. New Orleans was penalized twice on their opening drive, once for a delay of game coming out of their first timeout, and the second a false start on Offensive Lineman Charles Brown.
Brees was visibly upset with the performance of his offensive line, especially Center Brian De La Puente, and throughout the game Brees was hit or hurried again and again.
The Jets ended the game rushing for 198 yards. The Saints? 41 total yards on the ground.
Sean Payton, who came into the game without Marques Colston (knee injury), and who lost Darren Sproles in the first quarter to a concussion, fell back on some questionable play calling, as he has tended to in tight, losing situations — including turning the ball over on downs thanks to a botched reverse to Josh Hill on fourth down with 7:54 to play on the Jets’ 36-yard-line.
The lack of Colston, the loss of Sproles and a beaten-up Jimmy Graham showed in the Saints last desperation drive with just under two minutes to play in the game. Brees struggled to find an open receiver, had a big first-down taken back thanks to a holding call on De La Puente, and failed to connect on his next three passes.
The Jets got the ball back on downs with 1:21 to play, and that was a wrap.
The Saints, a bit banged up and a bit out of sorts, will return to the Dome this Sunday to face the 5-4 Dallas Cowboys, who are coming off a last-minute win over the Vikings.
The season is only halfway through, but the Saints must win if they want to stay ahead of the Carolina Panthers, who are on a four-game winning streak.