Often times in an NFL game, winning and losing is determined by one’s ability to avoid turnovers or untimely mistakes like committing a penalty or missing a field goal. For the New Orleans Saints, they will rue key mistakes made during their Week 9 game against the New York Jets in which they lost 26-20 and dropped to 6-2 as a result. Additionally, the loss could prove costly in the long-term in the battle for home-field advantage during the NFC Playoffs.
The first costly mistake for the Saints came on their opening offensive drive of the game as they drove down to the Jets’ 25-yard line and were set up for a 43-yard field goal attempt. Garrett Hartley‘s miss seemed like no big deal at the time, but this early six point swing would end up hurting the Saints as they were forced to chase a touchdown on their final offensive drive instead of playing knowing it could send the game into overtime with a field goal.
Late in the second quarter with the Saints leading 14-13, the last thing they could afford to do was turn the football over given that they had the ball inside their own 35-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Drew Brees would throw an ill-advised pass in the direction of Nick Toon which was intercepted by Antonio Cromartie. This interception allowed the Jets to drive down and score to take a 20-14 lead and at minimum, create a 10 point swing in their favor. More importantly, this score allowed the Jets to dictate play-calling on offense and take control of the game.
In addition to bad turnovers, the Saints also shot themselves in the foot with questionable play-calling. Down 26-17 early in the fourth quarter the Saints faced a fourth down and one situation from the Jets 36-yard line. Going for the first down, Saints coach Sean Payton opted for an end around instead of power run to pick up the necessary yardage. The result was utter failure as Quinton Coples of the Jets did a good job of reading the play and stopping it for an eight-yard loss in what was a clear show of unnecessary over-thinking from Payton, a man considered one of the best offensive play callers in the league.
As the Kansas City Chiefs have shown us in their 9-0 start, sometimes, the best strategy to winning a game is not committing any mistakes or taking any unnecessary risks. While the Saints have a much better offense, quarterback, and play caller at the head coaching position, their aggressiveness and at times laissez-faire ways cost them a game which might be the difference between them playing the NFC Championship game on the road as opposed to at home in the Superdome.