Despite entering the 2013 NFL season with the best road record of any team since 2009, the New Orleans Saints have not performed well on the road this year. Following their 17-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 16 this season, the Saints fell to 3-5 on the road and their future is currently uncertain at the moment.
Compared to the way they play at home, they almost look like a completely different team when they travel. Too many times, they are not the ones to score first or do not even manage to score in the first half and get behind. Crowd noise works against them and they are forced to play catch-up instead of the other way around.
It is not just any one thing, but rather a combination of different factors that has led to this result. They have had problems running the ball all year. Former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram showed some promise early in the game against the Panthers, but that did not pan out. Including quarterback Drew Brees, eight different Saints players rushed the ball, with Ingram compiling the most yardage at 83.
Ingram seems to work best as a featured back who can get himself into a groove and find success, instead of being just another cog in a crowded backfield.
Head coach Sean Payton‘s play-calling has been baffling throughout the season as well. Against Carolina today, we saw a lot of misdirection and screen passes against a tough defense that obviously were not working. It seems like his play-calling and ability to confuse and dominate opposing defenses has regressed a little this season.
As a whole, the offensive unit played well below the level they usually do, especially the offensive line which used to be a strength but now seems like a liability. Rookie Terron Armstead replaced Charles Brown at left tackle and was consistently getting beat.
The defense has played well and did so today, but it seems like they just give up the big plays when it comes down to crunch time. Rob Ryan has done miracles in resurrecting the defense from their dismal outing last season, so credit must be given where it is due.
The Saints are still a good football team and 10 wins is definitely a good season, but either New Orleans has not played up to expectations or fans’ expectations are simply too high and unrealistic.