Slow starts have been a major problem for the New Orleans Saints over the last three seasons. The team hasn’t won a season opener since 2013. It shouldn’t be shocking to learn that the Saints also have not made the playoffs since that campaign.
New Orleans started 0-2 in 2014, and 0-3 in 2015 and 2016. All three years, the team has finished with a 7-9 record.
The defense, without a doubt, has been the biggest problem in New Orleans. This preseason, it looked like the defense was going to turn the corner and help the Saints’ high-powered offense.
Unfortunately, neither the offense nor the defense looked good for the Saints in the season opener at the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, Sept. 11. The Saints only managed two field goals in first half on offense, as they struggled with their running game and pass protection.
Early in the first half, New Orleans looked improved on defense, holding the Vikings to just a field goal on their first drive. Things fell apart for the unit late in the second quarter when Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford found open receivers all over the field.
The Vikings scored 13 points in the last four minutes of the first half to turn a 6-3 deficit to a 16-6 halftime lead. Minnesota kept right on rolling in the second half and kept the Saints down by two scores or more for the rest of the game. Ultimately, Minnesota cruised to a 29-19 win.
The Minnesota defense harassed Saints quarterback Drew Brees most of the night, and it was rare for him not to dodge defenders before throwing the ball. He finished a respectable 27-for-37 for 291 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, New Orleans only mustered 60 rushing yards on 21 attempts. Brees and the offense were finally able to score their lone touchdown after the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Bradford had one of the best games of his career, as he completed 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Minnesota racked up 129 yards on 30 carries, with rookie running back Dalvin Cook rushing for 127 yards in his first NFL game.
The Vikings had 470 total yards to the Saints 344 total yards. New Orleans struggled in the red zone throughout the game, going one for five and settling for field goals most of the night.
The Saints have to regroup quickly to avoid a fourth-straight 0-2 start to the season. New Orleans will host the New England Patriots this Sunday, Sept. 17, at noon on Fox. The Patriots opened the season on Thursday, Sept. 7, with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but the team will have more rest and time to prepare for this game than New Orleans will.
A trip to Carolina on Sept. 24 to face the Panthers comes after the Patriots game, and after that, the Saints fly to London to face the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 1. There is plenty of time for New Orleans to turn things around, but the offensive line and defense must improve in a hurry.