NEW ORLEANS — The video boards began to malfunction.
The massive 350-feet wide and 37-foot-tall displays inside the Caesars Superdome — the ones that tell members of Who Dat Nation to get loud during the game — started to glitch. A large horizontal black bar appeared in the middle of both end zone boards and for a few minutes made the state-of-the-art video displays look like an old VCR tape that had been watched way too many times.
The glitch serendipitously occurred right after the New Orleans Saints offense had left the field. The video board malfunction was quickly repaired in a matter of minutes. If only the same could be said of the Saints’ offense.
For a team once known for its record-setting and widely efficient offense, the Saints now have one of the most frustrating, inept, and downright boo-worthy offenses in the NFL. That was on full display in Thursday’s primetime 31-24 defeat against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a game that featured plenty of boos directed not to the opposition – but at the home-town squad.
The first two offensive drives saw the Saints miss a 51-yard field goal, and then after being gifted a turnover, go three and out on its second drive. Yet, the offense got another chance after a recovered fumble on special teams. That gave the ball to the Saints in the red zone.
Yet, the team mustered a mere 12 yards and settled for a 23-yard field goal. Why? Because the quarterback — the one getting paid $31 million this season and is supposed to be the franchise quarterback — totally missed on a second-down throw.
Rashid Shaheed beat his man off the line and was wide open, so much so that he ran one way in the end zone and then came back. Derek Carr — who had all day to throw — finally threw the pass to Shaheed but it was too late and too high for Shaheed to get both feet inbounds. The next play was a pass attempt to Michael Thomas that was batted away.
Carr’s inability to see Shaheed was just one of several mind-numbing errors in the game.
There was the decision to utilize Jimmy Graham — all 6-foot-7 of him — in the red zone as a run blocker when he has never been known for his ability as a blocker. The continued decision to have Alvin Kamara run the football as if he was Craig “Ironhead” Hayward and of course, Carr seemingly checking it down before reading through his progressions.
Even with all that ineptitude, the Saints found a way to climb back into the game and perhaps complete an improbable comeback.
The Saints finally used some tempo and incorporated Taysom Hill as a runner and pass catcher. Carr was finally on the same page as his wide receivers, and the team put together a pair of touchdown drives, and a successful two-point conversion, in the fourth quarter.
Even after the defense inexplicably gave up a 44-yard touchdown pass, the Saints offense drove down the field quickly. Carr completed five of six passes for 50 yards and Kamara had two huge runs of 19 yards. With less than a minute to go, the Saints faced a first-and-goal at the six-yard line.
Those red-zone failures that have plagued the team all season rose again. Carr threw four straight incompletions, including a third-down pass that hit Foster Moreau in the hands.
Another brutal loss for a once-proud franchise.
There is plenty of blame to go around. Many fans have been calling for both head coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. to lose their jobs due to two seasons of awful offense. Or at least allow longtime assistant Ronald Curry to call plays on offense — like he did in the preseason this year.
The preparation and play calling have been dreadful. From running four verticals in the red zone, not using motion enough, ignoring the middle of the field, and so forth.
Why did the team even bother to sign Jimmy Graham? Nostalgia? To sell jerseys? Even if Jimmy is no longer the All-Pro goal-post dunking playmaker he once was, he can still be used as a decoy and he is 6-foot-7, which even if he stands like a statue in the end zone, he still has a chance to catch the ball over a 5-foot-10 cornerback.
In seven games, Graham has been targeted twice with one eight-yard reception for a touchdown. When asked about it afterward, Allen said not using Jimmy as a pass catcher was “a staff decision.” Woof.
The Saints have been particularly bad this season on both third down and in the red zone. New Orleans is converting only 34 percent on third-down conversions, and have scored a touchdown in the red zone only 37.50 percent of the time.
Those are both worse than what the team did last year under the maligned duo of Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston — two quarterbacks fans couldn’t wait to bench or cut. Yet, the Saints converted 40 percent of their third-down conversions while scoring touchdowns 52 percent of the time when inside the 20-yard line. Yes, the offense was better last season with Dalton and Winston at quarterback and not having Thomas all season.
Which leads us to Carr — the Saints prized free agent signing.
Carr was supposed to be an upgrade over what the franchise has had the past few seasons. He wasn’t supposed to be Brees good, but he was supposed to be good enough to help bring the offense back to relevance, or at least back to being competent. Yet, he hasn’t done either.
Carr is performing marginally better than the fearsome foursome of Trevor Siemian, Winston, Hill, and Ian Book did in 2021. Think about that for a minute.
Don’t believe me? In six games (four starts) back in 2021, Siemen had the stat line of 1,154 yards, 57.4 completion percentage, 11 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. In seven games (seven starts) this season, Carr’s stat line of 1,600 yards, 63.9 completion percentage, 6 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions.
Does Allen look lost as the head coach? Yes. Does Carmichael look overwhelmed and like a guy who turned down the job initially and had to be talked into taking it? Yep. Has the offensive line been bad and injury-prone? Yes. None of those are good things and they deserve blame for the start to the season.
But Carr has to shoulder the blame and lots of it.
When there is a good play called, you have to make the throw. If you don’t like the play call, or if you see the defense is leaving the middle open, then you have to take charge and call an audible. That is what quarterbacks are supposed to do. The good ones do.
Carr was given a contract worth up to $150 million and that means he is supposed to be the leader of the offense, the captain of the ship and he has yet to prove that with his play on the field.
Going 5-of-14 on third down for a paltry 25 yards, one first down and one pick-six is not getting it done. Not even close.
Not to mention there is an obvious issue with chemistry brewing between second-year wide receiver Chris Olave and Carr, which needs to be fixed immediately.
What makes all of this even more frustrating is the fact that for the second straight year, the NFC South is wide open.
The Saints couldn’t take advantage of the poor play in the NFC South and missed the playoffs last year while a team with a losing record won the division. Yet again, no one is running away with the worst division in football, and the Saints are not taking advantage of it due to their broken offense.
Can it be fixed, or will it simply fade to black…
Raymond Partsch III is the co-host of “RP3, D-Loh & Meche” which is broadcast weekdays (11-1) on ESPN 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles — Southwest Louisiana’s Sports Station.