By Brent Stecker
In the long-awaited Monday night showdown between NFC title contenders, New Orleans' offense did not hold up its end of the bargain. In fact, the Saints' poor offensive performance in their 34-7 loss to Seattle was something the team hasn't seen in quite some time.
New Orleans tied the franchise mark for fewest points in a game since Sean Payton became the head coach in 2006. The Saints managed just 188 yards of offense, their lowest output since Jan. 6, 2002, which was 188 games ago. And quarterback Drew Brees was held below the 200-yard mark for the first time since Week 17 of the 2010 season.
"We certainly didn't execute like we're used to," quarterback Drew Brees said after the Saints' offense turned in one of its worst performances in recent memory Monday night. (AP)
Graham, who leads all NFL tight ends in receiving, said there was a myriad of problems with the Saints' offensive execution.
"Everything went wrong. That's the problem, especially on the road," he said. "You can't point at any one thing or two or three or four. The team played very, very poorly tonight, and we have to learn from that, because these all count."
As poor as New Orleans' passing attack performed, the Saints didn't get any help from their ground game. The team's leading rusher, Pierre Thomas, was held to no yards on four carries, and the rest of the backfield had just 45 yards. Then again, the running backs didn't get too many chances as New Orleans had to turn to its passing game early and often after falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter.
"We had trouble rushing the football, we had trouble protecting the passer, getting guys open," Payton said. "We didn't do enough things in any one area. So we didn't do a good enough job coaching and certainly didn't give our guys a chance to make plays. We got beat. We got beat good tonight."
Save for a long touchdown drive that took a big chunk out of the second quarter, New Orleans' five first-half possessions were frustrating, to say the least. Three of them ended with punts, while another resulted in disaster when Brees was hit as he attempted a throw and Seattle's Michael Bennett returned the fumble for a Seahawks touchdown.
"That first half was tough. Everything they did offensively was right, and we really couldn't get anything going." Brees said. "Looking back, I think we have five possessions in the first half, (and) four of those were three-and-outs."
Added Payton: "We felt like we had some opportunities late in the second quarter. We got the score but we just didn't do enough offensively."
Bennett's fumble recovery and score, which looked like an interception as he caught the ball in mid-air, was an early turning point in the game.
"You can't really turn the ball over when you're playing away games," Graham said. "That's a huge stat. For a pick-six like that, kind of a fluky little deal, that definitely hurts."
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"We certainly didn't do enough in converting third downs and staying on the field," Payton said.
Added Graham: "They were real good on third down tonight. We weren't as good as we usually are. It just wasn't our night."
Brees gave a lot of credit to the Seahawks' well-rounded defense.
"I think they're very good. They don't have any weak links," he said. "They're very good up front, they're very good at the linebacker position, they're very good in the secondary. They put it all together. And they play very, very well together, within their scheme.
"Obviously they play extremely well at home because they can thrive on that crowd noise and typically an offense's inability to communicate as well and snap count and all those things. They deserve a lot of credit."
Perhaps most telling, when asked if he was looking forward to meeting Seattle again in the playoffs, Brees was careful with his words.
"We have a lot of work to do prior to anything like that," he said. "As of right now, the road to the Super Bowl looks like it's traveling right through here. We know Seattle's a great team. We know that they're a team that we're gonna have to deal with in the future, and we've got to find a way to play better."