We’re just two weeks into the season, and somehow Saints fans that were sure they were bringing the Lombardi trophy home have already started to panic. On the surface, the Bucs and the Browns games do seem to provide good reasons for the considerable shift in mood, but that is because fans are still working off of last year’s information. Going into the season, a weak Bucs team missing Jameis Winston and a Browns team that didn’t win a single game last year seemed as if they would provide two easy weeks for the Saints to shake off any rust and flex on the rest of the league. Instead, they ended up losing in a shootout to the Bucs 48-40 and needing a double-digit fourth quarter comeback to escape the Browns game with a 21-18 win.
Week one losses are particularly tough to swallow because they come with half a year of anticipation behind them. When it’s against a division rival that was expected to be an easy out, it really stings. Throw in that it looked like the Saints were going to come back and force overtime before somehow allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to scramble for a first down on a third and eleven, which effectively ended the game, and it felt like everything was falling apart. Suddenly last year’s improved defense was an anomaly, and the Saints have reverted to their defense of the previous five years which was about as effective as a sieve at stopping water. Allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns definitely feels like a low point—until one week later, when he does it again. This time he does it against the reigning Super Bowl champions who are known for having one of the league’s best defenses. This Bucs team might just be for real, and that should be enough to bring some relief to Saints fans.
The Browns game, which many hoped would be a good morale booster after that week one loss, turned out to be a hard-fought battle. The Saints trailed for the majority of the game. This week was the inverse of last in that the offense could not produce and the team had to rely on the defense to pull out the win. Without the help of Zane Gonzalez, the Browns kicker, missing two field goals and two extra points, the Saints would’ve started the season 0-2. Such a close call against the hapless Browns is understandably difficult for Saints fans to process. But just like with the Bucs, they have to realize that this isn’t the Browns team of last year. They had just played the Steelers to a tie and have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball; beating them is no longer a given.
Saints fans need to take a deep breath and relax. Instead of overreacting to perceived deficiencies of the Saints, they should be keying in on the many positives. Brees, Kamara, and Thomas are off to incredible starts and will make sure that the Saints can keep pace with any offense in the league. The defense stepped up against the Browns, especially when playing on short fields and in the fourth quarter when it became critical. There clearly is room for growth, but this team is still a Super Bowl favorite.
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