After Further Review: Five takes from Saints loss to Dolphins

Saints fall to 7-8 on the season after losing to Miami, 20-3. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman, File)
Saints fall to 7-8 on the season after losing to Miami, 20-3. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman, File)(Tyler Kaufman | AP)
Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 7:55 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take one: Covid rocks the Saints

Early in the game, No. 91 of the Saints made a nice hit on Tua Tagovailoa on a handoff. When I went to tweet about it, I realized I had no idea who the player was. It took me a minute to locate the name on the adjusted roster handed out to us before the game. Eventually, I discovered it was Ethan Westbrooks, a player added from the practice squad.

That wasn’t the only time during the game I had to search to find who a player was on the field for the Saints. That’s what 21 players out with COVID -19 does to a team trying to compete against one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

There were so many unrecognizable names on the field, that by the time it reached midway through the third quarter, it truly felt like a preseason game.

Some have questioned why this game was even played. Despite my repeated attempts, I was unable to find out if there was a threshold of absent players to force a cancellation or postponement. It likely had something to do with the fact that it was a Monday night game.

Regardless, the show went on, and the product on the field was exactly what we all should have expected. Going into this game, the feeling was a win, under these circumstances, would’ve been one of the greatest accomplishments in franchise history.

The Saints didn’t come close. Despite the fans objections, it all counts, and the loss now drops them to 7-8.

Take two: Book’s debut

Ian Book will have better days. His first career start came under nearly impossible circumstances. The rookie found out he was starting Thursday. Was only able to get one walk-through in, not even a real practice Friday, and was playing behind a makeshift offensive line.

Book’s play on the field resembled those struggles. Above all else, it looked the speed of the game impacted him, as he seemed to be a step slow in his progressions and decision-making. It certainly didn’t help that his offensive line struggled all night. In all, Book was sacked eight times and picked off twice.

His first interception was the one he would love to have back. Book was late on a throw to the flat, and left it too far inside. It also appeared to be tipped. The Dolphins defender easily undercut the pass, made the pick, and raced into the end zone for an early score.

All in all, it was a tough day at the office, but everyone understands that he was not put in the best position to succeed.

Take Three: Defense admirable effort

One of the few bright spots from Monday was how well the defense played despite not having two of their leaders available in Demario Davis and Malcolm Jenkins. That was a concern going into the game, but faded pretty quickly.

Defensive end Marcus Davenport played exceptional, while Pete Werner was up to the challenge at middle linebacker, and Zack Baun was solid. In the secondary, Marshon Lattimore had an interception, while P. J. Williams looked good filling in for Jenkins.

In the end, they weren’t perfect, but they only allowed 13 points, and gave the offense enough opportunities to stay in the game.

Take Four: Waddle shines

The best player on the football field Monday wore No. 17 for the Miami Dolphins. Jaylen Waddle showed why he’s such an exciting young prospect. Watching Waddle re-iterated just how badly the Saints are need of a dynamic playmaker at the wide receiver position.

Waddle came up clutch all night for the Dolphins. Their coaches also do a great job of getting creative with him in the playbook, and he took advantage of it Monday.

He finished with 10 catches, 92 yards and a touchdown.

On a night where the Saints defense played well overall, Waddle was the one guy they couldn’t quite contain.

Take Five: Other observations

  • The game may have gone different had Davenport’s sack/fumble been recovered by the Saints. Instead, the Dolphins were able to recover and salvage three points out of a near disaster.
  • The Saints were 0/12 on third down.
  • The Saints have not scored a touchdown in two games.
  • The Saints are 1-5 at home this season.
  • Just hours before kickoff, the CDC reduced the isolation window for positive COVID-19 patients from 10 to five days. That likely would’ve had an impact on the amount of Saints players available had that been in place last week.
  • Cesar Ruiz is struggling. As one of two main starters along the offensive line, Ruiz did not play well. That’s incredibly disappointing, considering how much the team needed their former first-round pick to perform on a night they were severely shorthanded.
  • At 7-8, the Saints are in must-win mode from here on out.

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