Three teams have started 0-2 and gone on to win the Super Bowl.
At this point, though, the Saints aren’t even thinking about joining Dallas from 1993, New England from 2001 and the New York Giants from 2007 in that category. They are looking at the small picture rather than the big picture, beginning with the little things that led to last-second losses to Atlanta and Cleveland.
On Monday morning, coach Sean Payton lamented several situational gaffes from the 26-24 defeat in Cleveland. Cornerback Patrick Robinson jumped offside as the Browns missed a field goal. No one picked up blitzing linebacker Karlos Dansby as he came right up the middle to sack Drew Brees and take the Saints out of field-goal range as they protected a one-point lead on their final possession. Just as they had against Atlanta in Week 1, the Saints allowed a late drive for a chip-shot winning field goal.
“We have to look closely at being prepared for those things and being smarter in those situations,” Payton said. “That’s stood out two weeks in a row.”
New Orleans made multiple mistakes on Cleveland’s final play, a 28-yard completion that moved the ball to the 11. Payton said Robinson was slow to react to a receiver going in motion as the Browns bunched three receivers on the same side of the field. Robinson, Keenan Lewis and Corey White then miscommunicated in man-to-man coverage, leaving wide receiver Andrew Hawkins unguarded on a corner route. The Browns declined a holding penalty on Robinson, who grabbed a receiver cutting inside.
“You’ve got to be able to handle bunch (formations), and you’ve got to be able to handle receivers in motion,” Payton said. “When you play man-to-man like we do, you’re going to get that.”
The blown assignment turned what might have been a 57-yard field-goal attempt into a nearly automatic 29-yard try, but safety Kenny Vaccaro said earlier mistakes were just as critical.
“We have to get better communicating, especially when a team motions, but that’s going to happen with any secondary,” he said. “Before that stop, there’s another stop we could have got, and another stop we could have got before that. So there’s a lot of things that we can do that won’t even lead to (having to get) one stop.”
Speaking at the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club luncheon Monday, Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis answered some tough questions from fans disappointed in the 0-2 start.
With Robinson struggling, Loomis explained why it was not easy to fill roster holes once the season started.
“At this time of the year, it’s hard to find good players that are out there free,” he said. “They’re all on teams. They’re not at the Winn-Dixie — that’s an expression we use a lot in our building. But yet, there are guys you sometimes have to uncover. And sometimes, they’re in your building and sometimes, they’re not, regardless of the position.”
Payton also drew criticism for play-calling that was skewed to the passing game.
Loomis was less receptive to that one.
Entering the Monday night game between Philadelphia and Indianapolis, New Orleans ranked No. 1 in the NFL in scoring, No 2 in offense, fifth in rushing and sixth in passing.
“We’ve had the No. 1 offense in the NFL a number of times in the past eight or nine years. And I think even today, being 0-2, we’re No. 2 in the league in offense,” Loomis said. “You know, I think it’s ludicrous for anyone to question his play calling.”
Lying on the floor at the start of Monday’s open locker room period, Lewis stood up to defend Robinson.
Robinson was called for interference and gave up a 3-yard touchdown pass to receiver Miles Austin in the first quarter. Robinson jumped offside before the Browns missed a field goal later in the quarter, giving them a first down that led to three points.
Robinson then committed the holding penalty the Browns declined on their final drive.
“You name me one perfect cornerback you’ve seen play,” Lewis said. “It goes like that sometimes. He was one of the better players last week, so you can’t say, three catches, 40 yards.
“Look around on Sundays. There are guys who caught 200 yards, three touchdowns. What you say about those kinds of guys?”
After the early touchdown, the coaches replaced Robinson with White at right cornerback in the base defense. Still, Lewis predicted better days ahead for Robinson.
“I think he’s one of the best,” Lewis said. “We’ll keep rooting for him and keep pushing him and helping him, and hope he can play well.”