1 What we learned

The Saints’ 37-34 overtime loss at Atlanta last week wasn’t just a tough road game against a bitter rival. Many of the same demons that plagued New Orleans in Week 1 caught a connecting flight to Cleveland. The Saints cut down on the yards allowed but couldn’t make a critical stop on the final drive — in fact, Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins couldn’t have been more open to set up the winning field goal. The offense couldn’t mount a late score that might have sewed up the win, either. In addition to being 0-2 in the standings, New Orleans is 0-2 in turnover battles, always a critical stat in close games.

2 TRENDING NOW Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson is the poster child for New Orleans’ stunning fall from the NFL elite. Robinson was way too soft the Browns’ first touchdown (a 3-yard Brian Hoyer to Miles Austin pass) and committed a holding penalty that would have given Cleveland a reasonable shot to win even if Hawkins late reception hadn’t happened. Saints coach Sean Payton tried to deflect some of the criticism. “There are too many muddy hands to single out one player,” he said while pointing a finger at himself. True enough. But so far the Saints’ cornerback deficiencies look like a fatal flaw.

3 FINAL THOUGHTS New Orleans’ postseason dreams haven’t been shattered, but they have been reduced to a low level of probability. Yes, Carolina won the NFC South last year after an 0-2 start, but that’s a rarity. Of the many Saints teams to start 0-2 (21 in all), only the 1990 squad reached the playoffs. New Orleans needs to forget about that and focus on the positives: the running game is a strength and there are still 14 games left to turn things around. But the Saints return home against Minnesota in total red-alert, must-win mode. There’s no other way to look at it.

Scott Rabalais