METAIRIE, La. -- As I wrote earlier, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said it was impossible to single out any one area that deserved blame for Sunday's 26-20 loss to the New York Jets, since there were fundamental breakdowns across the board.
However, the Saints' run defense was clearly near the top of that list of offenders.
“The thing that's disappointing about yesterday is we knew getting off the bus this is a team that was gonna run the football,” Payton said. “They knew they were gonna run the football. I think everyone at MetLife Stadium knew they were gonna run the football. And we weren't able to stop them. That's frustrating, and we've got to figure out why and make those corrections.”
The Saints gave up 198 rushing yards to the Jets. But almost all of the damage came on three plays. Running back Chris Ivory busted loose for gains of 52, 30 and 27 yards -- going virtually untouched on all three runs.
When asked how much of that was simply Ivory having a great game, Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton wasn't about to surrender any of the blame.
“I wouldn't say that. He had great numbers stat-wise, but there wasn't anything in his way most of the time he ran,” Lofton said. “That's more so (our fault). We didn't do our jobs or execute the way we should execute.”
The Saints either got blocked out of the way or took poor angles to the runner in every level of their defense. And they got caught over-pursuing on blitzes on the first two runs (the 27-yarder in the first quarter and the 52-yarder in the second quarter).
Those types of breakdowns haven't been a consistent problem for the Saints this year, even though they rank 26th in rushing yards allowed (121.3 per game). They have occasionally let some long gains slip through -- but never to this degree. And never against an opponent that was so obviously planning to run against them all day long.
Payton pointed to the 52-yard run while the Jets were backed up with a second-and-12 from their own 2-yard line as one of the two biggest turning points in the game.
He just as easily could've mentioned Ivory's 30-yard run on third-and-2 late in the third quarter.
“What went wrong was, I'd say it was a couple of things. Misalignment, not being lined up, not having people in the right spots, and just missing tackles, too, which led to big plays and getting gashed,” Lofton said. “That's something we haven't done in the previous games and it reared its head this game. We've got to get back to the basics and get ready for Dallas this weekend.”
Here's a specific breakdown from the tape of those three runs:
27 yards off right tackle on first-and-10 from the Saints' 48-yard line: The Jets were lined up in the shotgun with two running backs in the backfield, and the Saints stacked eight men in the box. But the Saints got burned with an aggressive blitz. Lofton shot into the line, and outside linebacker Parys Haralson came around behind Lofton on a stunt. When Haralson got to the open hole, he overshot Ivory's path, and Ivory ran untouched deep into the secondary.
52 yards off right tackle on second-and-12 from the Jets' 2-yard line: The Jets were lined up in a base formation, with Ivory behind a fullback in the backfield. Again the Saints blitzed, which took safety Kenny Vaccaro out of the play to the Saints' right side. Meanwhile, Ivory came around to the Saints' left side behind pulling guard Brian Winters. Winters got in Lofton's way, forcing Lofton to try and bring down Ivory with just an arm tackle -- which wasn't going to get it done. Deep safety Rafael Bush wasn't able to get across the field to help out. Luckily, Vaccaro wound up catching Ivory from behind, or else it might have been a 98-yard touchdown run.
30 yards around left end on third-and-2 from the Jets' 27-yard line: Ivory was the lone back next to quarterback Geno Smith in a shotgun formation, with three wide receivers and a tight end. The Saints had eight men in the box, but they didn't blitz. This time, Ivory followed pulling guard Willie Colon around the left end. Colon took out Lofton, and Bush took too shallow of an angle while coming from the deep safety position.