METAIRIE, La. – Obviously New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan admitted that the last-minute 17-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers last week was a tough way to lose a game. But he said he didn’t have any regrets over the way the defense handled the final drive.
Ryan, who was recapping the game for the first time since he meets with the media on Fridays, said he had a couple regrets earlier in the game – especially the decision to go with a corner blitz on DeAngelo Williams’ 43-yard touchdown run in the first half. But on the final drive, Ryan credited Carolina quarterback Cam Newton as “a pretty good quarterback making a couple of pretty good plays in a tight window.”
“That was tough, especially with so much on the line,” Ryan said. “That’s how it is in this league. It’s so close every week, and it’s so competitive, it’s a hard way to lose a game.”
It’s now happened to the Saints (10-5) twice this year, after they also gave up a touchdown pass in a last-second loss at New England in Week 6. But Ryan said it’s nothing he hasn’t experienced before.
“Absolutely. I think every coach has. If they say they haven't, they're obviously lying,” Ryan said. “You look first at yourself to improve, and then you look exactly at what happened and we've done that. We've addressed it numerous times. It's just such a hard thing to do because we were playing pretty well, and that's a pretty good quarterback making a couple of pretty good plays in a tight window.
“But the bottom line is it doesn't matter. We've got to get it done, and we don't want to make excuses for anything.”
The Saints actually suffered two big losses at Carolina. They also lost standout rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro to a season-ending ankle injury in the first quarter.
Ryan has been gushing with praise over Vaccaro’s versatile ability all year long – calling him the “best safety in the league that does everything” earlier this month. And Ryan has certainly backed up that praise by using Vaccaro all over the field in deep coverage, in coverage against slot receivers, in run defense and as a blitzer.
Ryan said he believes the Saints can make up for his absence, though, just as they had to do after starting cornerback Jabari Greer was lost for the season last month or when safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper battled injuries.
“That's how it is,” Ryan said. “It's a tough loss, no question. Kenny's a hell of a football player. We've got real good players around him and have to step up. You have to break that job up. He was doing multiple jobs. You have to break it up. Give different guys different roles, and the bottom line is, whatever it is, we have to be great on Sunday, for sure.”
And speaking of players that Ryan has treasured during his career, Ryan addressed the recent retirement of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha -- one of his all-time great former players when they were together with the Oakland Raiders.
“Great player. Played a long time. Smart. Had a great career,” Ryan said. “It was a pleasure coaching him, I know that. He’s a great person as well as a great player. Shoot, now he can use those million-dollar looks to go into acting with his wife, I guess. He’s gotta have a hell of a (post-football) career because he’s smart and good looking.”