What it means: Somehow the Saints (2-4) managed to come up with their ugliest, most painful loss yet in a season filled with them. They blew a 23-10 lead with less than four minutes remaining thanks to huge breakdowns by the defense and quarterback Drew Brees.
The defense allowed a 73-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate and a 5-yard TD pass to Corey Fuller in the final minutes, and Brees threw an interception inside his own territory as the lead -- and possibly the season -- rapidly disintegrated.
The only saving grace for New Orleans is that the entire NFC South is in turmoil, with no teams over .500. And the Saints still have six home games remaining. But they can't expect to win anything if they can't close out games.
Stock watch: Brees' stock rose and fell dramatically in this game. He was clutch for 56 minutes, finally rediscovering his receivers on a day when tight end Jimmy Graham and the run game were nonfactors. But Brees threw his most costly interception of the season from his own 29-yard line with 3:20 remaining. Safety Glover Quin cut in front of a pass intended for receiver Marques Colston to snag the pick on third-and-9.
Brees was then unable to march his team back in the final minutes for a possible game-winning field goal, completing just 2 of 7 passes on the final desperate drive with only one first down. He finished 28-of-45 for 342 yards, two touchdowns (including a 46-yard strike to Kenny Stills) and the one interception.
Graham a nonfactor: Graham did play and probably wound up playing close to 20 or 30 snaps by unofficial count. But he was targeted only twice and didn't catch a pass. It’s unclear if the Saints intentionally left him out of the game plan or if he was covered on plays designed for him. He is heading in the right direction with his shoulder injury, though -- and the Saints will need him going forward.
Game ball: Colston and Stills reluctantly get the nod since Brees and the defensive backs had too many highs and lows. Colston hauled in six receptions for 111 yards, many of them resulting in big hits over the middle. And Stills caught five passes for 103 yards and the 46-yard TD on a day when the Saints absolutely needed their receivers to come through.
What's next: The opponents don't get any easier for the Saints, who host the sizzling Green Bay Packers (5-2) next Sunday night. But the Saints love the setting. They have won 13 straight prime-time games inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome by an average of roughly 20 points per game.