The defense has to get back to work.
Vaccaro said coach Sean Payton gave players the day off on Monday -- a typical "Victory Monday" practice that takes place around the NFL.
But Vaccaro didn’t feel like the Saints’ defense did enough to earn it after squandering a 21-0 lead that made Sunday’s game too close for comfort.
“Coach gave us the day off and I was like, ‘No, I want the whole defense to meet tomorrow with the coaches, and we’re going to go through this whole tape,’” said Vaccaro, a fourth-year safety. “I felt like we won the game, but I don’t have a good taste in my mouth. I think there are some things out there that I know we didn’t do that we need to execute. Little things that are going to cost us in the future.”
Veteran linebacker Craig Robertson said the defensive meeting isn’t mandatory, but he supported the idea.
“We can’t jump out to a lead like that and get ourselves in close games,” Robertson said. “We’re all coming in and watching the tape and growing as a defense and trying to figure out what we can do to make sure when we get a lead like this, we keep it and not go down to the last possession of the game.”
They’re right. The Saints (2-3) are lucky that they have an offense and a quarterback in Drew Brees who is capable of posting 465 yards and four touchdown passes like he did Sunday.
But this high-wire act has led to three straight seasons of below-.500 football now. And things didn’t work out so well in Week 1, when the Saints squandered a 24-10 lead in the second half at home against the Oakland Raiders and lost 35-34.
The Saints now have the No. 2 offense in the NFL (413.4 yards per game) and the No. 31 defense (419.4). That’s nothing new -- since no team has gained more yards or allowed more yards than New Orleans since the start of the 2012 season.
On Sunday, the Saints allowed 406 yards despite benefiting from the fact that Panthers quarterback Cam Newton never took off running (perhaps an after-effect from last week's concussion). The Saints’ defense was credited with 13 quarterback hits and two sacks against Newton -- and cornerback Sterling Moore intercepted him once in the end zone in the second quarter.
However, the three plays that almost doomed the Saints were three pass-interference calls inside the 2-yard line that set up Carolina touchdowns in the second half.
The one against Vaccaro in the third quarter was highly questionable since he appeared to turn around and make a play on the ball against tight end Greg Olsen in the end zone. And it was very costly since it came on fourth down.
Afterward, Payton said, “I just wish I had the opportunity to challenge Vaccaro’s pass interference. ... That would have been a nice challenge.”
The pass interference calls against Moore and cornerback Brian Dixon in the fourth quarter were more expected.
That cornerback position remains very much a work in progress for the Saints. They did, however, get a great performance Sunday from veteran B.W. Webb, who was credited with four pass defenses. And No. 1 cornerback Delvin Breaux should be back soon from a broken fibula that has hurt the Saints more than any other injury this year.
Earlier this week, Vaccaro talked about the promise New Orleans’ defense has shown, despite an unacceptable amount of inconsistency. The highlight obviously came over the final seven minutes in Week 4 at San Diego before the bye, when New Orleans forced three takeaways to come back from a 13-point deficit.
“At the same time, you are who you are. We’re still ranked whatever we’re ranked,” Vaccaro said. “I think we’ve played some very good quarters that I haven’t really been a part of in a while. Some stretches of games that we’ve played really well, and that’s what [defensive coordinator Dennis Allen] has been preaching.
“We’ve just gotta find that consistency.”