Saints know only way to silence boos, keep jobs is to win

New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr exited Sunday's game with an injury Sunday. Gerald Herbert/AP

METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara isn't going to pretend he's oblivious to the frustration surrounding the team.

He heard it loud and clear Sunday during the Saints' 33-28 loss to the Detroit Lions in the Caesars Superdome. There were a significant amount of Lions fans in the building and the Saints fans in attendance booed the team, particularly quarterback Derek Carr, early and often.

"I ain't never experienced nothing like that in my ... New Orleans life," Kamara said. "It was definitely a shock to see. There was a lot of Lions fans in there and there was a lot of booing going on. Definitely not what I'm used to experiencing, and obviously don't like it, but as a fan, I can understand it."

Offensive lineman James Hurst described the beginning of the game as "miserable" after the Saints fell into a 21-0 hole. But he couldn't blame the fans for how they felt.

"In a sense, we put ourselves [there]," Hurst said. "We were playing the game. We're down 21-0 and the Lions fans traveled well. We in a sense created that situation. It's unfortunate, you hate to see it, but ... we know the fans are great here and they just want wins, just like we do."

Several players expressed similar sentiments, explaining they might not agree with the booing, but they understood why it was happening.

"I've been booed before as the offense has been on the field ... but I think that is a result of what you're putting on the field," center Erik McCoy said. "If you don't want to get booed, you score points, you don't turn the ball over, you win games. I think it's that simple. Do I agree with it? No. Do I understand it? Absolutely."

There's been plenty of frustration to go around for the Saints (5-7), who have lost their last three games and their first-place standing in the NFC South. The Saints sit one game behind the Atlanta Falcons (6-6) and are tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7). Tampa and Atlanta will face off Sunday, and the Saints host the last-place team in the division -- and all of the NFL -- in the Carolina Panthers (1-11) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX).

Carr has not spoken this week as he remains in concussion protocol, but he has taken the brunt of the fans' anger, along with coach Dennis Allen. Carr was booed in pregame introductions, throughout the game and whenever he would trot back on the field after Taysom Hill would come on at quarterback in certain packages. Carr would eventually exit in the fourth quarter because of injury.

"The fans are frustrated. We're frustrated. Everyone's frustrated," right tackle Ryan Ramczyk said. "We have to do everything in our power to play better football."

Kamara said they're tired of talking about how they'll improve this late in the season and simplified the remedy for it all: Win and the booing will stop.

"I can't tell 60,000 how to feel," Kamara said. "They feel how they feel. We're all grown in here. We all heard it. Derek heard it. We knew what was going on. It's not like we're oblivious to it so I'm not going to act like, 'Oh, what are you talking about? They were booing?' I know what happened. I was there for it and I've never experienced anything like it. I don't like it. I know Derek, that's not something he likes.

"Sometimes you win, it's great. You lose, it's boos. You fumble, it's boos. ... Winning puts a band-aid on a lot of that stuff."

But winning hasn't been easy to come by for the Saints, even though they've played the fourth-easiest schedule, according to ESPN's Football Power Index, heading into Week 14. They have a 27.4% chance to make the playoffs despite having the second-easiest remaining schedule.

The Saints have squandered opportunities all season long -- giving up 18 points in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3 in a 18-17 loss, not being able to move the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a crucial divisional game in Week 4 and failing to score in the red zone in crunch time against the Houston Texans (Week 6) and Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 7).

Five of the Saints' losses have been within one score, leading players like safety Tyrann Mathieu to wonder "what if?"

"For the most part, I think we respond to challenges well," Mathieu said. "Probably not all the time. But I look back over the course of the season, and there's moments where I'm like 'Damn, we could've played better.'"

The Saints could be facing their third straight season without a playoff berth if they don't find a way to turn those one-score losses into wins, and the veterans know those scenarios often result in changes.

"I'm ... definitely not naive to that part of it," Mathieu said. "Which is why we've got to go out here and win the next five and make ourselves feel good about something this season."

Kamara said he still believes they have the players to fix things. At this point, frustration or not, there's no other option.

"Mark [Ingram] told me this a long time ago, Cam [Jordan] told me this a long time ago ... the only way we all stay here is if we win. Everybody, from the receptionist at the front desk to the equipment room," Kamara said. "Obviously when you're not winning there's an alertness to be like, 'OK, well, damn, we could all be gone.' So that's kind of my standpoint, and it's like every Sunday I try to do everything I can because I do feel like we've got the right players to win. I feel like we've got the right locker room. I don't feel like there's a problem with our locker room."