Brian Allee-Walsh

Who was Dat in the loss against Tampa Bay in New Orleans?

It would be wrong to draw concrete conclusions or make snap decisions based on one game. One game does not constitute a trend or provide an airtight litmus test.

But surrendering points and yards by the bushel to a prohibitive road underdog, a journeyman quarterback and a perennial bottom-feeding opponent does make one pause.

I am speaking about Sunday’s shocking 48-40 loss by the New Orleans Saints to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Shocking in the sense that Saints coach Sean Payton and his staff had a whole offseason to game-plan for an all-too-familiar divisional foe that put 35-year-old bearded wonder Ryan Fitzpatrick under center instead of suspended franchise quarterback Jameis Winston.

What should have been a cakewalk turned into an embarrassing loss against a high school-like homecoming opponent and put a damper on a day when late owner Tom Benson took his rightful place on the Saints Ring of Honor.

On this first Sunday of the NFL season, Fitz-magic made Buc Nation forget about Famous Jameis and forced Who Dat Nation to resurrect painful images of historically inept Saints’ defenses of seasons gone by.

Fitzpatrick shredded the Saints defense, posting a stellar 156.2 passer rating while accounting for 453 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns (4 passing, 1 rushing) and no turnovers.

Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson had their way with Saints cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley, combining for 12 catches on 12 targets for 293 yards and three touchdowns.

Pass pressure from the Saints defensive front was non-existent, a poor reflection on defensive coordinator Dennis Allen who seemed to be one step behind Bucs’ offensive coordinator Todd Monken, a former head coach at Southern Miss. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, who’s squarely on the hot seat this season, turned his play-calling duties over to Monken after a disappointing 5-11 finish in 2017.

So now it’s on to the Cleveland Browns at noon Sunday in the Superdome. The Browns scored a moral victory of sorts by eking out a surprising 21-21 tie in OT with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

All you have to know about the Browns is they are 1-31-1 in their last 33 games under third-year coach Hue Jackson but are off to their best start in 14 years. In other words, they had lost 13 consecutive season openers.

Don’t laugh Who Dats.

The Saints have lost five straight season openers and hope to avoid going 0-2 for a fifth consecutive year, which seems a virtual certainty considering the Browns are an early 8-point road ‘dog.

Remember, the Bucs entered as 9 1/2-point road ‘dogs and exited as 8-point winners, proving once again that parity is alive and well in the NFL.

I suspect the “real’‘ Saints will show up in Week 2 against the Browns ‘cause I’m not sure Who Dat was against Tampa Bay.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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