Saints miss sense of urgency

BY SHELDON MICKLES

Advocate sportswriter

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When things have gone bad in the past for the New Orleans Saints, particularly since 2006, you could always expect them to play with a certain amount of urgency when they got another chance.

After everything that’s happened during this crazy season, however, you can’t even expect the things you normally would come to expect — or take for granted — to happen.

A prime example: The Saints almost always win the next time out when Drew Brees is intercepted three or more times, going 8-1 in the next game after a rare off-day on the field.

But that was before they ran into a New York Giants team that was coming off a one-point Monday night loss to the Washington Redskins in which they were extremely inept offensively.

The Giants found their way after a bit of a slow start Sunday, however, and dealt the Saints’ bleak playoff chances an all-but-final blow with a 52-27 victory in MetLife Stadium.

Then again, bleak doesn’t begin to describe the desperate situation for the Saints at this point.

After three straight losses that were punctuated by 11 turnovers, they face astronomical odds standing three games behind the NFC wild-card leaders with only three games remaining in the season.

On top of that, they heard the word a player never wants to hear when interim coach Joe Vitt said the Saints were a fragile team after going winless in a crucial three-game stretch — each against a division leader — and losing by 10, 10 and finally 25 points.

Losing to the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons in the first two wasn’t totally unacceptable, but Sunday’s loss obviously left Vitt searching for answers that will unfortunately come too late to help this season.

In the past, the Saints always seemed to find a way to get things straightened out when adversity hit.

But it wasn’t there Sunday when they couldn’t keep the Giants on their side of the field on four of their six kickoffs — including a momentum-changing 97-yard touchdown return by rookie David Wilson after the Saints had grabbed a 7-0 lead on Elbert Mack’s 73-yard interception return.

That was the beginning of a long day for the Saints as far as Vitt was concerned.

“All of a sudden, something goes bad and it’s like, ‘Here we go again,’ instead of just setting your jaw and drawing a line in the sand and having the mental toughness to get it done,” Vitt said.

In other words, it’s not the brand of football the Saints have become accustomed to playing since the last time they failed to make the postseason in 2008. They used that as a springboard to 41 regular-season and playoff wins between 2009 and 2011.

Sunday, however, was something entirely different for Vitt.

“I can’t say that I have,” he said when asked if he had seen the Saints play a game like that. “We’ve had some heartbreakers, and we’ve played bad on both sides of the ball. But this was a pounding today.”