DENVER — In what has become a season to forget before it even reached the halfway mark, New Orleans Saints strong safety Roman Harper took stock of where his team was late Sunday night.
When asked if the Saints had finally reached their lowest point in — of all places — the Mile High City, Harper wasn’t prepared to go that far.
While the question was specific to the first seven games of this season, Harper noted a 31-point season-opening loss to the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 — their worst beating since Sean Payton took over — was pretty bad.
Maybe it wasn’t that bad Sunday night, but there was no denying there was nothing good about the Saints’ 34-14 loss to the Denver Broncos by any stretch of the imagination.
Perhaps the 2007 game with the Colts quickly came to mind because the quarterback that carved them up that night was the same one that had just done a number on them for his new team: Peyton Manning.
Much like he did in leading the Colts to the win over the Saints five years earlier, he dialed up big play after big play and shredded the defense with 305 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Manning got little resistance from the Saints’ 32nd-ranked defense, even though they held their own against him on three of the Broncos’ first four possessions.
The Saints gave up 34 yards on 10 snaps on those three series, one of which ended with a takeaway on a Willis McGahee fumble.
However, the other series was typical of the Saints’ defense this season: an 11-play, 98-yard drive that resulted in the Broncos’ first touchdown.
But McGahee’s fumble, which the Saints’ offense turned into a touchdown, was the beginning of the end for Harper and his teammates.
Six of the next seven possessions netted the Broncos 40 yards or more, with three touchdowns and two field goals easily putting the Saints away.
“I’m not going to say we took a step back,” Harper said. “At the end of the day, we have to be able to get off the field and be able to make some plays defensively. We didn’t make enough plays.
“I don’t want to say the effort was poor, I just think the execution wasn’t good enough to help us win the game.”
And for the first time in four games, the offense didn’t help enough.
The Saints, who finished the game with a season-low 252 yards, had just 47 yards in the second half before a late 80-yard drive produced their second touchdown.
“That was just very stale,” said Drew Brees, who, like Manning, came into the game with a hot hand. “We never felt like we could ever get anything going.”
For once, the defense wasn’t totally to blame, although Harper said they could have done more.
“Defensively, we needed another turnover,” he said. “We have to hold teams to field goals, and offensively, maintain drives and things like that. It just wasn’t complementary ball on both sides.”