METAIRIE — A week ago, Saints interim coach Joe Vitt spent a sleepless first night on the job. That was by design so that he could get himself back up to speed.
Monday, Vitt didn’t get any sleep either. That wasn’t the plan.
“No, no. None at all,” a fatigued-looking Vitt said during a short break from sorting though the debris of the team’s abysmal performance in its 34-14 loss at Denver. “I didn’t want to rest.”
In a game in which the Saints had a lot of things going against them — a road trip against a opponent on the upswing coming off a bye week, and with Vitt retaking the reins of the team after a six-game suspension for his part in the bounty scandal — they were outdone in virtually every aspect.
The Saints last-in-the-league defense reaffirmed that status by giving up a season-high 530 yards keep the team on pace surrender the most yards in NFL history. The 34 points allowed put the Saints on pace to be the most scored-on in team history.
Meanwhile, the offense produced only 252 net yards, 100 of them coming in the fourth quarter when the issue had been long settled. Drew Brees’ 201 net passing yards were his fewest since the final game of the 2010 season.
About the only positive was that punter Thomas Morstead improved his league-best punting and net punting averages. But that was tempered by the fact that thanks to the poor performance by the offense, he kicked a career-high eight times.
But Vitt saved most of the criticism for himself.
“We didn’t coach well enough to win,” he said. “It all starts with me.
“I’ve got to do a better job of preparing our football team to play better.”
The defeat dropped the Saints to 2-5 going into another prime-time game next Monday at home against Philadelphia (3-4), which has had its own high level of disappointment this season — with in all practicality, any semblance of hope for a fourth-straight playoff season riding on the outcome.
“Losing hurts,” Vitt said. “But you just have swallow it on down, because in the National Football League you cannot let the past dictate the future.
“We’ve had some success here in the past, but you can’t walk around with some sense of entitlement. To a certain extent, you’ve got to have amnesia in this business, because we are playing again Monday on national TV against a pretty good football team in the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Vitt was particularly hard on himself on indecision in play calling.
Facing fourth-and-2 from the Broncos 47 early in the second quarter, the Saints had to call time out when the punt team came on the field, although the plan had been to go for it if such a situation arose.
After the time out, Drew Brees’ pass was intercepted by Wesley Woodyard and returned to the Broncos 44. Denver drove from there to the go-ahead touchdown and never looked back.
Vitt also took the blame for not going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 29 early in the first quarter and for not calling a timeout to get the ball back earlier near the end of the game and to give Brees another shot at producing points
“We had the right play and the right personnel, because we’d worked on it all week long,” Vitt said of the fourth-down breakdown in the second quarter. “Our hesitancy was on me.
“This industry we’re in is not like riding a bike. I had to learn how to put my headset on, how to turn it on, to communicate with both sides of the ball to get my feet grounded. And then I had to stand before our football team and tell them I’ve got to get better as a coach.”
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Vitt’s shouldering the responsibility was a reflection of the man and the organization.
“We all do,” Spagnuolo said. “But Joe, God bless him, is like that.
“He’s a competitor, and we all feel the same way.
“Somehow, someway, I have to do get better with my job. We’ve been working on that all day long.”
Vitt said the team’s defensive woes would not prompt a change in the scheme, since it’s too late in the season for that. Neither, he added, was wholesale shifting of the starters being contemplated.
There had been speculation that cornerback Patrick Robinson was benched in the late going Sunday, but Vitt said that was because of fatigue.
“We’re going to work toward our angles to the ball, our hit points, and do everything we can to get better,” he said. “Tackling is a basic staple of a defense.
“If you can’t tackle and you can’t take proper angles, you’re potentially in for a long night.”
And as for a long night, after he left his media briefing, Vitt and the staff were going into an evening session with director of pro personnel Ryan Pace and the scouts to give final grades for the Broncos game and see if there were any potential moves that could be made.
Because of Hurricane Sandy, the trading deadline has been extended from today until Thursday.
The players have today and Wednesday off, although Vitt indicated he expected them to come in on their own to watch film, lift and run before practice resumes on Thursday.
“We’ll do everything we can this week to regroup,” he said, “We’re in some tough times right now, but there’s no group of men I’d rather be with than we have in the locker room, on the coaching staff and in the organization.”
“Now is the time for us to stand up and be accountable.”