CHARLOTTE — Alvin Kamara stood near his locker to field questions about the New Orleans Saints’ third consecutive lackluster offensive performance and repeated the same phrase a couple times.
“There’s no doubt,” Kamara said.
As in, no doubt that whatever is currently ailing the Saints offense is not something that is going to linger, fester and ruin what has been a great run to this point. No doubt that the potent offense New Orleans is known for will find its footing again. No doubt, as in no shaken belief.
The important thing, Kamara said, was that the team was there in that moment celebrating a victory — its 12th in 14 games — that it would enjoy until the work on the next opponent started.
“We’re on to the next, period,” Kamara said.
The Saints went their third consecutive game without scoring a touchdown in the first half. They only crossed the goal line once against the Panthers, a few minutes into the fourth quarter.
Another potential touchdown was whisked away when the ball slipped out of Tommylee Lewis’ hands over the goal line and out of bounds, a touchback that gave Carolina the ball with a chance to win or tie in the closing minutes.
New Orleans’ high-flying offensive attack was once again grounded. It was held under 400 yards of total offense for the fourth consecutive game after topping that mark in six of its first nine contests. With the playoffs rapidly approaching, the Saints are left trying to determine what ails its moneymaker.
“We’ve got to get it figured out,” Kamara said. “We’ve been starting slow. We take the responsibility, we’ve just got to make plays and do what we’ve got to do to get the offense rolling. Whether it’s me, Mark (Ingram), Mike (Thomas), somebody’s got to step up and create a spark early.”
Penalties are one of the most effective killers of offensive rhythm. Monday (Dec. 17) against the Panthers, those penalties frequently took big plays off the board. When they did not do that, they put the offense in compromising down and distance situations.
“All we had to do was stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” said right guard Larry Warford. “That was kind of the story of the day for us: Too many penalties, too many mental mistakes. Just simple things, fundamentals. We’re a great offense, and we know that.”
New Orleans had nine penalties assessed against it Monday. Seven of those were called against the offense. Three of those penalties wiped out catches by Michael Thomas, all of which would have gone for first downs. One unnecessary roughness pushed the Saints from midfield to their own 33. A pair of false starts led to difficult third down conversion attempts.
It is things like these that make the players on the offense believe whatever is wrong is fixable.
“Negative plays,” Ingram said. “Those are things that you can’t have. It stalls an offense, it prevents an offense from having momentum. Those are a few things we can get figured out and get cleaned up.”
Big plays have also been difficult to come by. New Orleans had two pass plays cover 20 or more yards Monday, giving them five such plays in the last three weeks. In the first 11 games, the Saints had 49 pass plays of 20 or more yards, an average of 4.5 per game.
Drew Brees finished the game completing 23 of his 35 passes for 203 yards. He did not throw a touchdown and had one of his passes deflected and intercepted.
“Walking off the field just a little while ago, felt like there were tons of opportunities out there,” Brees said.
But, in the same breath, Brees echoed Kamara’s sentiments.
There were missed opportunities and negative plays, there was only 12 points on the scoreboard and more turnovers (2) than touchdowns (1). But the Saints were still celebrating a win, there is still time to get the offense back on track and still some positives to take away.
“Results driven business, right?” Brees said.
The offense needs to be better, Brees said, “no question.”
“There are some details, things we need to get cleaned up, and I’m confident we’re going to do that,” Brees said. “I feel like we know what they are, so I look forward to getting back to work on it.”