|A 35-27 loss to the Panthers on Sunday dropped the Saints to 0-2 and begged the question: Are they really this bad? (AP)|
With the Saints starting 0-2 for the first time since 2007, interim coach Aaron Kromer insisted Monday they were not far off from a reversal of fortune. He pointed to history new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had intimate familiarity with from his days in New York.
The Saints have given up 75 points and 922 yards in losses to Washington and Carolina, ranking last in the NFL in both categories.
Five years ago, the New York Giants gave up 80 points in an 0-2 start when Spagnuolo was in his first season as defensive coordinator there. They responded by rattling off six wins in a row, finishing 10-6 and shocking undefeated New England in the Super Bowl.
“Here's what numbers we've been stressing -- the three 0-2 teams that made the playoffs and won the Super Bowl (Dallas '93, New England 2001, Giants '07) and the last one that made the playoffs and won the Super Bowl. “He (Spagnuolo) has close information on obviously how that happened that year.”
New Orleans outgained Carolina 486-463 and rushed for 163 yards a week after gaining just 32 yards on the ground against Washington. Still, the Saints trailed for good after the Panthers went ahead 14-13 with 3:33 left in the first half. A week after rushing for 10 yards against Tampa Bay, Carolina piled up 219 rushing yards against New Orleans.
“When you're on the inside, you'll see that we're going to be a good team,” Kromer said. “We're not good enough yet. … We're right there. … There's no way possible could you say we're not a good team.”
He stressed the unconventionality of the offenses the Saints played in the first two weeks. Washington QB Robert Griffin III rushed 10 times for 42 yards and threw for 320 yards, keeping the defense off balance. Carolina QBa Cam Newton rushed for a career-high 71 yards on 13 carries and threw for 253 yards on only 14 completions.
New Orleans faces Kansas City and pocket passer Matt Cassel at the Superdome next Sunday.
“We're on an upward slope,” Kromer said. “Is it conventional that quarterbacks run in this league? No. And do quarterbacks usually last when they run in this league? No. People are too athletic and too physical. When they hit these guys, it is hard for them to last when they try to run.”
Kromer criticized his players for trying to overcompensate for others' perceived deficiencies after the loss to Washington. He did not see the same issue against Carolina.
“It was nowhere (like) what happened in the first game,” he said. “Everybody has to do their job just a little bit better, and that's going to take us over the edge.”
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on twitter@CBSSaints.