After four games, there are some obvious problems for the New Orleans Saints to overcome. They all contributed to Sunday morning’s 28-25 loss in London to Minnesota.
New Orleans leads the NFL with 34 penalties, 10 in Sunday’s game, for 102 yards.
The Saints have 11 turnovers, also an NFL worst, and a minus 7 turnover margin, losing the turnover battle 2-1 to the Vikings.
“We still have to find a way not to hurt ourselves with the turnovers and penalties,” said first-year Saints coach Dennis Allen, who said much the same thing last Sunday after a narrow loss at Carolina.
Injuries to key players, especially offensively, also fit on the misery list: quarterback Jameis Winston, running back Alvin Kamara and receiver Michael Thomas did not play Sunday.
Then there’s just tough luck. Kicker Will Lutz hit a 60-yard field goal to tie the game down the stretch, but his 61-yard attempt to tie it again and force overtime on the final play hit the left upright, then the crossbar, and fell into the end zone.
“I hit them both on the screws,” said Lutz. “The second one moved just a little more left. So kind of shocked it didn’t go in.”
A major difference was the matchup of former LSU star receiver Justin Jefferson against New Orleans’ top cornerback, Marcus Lattimore. It didn’t end well for the Saints. Jefferson made 10 catches for 147 yards after collecting only nine combined in the previous two weeks.
“Lattimore pretty much followed me the whole game, pretty much was a one-on-one battle,” said Jefferson. “I was telling (head coach O’Connell) we should throw it up, give me a chance to go up and make a big play.”
Tied at 25, Minnesota (3-1) did just that. Jefferson made a 39-yard grab that set up the decisive 47-yard field goal with 24 seconds left.
The Saints, 1-3 after losing for the third straight week, are home for the next two weeks, against Seattle and Cincinnati.
DALLAS 25, WASHINGTON 10: After a slow start by both teams, the Cowboys finished on a 19-3 run as the Commanders couldn’t convert against a Dallas defense overshadowed in the media spotlight by the steady play of backup quarterback Cooper Rush.
Rush is 3-0 as the starter, since he stepped in for injured Haughton product Dak Prescott (broken thumb) late in the season opener. Prescott is expected to return for next Sunday’s game against Super Bowl champion Los Angeles.
Sunday, Rush was efficient running the offense as he went 15-for-227 for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He has not been intercepted this season, and has been sacked only four times.
He scrambled and fired to Michael Gallup for a 9-yard score with 1:04 left in the first half, putting Dallas on top for good, 12-7. Washington never got closer.
CeeDee Lamb got open on a double move and collected a 30-yard touchdown from Rush on the first play of the fourth quarter for a, pardon us, commanding 22-10 advantage.
The Cowboys defense allowed only 155 passing yards to Carson Wentz, and hit him 11 times while recording two sacks among their six tackles for loss.
For the fourth straight outing, Dallas didn’t give up 20 points, the best season-opening stretch since the 1973 Doomsday Defense.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs, who led the league with 11 interceptions last season, collected another Sunday along with pass breakups on two fourth-down gambles by the Commanders.
“If you just think of the two big fourth-down plays – those are as good as turnovers,” said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. “Trevon was big today. I think he’s picked up where he left off.”
As for the defense, and the team, Diggs – who has 16 interceptions in his first 25 NFL starts — is justifiably confident.
“I feel like we’re just clicking,” said Diggs. “The chemistry is good; we played with each other last year, and you know, offense is doing a good job – new quarterback and stuff. They’re picking it up and clicking.
“Everything is finally coming together. We’ve just got to keep doing it. Keep doing the team chemistry and keep moving forward.”