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Saints do everything wrong in game that highlights sad state of NFC South

Yardbarker logo Yardbarker 12/6/2022 Eric Smithling, Yardbarker
New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton. © Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton.

For the fortunate souls who haven't watched much of the NFC South this season, allow Monday night's game between the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to serve as a microcosm for what's been on display this season.

People keep waiting for Tampa Bay (6-6) to stop playing with its food, but it found itself in a food fight Monday night, much like it has all season. 

No one seriously expects Atlanta to compete for a division crown, but that remains a possibility thanks to the Buccaneers' uneven play this season. Never has so much doubt surrounded a Tom Brady-led team this late into the season.

The Saints (4-9) frustrated Brady for the majority of the game, the same song-and-dance he's rehearsed multiple times this year. 

In the end, the comical ineptitude of the Saints was too strong a force to prevent Brady from pulling off his 44th come from behind fourth quarter victory. 

That same force will likely keep the Falcons and Panthers from seriously challenging Tampa Bay down the stretch.

It took some teeth-pulling, but the Saints mustered 16 points in what was sadly one of the more consistent offensive performances for New Orleans this season. 

A couple of reckless decisions cost the Saints the game. The front office is finally rubbing off on the product on the field.

Mark Ingram had a golden opportunity to put the game out of reach by picking up a first down across mid-field with 6:11 remaining in the game. Instead, he made a beeline to the sideline.

On the next play, the team didn't run a QB sneak or a similarly high percentage conversion play (a fullback dive like the one that was successful earlier, perhaps?), offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael put the game in Andy Dalton's hands. 

In other words, Carmichael played stupid games and won stupid prizes.

From there, Brady did what he does best. He moved down the field with ease twice, aided by Paulson Adebo's pass interference penalty that set the Buccaneers up at the 1-yard line for their first touchdown. 

It didn't take long for the Buccaneers to get the ball back. They started using their timeouts, but New Orleans helped the cause by calling a pass play on second down that resulted in a sack. 

The offense held the ball for just 31 seconds before giving the ball back to Brady. At that point, the ending was inevitable.

The game highlighted the sad state of the NFC South. As bad as Brady and the Bucs looked for 55 minutes, the Saints were exponentially worse during the final five.

Head coach Dennis Allen is overseeing a precipitous fall from grace for a New Orleans team that's done everything in its power to delay the inevitable decline a team usually experiences after losing its Super Bowl-winning QB and head coach. 

General manager Mickey Loomis made a grave miscalculation when doubling down on this roster in the offseason without a franchise quarterback. 

That decision will likely haunt this team well into next season. Instead of being in a position to draft a top quarterback to usher in a new era of Saints football, the team will watch as the Philadelphia Eagles add to a Super Bowl-contending team.

One thing was clear for all to see on Monday night. The NFC South is the worst division in football. At its rotten core lies the New Orleans Saints.

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