WLOX Press Box: Questions remain following Saints loss to Lions - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

WLOX Press Box: Questions remain following Saints loss to Lions

When the Saints took the field Monday night in New Orleans, their hopes for a post season appearance had already been dashed. At 5-8, the Saints have been officially eliminated from playoff contention.  (Photo source: WLOX) When the Saints took the field Monday night in New Orleans, their hopes for a post season appearance had already been dashed. At 5-8, the Saints have been officially eliminated from playoff contention.  (Photo source: WLOX)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WLOX) -

When the Saints took the field Monday night in New Orleans, their hopes for a post season appearance had already been dashed. At 5-8, the Saints have been officially eliminated from playoff contention. 

Several questions are left unanswered following the Saints' 35-27 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Is Sean Payton on his way out?

Is Drew Brees?

If he is, why does Garrett Grayson remain inactive? Isn't it time to see what the future of this franchise could look like?

Why is Brandon Browner still on the field?

These are just a few of the questions that can be asked of this team, and on the surface, the answers aren't evident. So let's start at the beginning.

Is Sean Payton on his way out?

Sean Payton continues to coach this team as though he has no intentions of leaving. It's hard to say that his play calling, though basic at times, doesn't appear to be untimely. The offense managed to move the ball to the tune of 399 yards on 71 offensive plays. That's an average of 5.6 yards per play. So why is this once great team floundering this year? At first, it was thought that Rob Ryan was the problem, but after firing the defensive coach, the Saints defense continues to languish at the bottom of the league in most categories. They are worst in the league in scoring defense, giving up 45 more points than the second worst Cleveland Browns. They are also the 10th most penalized defense in the league, but we'll get to that later.

Is Drew Brees?

Has Drew Brees lost his touch? It doesn't look like it. The aging quarterback threw for 341 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions in Monday night's loss. It took the offense a few series to get moving, but once they did, they moved the ball successfully. That is, until they reached the red zone. The Saints were 1-3 in red zone opportunities. One of those misses, came at the end of the first half when the Saints had not one, not two, but three touchdowns taken off the board after an official review, and two penalties. Failure to score when inside the red zone, is probably the number one reason the Saints came away with a loss. Brees was injured at one point, having to leave the game and have his foot taped. Following the game, Brees said he wasn't sure what happened to the foot, but he expected to have an MRI Tuesday.

If he is, why does Garrett Grayson remain inactive? 

Even with Drew Brees playing as well as can be expected with injuries to offensive weapons and a lack of protection, the question remains, why did the Saints draft a quarterback(Garrett Grayson) in the early rounds of the draft, if they had no intention of him suiting up? With the Saints officially eliminated from the playoffs, and Drew Brees' future with the team in question, what better time to see what you have in a rookie quarterback, than now. There is no clear answer to this question. Grayson, a successful starter for two years at Colorado State University, was drafted in the third round by the Saints in 2015, but has has seemingly been placed into the Saints' witness protection program. While this makes sense for a team that is fighting for a playoff birth, for this team, it is highly questionable. Why deny the future of your team for the present of a player who may be gone in just a few months?

Why is Brandon Browner still on the field?

And finally, why does Brandon Browner still have a job? The high profile, highly paid defensive back has broken the NFL record for penalties in a single season with 23(21 accepted), and continues to draw more yellow flags with every minute he remains on the field, especially when lined up against the opposing team's premiere receivers.

Browner struck again in the first quarter of Monday night's game when he was called for unnecessary roughness for a high hit made on a defenseless Calvin Johnson. That penalty helped the Lions continue to move the ball, ultimately putting the first points on the board with a Golden Tate 1-yard touchdown reception. Browner's play is a hindrance to this team, and on any other team, he would have been benched weeks ago. It's difficult to stop an offense from scoring when you're handing them 15 yards every time they touch the field.

It's not ALL bad for the Saints. Brandin Cooks continues to grow into an elite receiver mold. His 10 receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown show his growth. Most of those yards came in the second half when the Saints were on the comeback trail. It shows that, though he is young, he is able to keep his head in the game, even when it seems hopeless. 

Tim Hightower has been a pleasant surprise from the free agency market. With Mark Ingram out for the season, and C.J. Spiller racking up the minutes on the bench, Hightower has shown himself to be a real asset when it comes to controlling the pace of the game.

There aren't many bright spots on the defense right now, but this week, defensive end Kasim Edebali showed his worth by sacking Matthew Stafford twice, and combining for another 6 tackles. Hau'Oli Kikaha also stood out Monday night with a forced fumble and fumble recovery that led to the Saints only red zone touchdown. 

The truth is, canning Rob Ryan didn't fix the defense. The defense is still bad, and has no identity. The hope is that, in the off season, the brain trust in the Saints front office will find a defensive coordinator who can figure out how to stop the ball from crossing the goal line.

The offense is doing the best they can, but when they are put in a hole almost immediately in every game, there is only so much that is achievable. They managed to make it a game instead of a blow out in the second half, but going into the locker room down 18 points and stalling inside the red zone on multiple occasions just made for an unreasonable deficit to return from. This team has a lot of changes that probably need to be made in the off season. Until then, this they are playing for pride. Not the worst thing in the world, as long as it leads to victories, or at least a top 5 draft pick. 

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly