Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints vow it's 'our responsibility to do better' after uncharacteristic loss

Saints QB Jameis Winston throws to the end zone as he falls, and Juston Burism is in a perfect spot to grab it off. (0:23).
CHARLOTTE (N.C.) -- The New Orleans Saints offense set a new record for yardage during the Sean Payton era. Jameis Winston threw his first two interceptions Sunday, registering the lowest passer rating in his career.

However, Payton and his team refused to take any responsibility for the Carolina Panthers' 26-7 defeat. They were missing eight COVID-19 protocol-assisted coaches or nine starters due to injuries or suspensions.

Payton stated, "Offensively in particular, that is as poor as we have been in a long while around here, and it starts with me." "We've gotta do a better job going in. Our protection plan was not adequate. It had nothing to do [with] us being too busy with coaches, being away from COVID or being in a shorthanded position.

"All of these would be excuses. They performed better than us today, and they deserved to win this football game."

After the Saints were held to just 128 yards, running back Alvin Kamara agreed -- a shocking flop only one week after their 38-3 win over the Green Bay Packers.

"It wasn’t about anyone not being there. Kamara stated that it was her responsibility to continue to play and come out without coaches after Kamara was held to just 5 rushing yards for eight runs.

"There is no handicap. There are no coaches so we don’t get extra time. We also don’t get any extra down. It's what it is. There is still one game. They could have sent the entire coaching staff, but they didn't cancel the game. You gotta keep going. "Now you have some adversity. You need to find a way of responding and reacting. It is our responsibility to do better. It is our responsibility to do more.

After being positive for COVID-19 during the week, eight Saints assistants were not available. They were receivers coach Curtis Johnson and tight ends coach Dan Roushar. Running backs coach Joel Thomas was also absent. Defensive line coaches Ryan Nielsen, Brian Young, and offensive analyst Jim Chaney were all present. Declan Doyle, Phil Galiano, special teams assistant, and Declan Doyle were also missing. Brendan Nugent, offensive line coach, was not able to attend the week of practice but was cleared to return on Saturday.

Between Week 1 and Week 2, the Saints lost five of their starters to injuries (center Erik McCoy; cornerback Marshon Latimore; safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson; defensive end Marcus Davenport; and linebacker Kwon Alex

They have been training in Dallas/Fort Worth for over three weeks due to power outages in New Orleans and other issues related to Hurricane Ida.

Payton and the players said that the main problem they faced on Sunday was their inability to communicate and lack of a plan for dealing with Carolina's constant blitzing.

ESPN Stats & Information research shows that Winston was pressured by the Panthers on 18 of his 28 dropbacks (64%) which was the third highest pressure rate since ESPN started tracking pressure in 2009.

Winston was 4-of-13 at 54 yards under pressure with two interceptions, four sacks and four yardage.

Payton stated that "we didn't manage the communication well enough", "we didn't handle pressures well enough and we didn’t coach it well enough." We had seen it on tape and we clearly got more and didn't manage it well.

"So it's clear that we didn't do it effectively and well enough. It kind of bit us in today."

Winston also felt guilty for not communicating with the line well. This is a good thing considering Drew Brees, a former Saints quarterback, used to manage protections before McCoy injured his center.

Cesar Ruiz, a second-year Saints offensive player (a college center), did a great job last week filling in for McCoy. However, the Saints' offense failed to perform in Week 2.

Winston's two interceptions were desperate heaves down field late in first half and later in the game when the risks made sense. He didn't use it as an excuse.

Winston said, "You still have to make good decisions." Winston completed only 11 of 22 passes for 111 yards with a passer rating 26.9. They came at the wrong time. "I don't want us to be in this position, but I still have to look after the football."

In Week 3, the Saints play host to the New England Patriots. The Saints then return home to New Orleans to continue practice and host to the New York Giants in week 4.

Winston's postgame message said, "Just keep fighting." "We must put this one behind. We'll get better. We will increase our speed. I will improve my communication skills and be more efficient in first and second downs."