NEW ORLEANS (AP) — While the New Orleans Saints have time to salvage this season and a relatively weak upcoming schedule, they may have hit a new low point.
The Saints (5-7) have lost three straight for the first time this season to fall a full game behind first-place Atlanta in the NFC South.
Starting quarterback Derek Carr is in the concussion protocol for the second time in a month and also has throwing shoulder and rib injuries — all of which leave his status in doubt for upcoming games.
Then there’s the developing Michael Thomas situation.
The two-time All-Pro receiver, who is currently on injured reserve for at least two more games, put out a series of seemingly critical posts about Carr on social media during Sunday’s 33-28 loss to Detroit.
While the Superdome crowd was booing in response to an interception Carr threw on New Orleans’ opening offensive play, Thomas posted on X (formerly Twitter) that receiver A.T. Perry was “wide open.”
The insinuation was that Carr didn’t see Perry alone on the left side of the field when he instead threw his ill-fated pass over the middle, which bounced off tight end Juwan Johnson’s hands and was scooped out of the air by defensive back Brian Branch.
Later, Thomas posted that when “your eyes don’t work you get people hurt it’s no mystery.“
As the Saints continued to struggle against the Lions, Thomas posted, “What you permit, you promote. What you allow, you encourage. What you condone, you own.”
While the posts were vague enough to be open to interpretation, the Saints apparently weren’t pleased.
Thomas de-activated his X account and coach Dennis Allen said on Monday that he’d been made aware of Thomas’ social media activity on Sunday night.
Allen declined to go into detail about the team’s reaction or whether any disciplinary action was taken against Thomas, who also was arrested earlier this season for allegedly threatening construction workers near his suburban home.
“We’ll keep that in-house,” Allen said.
Thomas, who has 39 catches for 448 yards and a touchdown, hurt his knee in Minnesota in Week 10. He is eligible to come off injured reserve for New Orleans’ Dec. 21 game against the Rams in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, Allen said that if Carr cannot play this week, Jameis Winston would start in his place, allowing Taysom Hill to retain his all-purpose role as a change-of-pace running QB, a tight end and the upback on the punt team.
Carr’s shoulder injury was related to his sprained AC joint in Week 3 at Green Bay — the first of three games this season that Carr has had to leave early after a big hit. Allen said the prognosis on that injury is positive, but that he didn’t “have all the results back” on Carr’s rib injury, which initially was announced as a back injury during the game.
Then there’s the matter of how long it will take Carr to be cleared to play after his latest concussion.
“We’ll go through the protocol and listen to what the doctors tell us and see where we’re at,” Allen said.
The Saints finally appeared to have figured out packages of offensive plays and personnel that work inside in the red zone. All four of their possessions inside the Detroit 20 ended with touchdowns. They came into the game fourth worst in the NFL in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on just 42.5% of trips inside an opponent’s 20.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
The Saints run defense, which allowed 142 yards against the Lions. New Orleans has allowed an average of 163 yards per game rushing during its past five games, including a high of 228 in a Week 12 loss at Atlanta.
Tight end Jimmy Graham caught his second pass of the season. Like the first, back in Week 3, it was a touchdown on a red zone play. Allen had foreshadowed getting the 37-year-old Graham — who’d been a healthy scratch in recent weeks — back into the lineup because of New Orleans’ red zone struggles. He did, and it worked.
Tight end Juwan Johnson was unable to hold on to two seemingly accurate passes, the first being the lone interception Carr threw against Detroit.
In 2022, Johnson led the Saints in touchdown catches with seven. This season, he has 18 catches for 142 yards and one TD in eight games. He missed four games with a calf injury.
In addition to Carr, defensive tackle Malcolm Roach left Sunday’s game late in the fourth quarter with a right leg injury and wore a knee brace in the locker room afterward. Meanwhile, the Saints will be hoping safety Marcus Maye (shoulder), running back Kendre Miller (ankle), WR Rashid Shaheed (thigh) and linebacker Pete Werner (shoulder/oblique) recover from injuries that kept them out of Sunday’s game.
1 — The number of victories the Saints have against teams that are not currently in last place in their respective divisions. That came against Indianapolis, and it’s New Orleans’ only victory over a team that currently has a winning record.
The Saints host Carolina in the first of two straight home games against sub-.500 teams. New Orleans hosts the New York Giants in Week 15. Not one team left on New Orleans’ schedule currently has a winning record.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL
Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.