In a game that most thought would be a slam dunk win, the Saints were outplayed, outclassed and, most importantly, vastly out coached. Due to several ill-advised, late-game decisions by Sean Payton, the Saints are going home after the first weekend of the playoffs.
The first head-scratching decision came when Payton elected to not use the Saints' remaining timeout before the two-minute warning. New Orleans got the ball back with less than two minutes to go. Had the Saints called the timeout earlier, they would have had roughly two minutes and 30 seconds. While this choice could be justified, the rest of Payton's decisions can't.
For some reason, Payton decided to play for the tie on the Saints' final possession of the game, down 20-17. The play-calling was not aggressive and the use of that one timeout continued to be atrocious. Payton didn't call timeout after a 14-yard completion to Jared Cook, but instead sent Drew Brees to spike the ball with the clock ticking down to the 21-second mark. As confusing as that was, it got worse. On that spike play, a false start penalty was called with 21 seconds remaining. At that point, you'd assume Payton would have to use that timeout to avoid a 10 second runoff, which would effectively end his team's chances to win. But, no, he didn't even do that. He allowed the 10-second run off.
Payton settled for the risk of a 49-yard game-tying field goal. That is despite having one of the best quarterbacks ever and the NFL's best wide receiver at his disposal. But none of that mattered to Payton. He played for overtime, trusting that his defense -- that was torched all game -- would help New Orleans win. Either that, or he was convinced his team would win the coin toss and score on the first possession.
Once overtime began, Payton's defense continued to struggle, gave up a big-time down-field pass that set up the game-winning touchdown. Obviously the Saints wound up losing.
Payton's lack of belief in his offense, inexcusable clock management and failure to get the team ready for a matchup with the Vikings, has the Saints getting ready to clean out their lockers.