The New Orleans Saints embarrassed themselves during Thursday's Thanksgiving special. A crucial contest at home against the Buffalo Bills ended in agony, with the Bills marching out of Caesars Superdome as convincing winners by a final score of 31-6. New Orleans' offense struggled mightily against a Buffalo defense that allowed an average Indianapolis Colts team to rack up 41 points just days ago. The Saints found no such success.
Running back Tony Jones Jr. served as New Orleans' primary ball-carrier with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram both nursing injuries on the sidelines. Jones found absolutely no room to run against a Bills defense that was embarrassed by Jonathan Taylor in Week 11. Jones received a healthy 16 carries, but only managed a pathetic 27 yards. Sean Payton's passing offense wasn't much better.
Veteran journeyman Trevor Siemian was the appointed starter for the fourth successive contest in the wake of Jameis Winston’s season-ending knee injury. Siemian managed to complete just 17-of-29 passing attempts for a measly 163 yards, a touchdown and one interception. It all combined for an alarming offensive performance that gained under 200 total yards of offense.
It was Siemian's fourth consecutive defeat, as he's failed to champion the Saints to victory in any of his starts thus far. A Week 8 triumph over Tom Brady and their divisional foe Tampa Bay Buccaneers feels like a lifetime ago—Siemian won that game in relief of Winston.
There is plenty of blame to go around for New Orleans' current losing streak. Injuries have ravaged much of their starting offense, but it doesn't excuse Siemian for his dreadful performances. A former seventh-round selection out of Northwestern, Siemian has completed 60% of his passes in just one contest this season, a Week 9 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons. New Orleans' latest embarrassment should signal the end of Siemian's time as their starting signal-caller. Payton should make a bold decision by turning to rookie quarterback Ian Book.
General manager Mickey Loomis drafted Book with the 133rd selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. A decorated quarterback from the prestigious Notre Dame program, Book left the Fighting Irish for the NFL as the school's all-time winningest quarterback. New Orleans' 29th-ranked passing offense needs an injection of energy and excitement in the worst way imaginable and Book's ability to create off-script may be just what the doctor ordered. Book was a divisive prospect for that exact reason. He not only welcomes chaos in and around the pocket, he often preferred it to a clean, traditional pocket.
Payton has always possessed a brilliant offensive mind. He's plenty capable of getting creative with his offensive personnel and game plan. The success in which he's utilized Taysom Hill's unique ability over the years serves as the proof in the pudding. If anyone could turn Book's scattershot play style into something worth exploring, it's Payton.
New Orleans' season, which started at 5-2, is now dangerously inching towards slipping away. Thursday's defeat dropped them out of a playoff spot in the ever-competitive and cluttered NFC conference. A matchup with the difficult Dallas Cowboys looms. Payton must call an audible in hopes of salvaging what once looked like a promising campaign. The Book era should start immediately.
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