Days after a blocked point after try caused controversy in a heartbreaking loss, Saints kicker Wil Lutz had a field goal blocked and returned, which set up a Panthers touchdown strike before halftime. The 10-point swing proved the difference in a 23-20 loss that pushed the Saints' playoff hopes to the brink.
The special teams issues and early turnovers from Drew Brees put New Orleans in a big hole early.
Sean Payton has seen enough with the blocked kicks and turnovers.
"We put ourselves in a hole, clearly in the first half with how we played," Payton said, via the team's official website. "The turnovers, the sequence, the blocked field goal, that's a 10-point swing. Two weeks in a row now we are struggling just to kick a PAT or a field goal, it's disappointing."
"Fundamentally we have to be able to kick an extra point," he added. "If we come up short we have to be able to kick a field goal that's a makeable one. We have just struggled in that area. It cost us in New York, it cost us last week in Denver and it cost us again tonight. We have to be smart enough in the game early, to understand the turnovers aren't good, and punting is not a bad thing. When you are playing a good defense like this you put yourself on a short field and it's going to result in points. We already know that we are playing with a close margin of error or else you win 50 of these you lose 50. So I think that we have to be a lot smarter and certainly as head coach I have to do a better job of that point of emphasis."
In an odd twist, the Saints' defense has played its best the past three weeks -- coinciding with the return of rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins -- while the offense has struggled to be consistent and is turning the ball over at an alarming rate.
"It's two weeks in a row now that we've had [those early turnovers] and two weeks in a row that we've had a blocked kick that's resulted in pretty catastrophic results," Drew Brees said. "I think that we're doing a lot of good things, but unfortunately there are a couple of critical things that need to be fixed in order for us to win and be successful.
"You're not gonna win any games (by giving so many opportunities to the opponent). I don't care who you are."
Sitting at 4-6, the Saints' miscues have them staring up at a parade of teams ahead of them in the NFC standings.