With 5:34 remaining Monday night, the New Orleans Saints had a 99.3% win probability, according to Next Gen Stats. 99.3.
Ninety-nine. Point. Three.
The squiggle on the graph was so close to the win line they were nearly overlapping.
"This s--- hurts," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said, via The Times-Picayune. "You don't process anything. I've got to go into a bye week knowing we should've beat this team the first time. We should've beat this team this time. We should've beat Carolina. We should've beat a lot of other teams. We didn't. Right now, these are the facts of what we're facing. Beyond an uphill battle. We've got to swing our way out of these last four games."
The errors down the stretch were pervasive in the loss.
With 6:11 to play, the Saints faced a second-and-8 from their own 49-yard line. Andy Dalton dumped the ball to Mark Ingram, who inexplicably ran out of bounds one yard shy of the first down. Ingram was clearly hurting, having been injured on an earlier play. But if he's not capable of fighting for one yard, that could make a big difference, the coaching staff should have never had him on the field.
After the game, Ingram apologized on Twitter for the blunder.
The play turned out to be a massive swing. On third-and-1, Dalton threw a quick slant against a stacked box that fell incomplete, forcing a punt with 5:31 remaining.
The Bucs' comeback was on.
"We gave ourselves every opportunity, we just didn't get it done," Allen said. "It sucks, it stings, it hurts."
A Saints defense that played well all game wilted in a big spot. The unit allowed Brady to move 91 yards on 10 plays in 2:21 for a touchdown to pull within one point. The drive included a massive 44-yard pass interference call on Paulson Adebo. Why the Saints were in a defense that could put its corner in a spot to take that penalty seems inexplicable.
Then the Saints quickly went three-and-out, which included a pass out of a heavy set on second down. If you know you're going to throw the ball -- as you have all night successfully -- in a high-leverage situation, why are your best pass-catchers not on the field? The play led to a sack, which was better than an incompletion, I guess. Then on third down, Dalton tossed a dime to Taysom Hill, who couldn't hang on through a jarring hit. Maybe, I don't know, a player whose main job is to catch the ball would have been able to secure it?
Following the whopping 31-second drive by the Saints' offense, Brady got the ball back with 2:29 left.
We all know how this story ends.
The G.O.A.T. led an 11-play, 63-yard TD drive, tossing the game-winning score to rookie RB Rachaad White with three seconds to play. The Bucs beat the Saints D so clinically on that drive they didn't even need to use their final timeout and overcame a holding penalty at the 5-yard line.
"It's frustrating as hell to not come out with a win when you're up 16-3 in the fourth and you lose whatever the score ended up being," Jordan said. "That's sort of been the story of the year."
It's been a year of miscues by the Saints.
When a club expected to be good losses to bad teams or flubs wins like Monday night, the first instinct is to ask, 'how?'. Maybe New Orleans itself is simply a bad team in 2022.
"There's only four games left and it's unfortunate that we keep having to say the same thing over and over again," Dalton said. "The missed opportunities have hurt us. We've had chances in a lot of games this year. We haven't made plays when we needed to. It has affected the game and it's been the same outcome."
Players need to make plays, but the string of catastrophic losses this season falls at Allen's feet. From getting outclassed by Carolina to last week's shutout in San Francisco to Monday's epic collapse. The coaching staff bathes in blame.
The Saints expected to be contenders this season. They sold their first-round pick in 2023, believing it would be a low first-rounder. It's currently a top-5 pick.
All three phases blew what should have been a runaway victory. The offense, defense and special teams each vomited all over themselves. When collapses like that happen, it's on the coaching staff. Allen is looking more and more like he could be a one-and-done in the big chair in New Orleans.