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Saints have 'no excuses' after loss to Rams crushes playoff chances: 'We just have to win out'

Thursday night's 30-22 loss in L.A. didn't eliminate the New Orleans Saints from playoff contention, but it made life exceedingly difficult.

The loss dropped the Saints to 7-8 with two games remaining and took control of the NFC South out of their hands. Next Gen Stats has the Saints' playoff probability at 22% following the defeat. Even if they beat Tampa Bay next week, New Orleans could lose out on the division race if the Bucs win their other two games -- including Sunday to Jacksonville, who could be without Trevor Lawrence -- to close the season.

Thursday's loss was the latest where the Saints didn't look like they belonged with the upper echelon. Dennis Allen's team fell to 1-6 against clubs with a .500 or better record -- the only win against an Indianapolis Colts team in Week 8 that had yet to go on a run.  

"We are who we are," defensive end Cameron Jordan said, via Katherine Terrell of ESPN. "There's two games left. There's no sugarcoating this s---. It's frustrating to be in this position. I'm not sure the probabilities of whatever it is now, we just have to win out. At the end of the day there's no excuses, we just have to win out."

Who the Saints are is an inconsistent club that can blow out the league's basement dwellers but fails to compete against the big boys. They're in the worst spot for fans: No man's land with little hope of getting out.

Derek Carr continues to struggle to find consistency in his first season in New Orleans. Coming off his best game as a Saint, he cratered again against L.A., missing a host of passes, particularly on key downs early, including two fourth-down failures, and he took a bad sack on the opening drive that knocked New Orleans out of potential scoring range.

Allen went for it on two fourth-and-mediums in the first half, coaching like a man who knows he's under pressure, including a head-scratching fourth-and-5 late in the first half after New Orleans had pulled to within three points. The misfire allowed the Rams to turn a short field into a touchdown and a 10-point lead at the break.

"We went for it twice on fourth down in the first half. We came into this game wanting to be aggressive and knowing the type of team we were playing, the offense we were playing, we knew field goals weren't the way to try to win this game," Allen said. "We didn't want to be reckless but we felt like, in both those situations, we felt like we had plays that we liked. And unfortunately it didn't work out. There was a mindset going into it to be aggressive."

The mindset might have been aggressive, but the outcome was dismal.

Through three quarters, New Orleans had seven non-kneel drives, they turned it over on downs three times, Carr tossed a brutal interception, and they scored once. Of those drives, one went longer than 45 yards. That singular possession included a 45-yard bomb from Carr to Rashid Shaheed. In summation: A single play went longer than the Saints' six other drives through three quarters.

Allen's defense was just as porous, getting torched by Matthew Stafford and giving up 458 total yards, the first time New Orleans gave up 400-plus yards this season.

Allen's tenure has been characterized by questionable decisions and teams that can't stand tall in big movements. Another came Thursday when he elected to try an onside kick after his club pulled to within eight points with 3:59. Having no timeouts, Allen believed his best chance to get the ball back was a low-percentage onside play that, when it failed, left L.A. in a comfortable spot to run out the clock.

"Honestly we hadn't done a great job of stopping them up to that point ... so I felt like the onside kick was the right play. We didn't get it. We were going to have to stop them either way," Allen said. "We went for the onside kick to try to get it and see if we couldn't go down and tie the game."

The final score doesn't look so lopsided, but make no mistake, this was a blowout for the bulk of the contest.

New Orleans now sits on the verge of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season unless they win out and get some help.

"There's two games left. I think that's how that goes. We win out, and then I'm not sure, I don't know the playoff ramifications. We have two opportunities left," Jordan said. "I said last week, each one of these games are ever more important. We have to win out, and I said that going into this game, so the message hasn't changed. Put your best foot forward, nobody has time for excuses, like this guy is banged up. We're all banged up. ... At the end of the day, it's a 17-week NFL season. Nobody is going to be healthy."

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