With Sean Payton gone the Saints are a mess, they fall to 2-5 with loss to Cardinals

It's not easy losing a coach who has a case to knock on the door of the Hall of Fame.

Not everything that has gone wrong with the New Orleans Saints this season has to do with Sean Payton being gone. Maybe Payton wouldn't have had any success managing all the injuries the Saints have had.

But it's a mess for New Orleans in their first season without Payton, who stepped down after last season. The Saints' season isn't over but close. The Saints are 2-5 after another loss on Thursday and it's going to be hard to dig out of that hole. A couple of Andy Dalton pick-sixes in the final two minutes of the first half turned a close game against the Arizona Cardinals into a 42-34 rout. The game wasn't as close as the final score.

For many years, the Saints were either contenders or interesting with Payton and Drew Brees. Brees retired and the Saints went a surprising 9-8 last season, missing the playoffs only because the San Francisco 49ers won in overtime of Week 18.

That era is long gone now.

Saints fall to 2-5

The Saints and Cardinals came into Thursday with matching 2-4 records. The loser was going to be three games under .500 and in a lot of trouble.

Things started well for the Saints. Andy Dalton threw a long touchdown to get the scoring going. They had a chance to take a 14-3 lead but Dalton threw an interception into the end zone. That was a sign.

It was 14-14 at the two-minute warning when the game turned. Dalton threw a pass that probably should have been caught by Marquez Callaway, but it deflected in the air and was intercepted by Marco Wilson. He returned it for a touchdown. On the Saints' next possession Dalton threw another pick, and linebacker Isaiah Simmons returned it for a touchdown. According to NFL Network's Rich Eisen, it was the first time since Dan Marino in 1997 that a quarterback threw two pick-sixes in the final two minutes of the first half.

The Saints aren't good enough to come back from that. Especially not with the roster they had on the field Thursday night.

Saints have been ravaged by injuries

The Saints have been hit hard by injuries. Dalton has been their starting quarterback the past few weeks because Jameis Winston is injured. On Thursday the Saints were without receivers Jarvis Landry and Michael Thomas and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo. A third cornerback, Bradley Roby, was carted off during the first half with an injury. Given all the injuries at cornerback, the Cardinals probably should have done more on offense than they did. The Saints competed. They're just not very good right now with a lot of missing players on both sides of the ball.

Competing despite a depleted roster is not what Dennis Allen wanted in his first season as Payton's replacement. New Orleans needs to fix its quarterback situation and won't have a 2023 first-round pick to do it. The Saints also traded their 2023 first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to draft receiver Chris Olave. Olave is a good player but he cost a lot. That first-round pick could be comfortably in the top 10.

Maybe the Saints can rally this season. They'll get healthier. The NFC South isn't good. If they go 7-3 the rest of the way they will finish at 9-8 and maybe that will be enough to sneak in the playoffs. It's not like teams haven't gone on those kinds of runs before.

It just looks bleak. And maybe not just for this season.