While a short sample size, Alex Smith played his worst game with the Redskins last Monday in a dreadful 43-19 loss to the Saints.
The Washington quarterback completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and one interception. Smith compiled 275 passing yards, but much of that came late on check downs rather than the type of big plays the Saints defense had been giving up coming into the contest.
It was a bad performance, plain and simple, and Smith knows it.
"I have to do a better job executing. I have to play better," the QB said on Wednesday.
From the first snap in the Superdome, Smith did not seem comfortable in the pocket. It's something that head coach Jay Gruden noticed, and said he would work on fixing.
"A lot of things happened to a lot of people in that game that weren't very good. He's one of them, I was one of them, we all were," Gruden said. "We all have to try to make sure everybody understands this was a total team effort and we all have to bounce back."
Gruden said specifically he has to call different plays that don't require as deep of drops for Smith and create more comfort in the pocket. The Redskins offensive line also played poorly in New Orleans, and Smith took three sacks and a number of big hits.
Even considering the pressure, Smith was unhappy with his performance.
"You want to be real with yourself. I think every guy in there has got to look at themselves in the mirror and be real with themselves, things they have to get better at, need to get better at to help this team and we all have them," Smith said.
When the Redskins acquired Smith this offseason, he was coming off the best season of his career. He led the NFL in QB rating and navigated an explosive Chiefs offense. For the bulk of his career prior to 2017, however, Smith played a more conservative style. He rarely turned the ball over, but that also limited impact plays and the vertical game.
Before the trade for Smith, Washington must have assumed they were acquiring the 2017 version of the veteran QB. Right now, that doesn't seem so certain.
Through four games, Smith does not rank in the Top 10 of any major NFL passing category. He does rank 10th in percent of passes intercepted.
It's also worth pointing out that in two Redskins wins, the team leaned heavily on the run game. Smith might have put up more numbers in the second halves of victories against Arizona or Green Bay, but the game went a different direction.
Fans would be wise not to completely overreact to the Saints loss.
On the season, Smith projects to throw for more than 4,000 pass yards and complete 66 percent of his passes, but with just 16 TDs.
The team needs to score more, and much of that falls on Smith.
In New Orleans, he missed a great opportunity to find the end zone on a fourth down play call with a chance at making the game competitive. Instead of a touchdown throw to Maurice Harris, Smith had the ball intercepted after he dropped way too far back.
"The handful of negative plays, clearly from me the interception, just to be able to miss on the fourth down, it's a big play there," he said. "What could I do better? Certainly there was, I think for all of us, I know myself, there was a lot that I could do better."
It's a tough pill to swallow for the team, but the Redskins must move on from the beat down in the Big Easy. There are 12 games left in the season, and somehow, the team remains in first place of the NFC East with a 2-2 record.
In fact, few expected the Redskins to win in New Orleans on Monday night. Rather, it was the way the Redskins lost that made everything look so bad.
On Sunday at 1 p.m., when the Panthers take to the turf at FedEx Field, the loss to the Saints won't matter.
And that will be Smith's first chance to be better than he was in New Orleans.
"We have a lot of football left ahead of us. We're playing a really good football team right now, so we have a new opportunity, new challenge, new week," Smith said. "You leave it behind you and get ready for this next challenge."
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