NEW ORLEANS -- For most of the New Orleans Saints' season opener, they were showing the type of defensive improvement that had been one of their primary goals leading up to the season.
But a poor fourth-quarter performance wiped that out and the Saints still had major defensive concerns after their 35-34 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Raiders overcame a 24-13 deficit after three quarters by accumulating 210 yards and 22 points in the final 15 minutes.
"I thought that we played well heading into halftime, (but) we did not get the job done," safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "Too many explosive plays to remember. Our execution was poor."
"Their long run hurt us," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said, "along with a few other plays."
After the Saints regained the lead (34-27) on Drew Brees' fourth touchdown pass of the game, Carr drove Oakland 75 yards, throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts with 47 seconds left. A 2-point conversion pass to Michael Crabtree provided the winning points.
Rookie cornerback Ken Crawley was right with Crabtree, but couldn't locate the ball as Crabtree turned and leaped to snare Carr's pass.
"I knew it was coming; I was just out of position," Crawley said. "I was on (Crabtree) and he boxed me out. He's a great receiver and he got the best of me on that one."
Crawley was thrust into the game when Delvin Breaux, the Saints' most reliable cornerback, left the game because of a leg injury earlier in the second half.
"I don't think that necessarily changed the calls of the game," Vaccaro said of Breaux's absence.
The Saints allowed just a respectable 276 yards through three quarters before the fourth-quarter collapse.
"There's a point where you have to dig down and get off the field," Payton said. "We didn't have any sacks on the quarterback and we weren't able to create a turnover, which is one of the things that you're going to have to be able to do at some point if you want to play good defense."
Despite the obvious shortcomings of the defense, which allowed an NFL-worst 30 points per game last season, Payton wasn't letting the offense off the hook. New Orleans twice stalled on the Oakland side of the field in the fourth quarter.
The first time, rookie Wil Lutz missed a 50-yard field goal and the second time the Saints settled for his 20-yard field goal after having first-and-goal from the 8. A touchdown there rather than the field goal would have provided a two-touchdown lead moments before the Raiders pulled even at 27.
"In a game like this, conventional wisdom would point to the defense but I would say that we didn't score enough offensively," Payton said. "That's how the game was being played today and we didn't do a good enough job of that."
New Orleans outgained Oakland 507-486, including 390-276 through three quarters.