Who will protect Drew Brees’ blindside?

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks to pass as St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long (91) defends during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams defeated the Saints 27-16.  

Jeff Curry/Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The looming question mark enshrouding the Saints left tackle position is only growing more ominous as the Black and Gold try to move on from the debacle that unfolded in St. Louis Sunday and prepare for a critical road rematch with the Carolina Panthers.

So far, head coach Sean Payton is offering no clarity on who will have the crucial job of protecting quarterback Drew Brees’ blindside in Charlotte during a game that’s crucial to both team’s playoff aspirations.

This past Sunday, Rams star defensive end Robert Quinn dominated Saints starting left tackle Charles Brown, who was benched in the third quarter of the Saints ‘ repeat nightmare in St. Louis.

Now, Payton is holding his cards close to the vest when it comes to Brown’s immediate future.

"There’s not going to be any specific decision. We’ll look closely at our options," Payton said.  "In fairness to him, I think there were a lot of other things we didn’t do well in that game. We didn’t run the ball particularly efficiently. Defensively we struggled giving up some big plays. You had the one pass that goes up the sidelines with eight guys watching. You have a couple long runs, missed tackles, the kicking game. We can’t kick a field a  field goal. Obviously when you’re at left tackle it becomes more glaring, because it results in a pressure or penalty, but we’ll put a lot of thought into the best way to approach this week."

Payton and his staff are now tasked with solving the delicate yet crucial dilemma of discerning whether Brown stumbled through one bad game or just isn’t to up to the challenge in general.

"It’s a good question. You spend a lot of time looking at body of work and production," Payton said.  "If it’s something that’s repeated itself and you feel like it’s not going to change, I feel you look closely at what are your other options."

Brown’s brethren on the defensive side of the ball are opting for the "One bad game" theory.
 
"I think it is tough to see a teammate go through that because all of us put in a lot of work to own our craft," middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "To see one our teammates not go out and play the way he can play and should play, you feel bad for him. It is frustrating because we depend on each other.  Charles should bounce back.  He has played well for us all year.  I am not saying you cut tape from one game from a guy and say he played bad.  He knows he has to play better and we know he has to play better.  I feel like he will play better and he will do a better job."

But is a feeling enough? Especially against a ferocious Carolina front that’s been feasting on opposing offenses during a game that will determine the Saints’ playoff status.

Perhaps there is no one better to answer that than the Panthers’ intended target Sunday, quarterback Drew Brees.

"Here is the thing, I have all the confidence in the world in Charlie Brown," Brees said. "There were a couple of rough stretches Sunday, and I know a change was made at one point. Zach Strief played very well, Bryce Harris played very well. The fact is that we have three very capable tackles and whoever is there I am confident will do a great job. I think the continuity between all of those guys, the way they play together, is great."

It’s neither ringing endorsement nor condemnation. It is an unknown that may not be brought to light until next Sunday in Charlotte.