Up and down: The Saints have looked dominant in spurts this season but for the most part largely inconsistent. Internally the team isn't pointing fingers, but the fans and media are starting to question the play at quarterback with Drew Brees. "That is part of this game. That is part of this business. You are going to take your lumps at times, but you have to remain confident and remain positive. Certainly that is what I am all about. I know that if we keep doing things the right way, good things are going to happen and hopefully, that is sooner rather than later," Brees explained. The Saints will need their best game this Sunday to take down the Green Bay Packers at home in the Superdome.
Best yet to come: Offensively the Saints are coming off perhaps their best game of the season in terms of big plays and chunk yards against the Lions. "I think we have showed signs and yet I think on a consistent basis we haven't quite found it yet - but we are on our way and that is the exciting thing. You keep chipping away at it knowing that your best is still yet to come and we are going to need it this week against Green Bay. I'm not worried or concerned; that doesn't keep me up at night," said Brees. Offensive lineman Zach Strief said Brees isn't getting a lot of help on offense: "Obviously he's going to get more credit and criticism than he's due and we understand that. If there is one guy in this locker room that we're going to support it's going to be Drew."
Domefield: One of the biggest factors going positively for the Saints in this match up with the Packers is that they're playing at home in front of what's sure to be a crazy wild crowd, but that crowd that won't be patient if things start slowly. Coach Sean Payton recognizes the potential impact from the Who Dat Nation: "Our fan base here, especially at night games, is something else. We'll need every one of the 72,000 helping us Sunday." The Saints have won 13 straight home prime time games.
No huddle: The quick pace tempo "no huddle" approach has become in vogue in the NFL over the last couple of seasons, yet the Saints don't employ it all that often. Payton explained his thoughts on a no huddle approach: "We'll be smart with it. I think certainly it's something Drew has good command with. Just the series at the end of the half was significant in regards to getting a field goal. But I think having those possessions, having those opportunities; all of those things give us the opportunity to do that." I wouldn't mind seeing a little more of it personally, however don't count on it Sunday when the game plan might be to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field with a strong running game.
The Saints couldn't finish the deal against the Detroit Lions resulting in yet another road loss 24-23 in Ford Field. Sean Payton expressed frustration: "It was a difficult loss especially the way most of that game was played. At the very end, we were not able to close and we went in and were not able to finish and do some of the things, do a lot of the things that are necessary to win." But, the Saints head coach sees light at the end of the tunnel. "And yet I would say this…it was the first game we played this year where I felt like it was remarkably different team from the last game, even in the victory against Tampa Bay to this game and how we looked. That is encouraging."
Why? Improvement. Coach continued, "And the reason is all we have talked about is that improvement from week to week. You guys hear me say it all the time, we are in a race to improve. And I felt like I saw more, and we saw more in that game than we have in the prior five with regards to improvement."
While improvement is the goal, finishing a team and closing out a victory is what's plagued the Saints. Three of the four Saints losses on the road have come by a combined six points. Why so close, yet so far for the Saints? Coach Payton explains, "when you have someone, in our league, when you have them down and you are right at that point of, absolutely, because teams have firepower to make a play and follow it up with another and it can shift very quickly." His conclusion for his Saints after a rough 2 & 4 start, "…I think more importantly than anything…the overriding topic is if we continue to make that same progress and improvement this team will be alright."
The Saints fashioned a finish strong mantra in 2009, and were able to complete that task finishing off opponents, delivering the kill shot if you will when an opponent is down. The Saints have squandered two 13 point leads, and a 2 point lead with a blow out loss to the Dallas Cowboys mixed in. "Some of these games are different, they finish differently. I think the one element is when you have someone and you have them down. When it's two scores and you have that opportunity it's really recognizing it. All of us as coaches and players and recognizing it and being equipped to hannle it" Payton explained.
The work ahead for the Saints won't get any easier. New Orleans will host the red hot Green Bay Packers Sunday night in primetime. The Packers are riding a four game winning streak. So, the focus can't be the rest of the season, but that one game ahead. Coach Payton agrees, "You go crazy trying to look down the road, and you really can't mentally. …And honestly…I struggle with the past week or two and who we play. I know this, this weekend we play Green Bay Sunday night…and…we are going to be on a short week after that. That is the focus right now because we are playing a team that is coming in with four straight wins playing really good football."
Then, it gets tougher. After the Packers the Saints travel on a short week to Carolina to take on the Panthers…with home games against Cincinnati, Baltimore and San Francisco and road trips to Pittsburgh and Chicago still left on the schedule.
Looking ahead to the Saints match up with the Green Bay Packers, NFL analyst Mike Detillier says he thinks the black and gold can rebound "I know it sounds crazy but I think New Orleans can bounce back against Green Bay. The Packers are hot right now, but they have some chinks in the armor right now. They don't run the ball particularly well with Eddie Lacy, and I think that bodes well for the Saints". That would be a huge win for the Saints pushing them to 3 and 4 and a showdown with the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte to try and get to 4 and 4 on Thursday night October 30th.
One foot in front the other. One game at a time, right? That's the only option for the Saints at this point.
50/50: Saints Tight End Jimmy Graham (shoulder) was limited again today in practice and it looks as though he'll be a game time decision when the Saints travel to Detroit Sunday to take on the Lions. "Sean (Payton) said he's going to test it, and see where I'm at. If I can play then I can, if I can't play I can't," Graham said. "We'll see, maybe in two days I'll feel better." Graham has prided himself on playing through injuries in his career, and could see some time as a bit of a role player for this game in the red zone and on third down in this game. "Wednesday I didn't practice and Thursday I was able to a little bit, so there is some progress right there," he explained. Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) has not practiced all week and Lions Coach Jim Caldwell said Megatron would need a "miracle" to play on Sunday against the Saints. The Saints offense is certainly more potent without Jimmy Graham, but the loss of Calvin Johnson is huge for Detroit. If you're looking for a winner or loser on the injury front, you might be able to say it's a wash, but I would say the Saints are better off without Graham than the Lions without Johnson.
My take: All the numbers say the Saints won't/can't win Sunday on the road against the Lions. Detroit has the top ranked defense, and the Saints haven't won a regular season road game in their last six trips. Numbers don't always tell the story, and sometimes they do. Sitting at 2 and 3, the Saints have to have this game. There is no other way to put it, they're the team more in need of a win. Every team needs to win, but the Saints are catching the Lions at the right time. I'm hesitant to pick the Saints because of their very real road struggles, their inability to bring a defense to speak of and overall inconsistent play. However, this game just has a Sean Payton and Drew Brees "don't count us out" signature on it. It will be close, but the Saints win it 17-14.
Injury report: Defensive back Keenan Lewis (toe) is listed as probable, Tight End Jimmy Graham (shoulder), Defensive back Patrick Robinson (hamstring) are both listed as questionable for this week. Graham practiced in a limited role Thursday and today, Robinson hasn't practiced all week. If Robinson doesn't go (Typically if you don't practice you don't play) you might see more of rookie CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste against the Lions.
Refreshed: The Saints had their bye week relatively early this season, but quarterback Drew Brees said it came at a good time for the team: "It's a time for self evaluation," Brees explained. "Especially physically I think, especially because we got banged up in that Tampa game a little bit." Judging by the injury report (more on that in a minute) the bye week helped a little but not enough. The Saints have 11 games remaining in the regular season and Brees said the team is ready: "This is where you make your run." The "run" will be tough, starting this Sunday on the road against the Detroit Lions. In the month of October, the Black and Gold will play three straight teams with winning records,(Green Bay at home on the 26th) and a short week turnaround on Thursday night on the road against Carolina on October 30th.
I want to be a great safety: The Saints used safety Kenny Vaccaro in six different positions last season, and several different positions in the early part of this season. When safety Jairus Byrd was lost for the year, Vaccaro went back to a more traditional role as a strong safety: "That way I can make the checks and I can be in a position to make plays all over the field and not be in the nickel where I just have one side to hold down," said Vaccaro, who asked defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to use him more in that role. "I just said to keep me in one spot and let me be a great safety instead of a jack of all trades. I would rather be a great safety." The Saints worked Vaccaro strictly as a strong safety in training camp while Byrd was working his way back to the field with a back injury, and Rafael Bush was playing the free safety role.
Ingram back: After getting off to the best start of his career, running back Mark Ingram broke his thumb in a week two loss to the Cleveland Browns, and missed the next three games. Ingram returned to practice today and expects to play on Sunday. Ingram said he didn't realize during the game that he broke his thumb, and just thought it was a sprain and didn't find out until after the game that he fractured his thumb. "I'm back and hopefully pick up where I left off," Ingram said. Before the injury Ingram averaged 6.0 yards per carry on 24 attempts with three rushing touchdowns. The Saints ground game didn't suffer in his absence currently averaging 133 yards per game on the ground.
Injury report: As I mentioned above, RB Mark Ingram (hand) is back he took every repetition in practice today. Fullback Erik Lorig (ankle) and center Jonathan Goodwin (knee) also returned to the practice field in a full time capacity. Lorig hasn't practiced since training camp. Tight End Jimmy Graham (shoulder) missed practice. Cornerback Patrick Robinson (hamstring), linebackers Ramon Humber (ankle) and Kyle Knox (ankle) also were no go's today.
by Kristian Garic, firstname.lastname@example.org,,posted Oct 12 2014 11:59AM
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will likely miss 2 to 3 more weeks with a sprained shoulder according to the NFL Network.
Graham suffered the injury in the week 5 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Number 80 has been a big part of the Saints offense this season, and will be missed if he's unable to play next Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
The Saints will count on Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill in the passing game to fill in for Graham.
The Saints are entering the heart of their schedule. After the Lions, they return home in week 8 against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. They have a short turnaround after that as they play on Thursday Night Football on the road against the Carolina Panthers on October 30th. November remains tough with two home games against the Bengals and Ravens before going on the road at the Steelers.
Fighting back: The Saints are trying to climb out of a 1 and 3 hole this Sunday at home when they face Tampa Bay, also sitting at 1 and 3. Coach Sean Payton and the Saints are studying the film on Tampa but also trying to fix their own issues: "I think more than anything else, we spend a lot of time on their personnel, and then for us especially this week our focus has been driven internally as much as anything else," Payton said. Holding on to the football, forcing more turnovers, scoring more points, tackling and rushing the passer have been points of emphasis for New Orleans ahead of Sunday's contest with Tampa.
Glennon almost landed in New Orleans: Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon was high on the Saints draft board when the team opted to take tackle Terron Armstead in the third round of the 2013 draft: "I remember it like it was yesterday. Terron Armstead, Glennon was right in that cloud if you will," Payton explained the Saints had discussions in the draft room on if they wanted to draft Glennon out of N.C state instead of Armstead. At the time Armstead was the better fit in terms of need, and Glennon wouldn't have contributed for some time, sitting behind Drew Brees. I think the Saints made the right choice, but Payton obviously has high regard for Glennon: "His feet are exceptional for his size (6'6). He can locate the ball and make all the throws. He was a player we had real high grades on," said Payton. "I think both of those guys (Armstead and Glennon) have bright careers in our league. I think if they had it to do all over again the right pick is Armstead."
Cooks adjusting: Saints rookie WR Brandin Cooks is learning on the job through the first four games in the NFL, and every week the defense has something new for him. "Different schemes in defenses we've been facing, you can say it's been changing (week to week)" Cooks said. That's a definitive sign of respect in the league - when defenses mix things up it means they're game planning specifically for a particular player. "It's on the job training for me because I haven't seen all these teams, so every week I'm getting a different look and I have to make sure I'm watching that film and learning and adjusting to it," Cooks explained. The Saints traded up back in may to grab Cooks with the 18th pick in round one and so far he's off to a solid start with 23 receptions with 199 yards and 1 touchdown.
Injury report: Two Saints players missed practice today (Thursday); C Jonathan Goodwin (neck) and FB Erik Lorig (ankle). Goodwin has started 90 straight games with the Saints and 49ers and last week battled an ankle injury and practice just one day before making the start against the Cowboys. S Marcus Ball (hamstring) DB Corey White (foot) and OT Terron Armstead (head) were limited today, along with LB's David Hawthorne (knee/ankle) and Curtis Lofton (shoulder). DB Patrick Robinson (thigh) returned to the field and took every rep in practice.
Is the sky falling? Not at Saints camp according to coach Sean Payton, at least not with the team. The fans or the media might say the sky is falling but Payton says it doesn't exist: "Each week as you prepare in this league there is a sense of urgency. Each team regardless of who you're playing it's about focusing on things we can do." The Saints mixed up the routine a bit at practice today, hoping to create a little more competition with some good old fashioned offensive vs defensive period.
Good Character: Sean Payton has placed a significant value on drafting and acquiring talent coupled with great character and players that can face adversity. Payton is counting on that attitude in his players to climb out of the 1 and 3 hole: "This is when you get tested, not just physically, but you get tested mentally and emotionally. We look closely at those intangibles, not for when we're 4-0 or 5-2, you look close at that those intangibles when you hit that adversity," Payton explained. Like I wrote earlier in the week, the character will certainly be tested and leaders stand up in the face of it. Let's see how much there is on this team.
Arm strength: I'm sure you've heard it, the declaration from Saints fans "Drew (Brees) has lost some arm strength on the deep ball." Well, Brees was asked about that today: "I really don't know how to respond it to be honest with you," Brees laughed. "I'm not sure what would lead anyone to believe that. I think the things that diminish as you get older is your ability to recover. Again, I don't feel like there is anything I can't do now that I couldn't do when I was 25 years old. I really don't know how to answer the question," Brees said with a smile
Injury report: Four players missed practice today Center, Jonathan Goodwin (neck), RB Mark Ingram (hand), FB Erik Lorig (ankle), and CB Corey White (foot). Left Tackle Terron Armstead said he he was cleared from the NFL protocol concussion process and returned to the field today as a limited participant. LB David Hawthorne (ankle), S Marcus Ball (hamstring) CB Patrick Robinson were also limited.
What’s wrong with the Saints? Can it be fixed? Can they turn it around? Surely the Saints aren’t as bad as their 1 and 3 record indicates? I’ve been hammered with those questions on Twitter, Facebook, email and on the air. The reality is, the Saints may be as bad as their record indicates. What’s wrong?
Let’s start with a lack of leadership in the locker room. Not only did the Saints lose two safeties in Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins this offseason, they lost two captains, two veterans on that side of the ball who would stand up in front of the media and take the blame, own up to their mistakes and take the pressure off their teammates. That characteristic can’t be underestimated!
This team lacks focus, with simple missed assignments, dropped passes and miscues that have cost them two games (Dallas just beat their tail). That’s a direct reflection on the head coach (as he readily admitted). Sean Payton isn’t driving the point home well enough. The players aren’t hearing the message.
Now let’s get to the…can they fix it question? Sure, in theory they can, but what I believe about the NFL is once you’ve established a trend, good or bad, it tends to stay with you throughout the season. There is no magic wand Payton can wave over the team and fix all that ails them. It goes back to leadership in the locker room. Who’s going to be the guy that says, “I need to play better; I haven’t played well and I’m letting my team down.”
The Saints lack passion that has carried this team to unprecedented heights. The feeling on the sideline is one I could only describe as lifeless at times. They can fix it, but my guess—it won’t be until next season.
Can they turn it around? At 1 and 3? That question and answer kind of goes hand and hand with what I just wrote. Sure they can, but will they? My bet…probably not. It’s too big a hole to climb out of, with way to many deficiencies to correct. When teams fall into ruts like this, it typically takes so much effort to get back to .500 that once they’re there they have another let down, because it’s so taxing.
I agree with Sean Payton when he said, “There were a lot of muddy hands.” Adversity reveals character. We’re about to find out the true character of this team, not the Saints that won the Super Bowl. This team.