My, how the tables have turned. The Saints were typically looking down at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the standings for the last handful of seasons, but not this year. Tampa comes into Sunday's match up with New Orleans as the favorite in the game, and tied with the Falcons atop the NFC South with a 7-5 record. The Saints are 5-7, clinging to fading playoff hopes down the stretch.
Three key players missed practice today, on the first day of work ahead of this week's game. TE Josh Hill (fibula), LB Craig Robertson (shoulder) and WR Michael Thomas (foot) were the three players that didn't practice. Robertson banged up his shoulder late in the loss to Detroit. He's been one of the pleasant surprises for the Saints defense after coming over in the off-season from the Browns in free agency.
Four other starters were listed as limited in practice. C Max Unger (foot), LT Terron Armstead (knee/quad), T Zack Strief (elbow) and RB Mark Ingram (toe/knee) worked sparingly in practice. RB Daniel Lasco (hamstring) and G Senio Kalemete (hip) were also limited in practice. Armstead has been plagued by a knee injury all season, but it's a positive sign he's back at practice.
The Saints say you can see the confidence the Buc's are playing with, as evidenced by winning four of their last five games.
"You can tell Jameis (Winston) is really starting to progress as a quarterback, the game is slowing down for him," explained Saints defensive back Sterling Moore. He spent some time with Tampa when Winston was a rookie.
Tampa has won close games this season, something Moore and the Saints are still trying to figure out how to do.
"We have to get over that hump, we can win close games. I think Tampa has done that with their team… to win a close game that could go a long way for this team (Saints)," Moore added.
The Saints play the Bucs twice in the final four games of the season.
What a difference a week makes. The Saints were feeling pretty good a week ago at this time after crushing the Los Angeles Rams 49-21 in the Superdome, Sunday not so much.
The Detroit Lions entered the Superdome and stymied the Saints high flying offense en route to a 28-13 convincing win over Drew Brees and the Saints.
"I want to personally do better for this team," Saints Quarterback Drew Brees said after the game. "It was our own fault."
The Lions dominated in time of possession with over 36 minutes and limited the Saints to just 57 offensive plays. To put that in perspective, the Lions ran 67 plays in nearly 37 minutes of time of possession.
Brees told me that even those numbers are deceiving. "It felt like less than that because the first half was so bad. We didn't convert the first two 3rd and ones, and then the next time we got the ball was mid way through the second quarter. Obviously we need to do a better job."
The Saints QB said they can't be sluggish to begin games.
"We need a faster start. Second half we became one dimensional, because we're down two possessions in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately I tried to forced one in there and got the turnover... We ran out of time because we didn't sustain drives."
Brees had three second half interceptions and snapped a streak of 60 straight games he didn't throw a touchdown pass at home.
The Saints haven't been above .500 since 2013. By and large, New Orleans has been an up and down team. The reason? Brees can't put his finger on it.
"No I haven't. It's bothersome. It bothers me."
The Saints took the approach of having their backs against the wall this week, much like last week, but didn't respond in the loss. To make matters worse, the Saints could have made up some ground on the division leading Atlanta Falcons... who lost to the Chiefs Sunday.
Brees says the focus still remains on themselves. "We're not worried about anyone else. We're just worried about ourselves."
That being said, to make the playoffs the Saints now need some help. Someone must beat the Falcons before they play the Saints New Year's Day.
Next up? The Saints travel to Tampa Bay this Sunday. While it's still mathematically possible, the Saints truly are in a must win from here on out. Brees says the stretch run with four games remaining is the focus.
"We just have one game that matters, and that's Tampa. If there is room to be made up, then it's the last stretch. There is no more important game than Tampa on the road. We play them twice in the next four weeks. This will be a great test for us."
A great test indeed awaits the Saints (5-7). They face a Tampa team (7-5) that is playing good football right now and has been the doormat of the division the past handful of seasons, but will likely be motivated to move ahead of the Falcons (7-5) next Sunday.
After missing two days of practice this week with a toe injury, Saints RB Mark Ingram returned to practice today.
This is certainly positive news considering he leads the NFL in yards per carry this season and should be able to play Sunday when the Saints take on the Detroit Lions in the Super Dome.
Ingram struggled with fumbles three weeks ago, and after he was benched in the win over Seattle, he's been an entirely different player. He's averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 136 attempts for 721 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Saints are 9th in the NFL is rushing with 114.6 yards per game.
I like the way the Saints (5-6) match up with the Lions. The odds makers have the Saints as nearly a touchdown favorite over the Lions (7-4) which is interesting. The wise guys always know what they're looking at, and the truth is the Saints are the more talented team.
I've looked at the Lions in depth, and to be honest, they've kind of beat the odds in 7 comeback victories this season. The Saints can score with the Lions, and I think New Orleans actually has the edge on defense over Detroit.
I told you last week the Saints would run away with the game against the Rams, and they did. This week I think the Saints win this game by 30-20. The Saints climb to 6-6 after this week with four games remaining. This should be fun to watch down the stretch.
T Terron Armstead (DNP - Knee/Quad)
RB Daniel Lasco (DNP - Hamstring)
RB Mark Ingram (LP - Toe)
G Senio Kelemete (Hip)
TE John Phillips (Ankle)
T Zach Strief (Knee)
DETROIT LIONS INJURY REPORT QUESTIONABLE
DE Ezekiel Ansah (FP - Ankle)
S Don Carey (LP - Hamstring)
WR Marvin Jones Jr. (LP - Thigh)
LB DeAndre Levy (LP - Knee)
RB Theo Riddick (LP - Ankle)
LB Tahir Whitehead (LP - Knee)
Lions Quarterback Mathew Stafford made his NFL debut in 2009 as the number one draft pick that year.
You remember that game right? The Saints dominated the young signal caller out of Georgia. The Black and Gold D forced a couple of turnovers in a route of the Lions 45-27. Stafford is a different quarterback in his 8th season.
"He's a former number one pick, with a lot of experience and great talent. He can make all the throws, but this year he's done a little more with his feet. We can't let him beat us that way," explained defensive end Cameron Jordan.
Several of the Saints defenders I talked to this week were quick to point out; Stafford is not afraid to put the football in extremely tight windows.
"You can tell he believes in his arm strength there is no doubt about it" Jordan added.
He has also showed his maturity with seven come from behind wins in the fourth quarter this season.
This weekend the NFL is allowing players across the league to wear cleats supporting their foundations or charity of their choice.
Twenty Saints players will be rocking unique cleats that will likely be auctioned off to the public at some point to help support their charity. This is a part of 18 months of collaboration between the NFL and the players.
Wow this is welcome news, the NFL is allowing the players to finally show some personality. Aside from the great cause, this is needed more in the NFL. The league has gotten a tad to corporate in my opinion.
Saints Quarterback Drew Brees stopped by Sportstalk with Bobby Hebert and Deke Bellavia ahead of Sunday's clash with the Lions. Brees said Detroit is a complimentary team, and talked about the Lions match up.
"This is the third year in row we've played these guys," Brees said. "They're a really physical team, they have guys in the secondary with real good ball skills. They mix it up, they have the ability to pressure you. It's pretty mixed as far as what they do. The defense has been opportunistic, they've played complimentary football, and done a nice job finishing out games. Defensively they have some stuff we have to plan for." The Saints have lost two straight to Detroit and could ill-afford to drop a third in a row on Sunday.
The Saints rushing attack is quietly becoming a big part of their offensive success, so Brees explained what the rushing attack does for the offense in getting after opposing defenses. "When you make teams have to defend the run, it opens up the offense. I think the personnel we rotate in and out of the game is something that works to our advantage." The Saints are a top 10 rushing offense now, averaging 115 yards per game on the ground.
At halftime of Sunday's game, the Saints will honor the 50 greatest members to ever put on a Saints uniform. Brees is obviously one of the 50, and number one, by most of sound mind. He says it will be a really cool experience for the fans to see some of the historical Saints players on the field at the same time. "Pretty amazing... to get all these guys together at the same time is really neat. I think it's going to be really special for all the fans that have been in the stands since 1967. To put them all on the same field at the same time will be a pretty special moment," Brees added.
The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert and Duece McAllister will be two of the 50 honored at halftime, and McAllister says it will be neat and special but if the Saints don't win on Sunday that will be the bigger story line.
To hear Brees' entire interview with Bobby and Deke, click the link below.
As reported earlier today, star LSU recruit QB Myles Brennan said on Twitter that his committment to LSU is in a state of transition, but Brennan's father Owen joined Kristian and T-Bob on "Double Coverage" tonight to say there's more to than the story than that.
According to Owen Brennan, Myles hasn't "de-committed to LSU, instead he's keeping his options open... I want to make that perfectly clear. He is not decommitted from LSU. Listen, there is no denying there has been nobody more committed to the LSU program certainly over the last four months than Myles. I mean, he has forgone phone calls, offers, visits; he has done nothing and going nowhere but to LSU, Baton Rouge and Tiger Stadium on Saturday night. I mean his commitment is undeniable," the senior Brennan explained.
In that Twitter post, Myles seemed to suggest the transitional nature of LSU's program under Coach O was reason for him to keep options available. "You're in a transition period, in the last few days, over the last 24 hours, LSU has made it very clear that they are trying to formulate a backup plan. In the event that things don't go exactly the way they want to go, that they don't get the coordinator and players that they want. They want to be able to formulate a backup plan, and that's exactly how what was explained to Myles," Brennan continued.
"He's been very mature about it," Brennan said, and says Myles thought, "'You know what, maybe I need to take the same course of action and formulate a backup plan.' He's not decommitting from the university but he said in the uncertainty of the this transition period maybe he needs to do the same thing in the event that maybe things don't fall in place the way in has been proposed or the way it has been discussed. And you know what, if it does, there's no one more committed to the University of Louisiana."
To hear the entire interview with Owen Brennan, click the link below.
The Detroit Lions (7-4) come to town Sunday to battle the Saints (5-6), and New Orleans is well aware of the Lions' comeback ability this season.
"This is a good team that has been in a lot of close games, much like we have, and they’re one of two teams in the history of the league that have come from behind in seven games and won, and the last team being the Colts in ’09 that Jim (Caldwell) coached," Coach Sean Payton explained.
The Lions are particularly adept at playing from behind and winning, in large part as a result of how well QB Matthew Stafford is playing, explains Payton. "Everyone’s involved. There’s a lot of different touches, not to one specific player. You see the tight ends involved. You see him getting it to his running backs. I think he’s playing awfully well. The other thing that’s concerning is when he gets outside of the pocket, because a lot of his big plays come then." The Lions are atop the NFC north, and could arguably be one of the hottest teams in the league right now
Yesterday a report from ESPN surfaced that WR Brandin Cooks could be growing frustrated with the way he's been used in the Saints offense. Cooks wasn't targeted and didn't register a catch in Sunday's lopsided win over the Rams. Coach Payton doesn't seem to be concerned about the report. "He’s a fantastic player and a great man and we have a great relationship. It’s hard when you do have a game with a lot of numbers like that and a guy like Brandin who works his tail off doesn’t have a target or a touch. That can happen. But I would say that’s rare. He’s been explosive this season. He’s certainly a primary target for us in what we do and I think that’s evident," Payton chirped when he was asked about the report.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Cooks targeted early and often this week against Detroit. Quarterback Drew Brees also said he wasn't worried about Cooks being frustrated.
At first blush I like the way the Saints match up against the Lions. Last year the Lions came into the Superdome and beat the Saints 35-27 despite a second half rally from Drew Brees and the Saints. I do however expect a lot of points in this game on Sunday, with two great quarterbacks taking aim on leaky secondaries. The Saints filed the first injury report of the week. You can see it below.
Did Not Practice
T Terron Armstead Knee/Quad)
RB Mark Ingram (Toe)
RB Daniel Lasco (Hamstring)
G Senio Kelemete (Hip)
TE John Phillips (Ankle)
T Zach Strief (Knee)
Before you roll your eyes or shout me down, hear me out.
The Saints 5-6 record wouldn’t qualify them for the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t a playoff-caliber team. Heck, the Saints might not even make the playoffs this year because of three close losses in games the team could have won. However, the Saints are the team that nobody wants to see get in the tournament.
New Orleans is very dangerous! You heard me right. There is reason for my optimism, I'm not just drinking Black and Gold koolaid. The Saints offense can score with anyone - it’s the best offense in the league, and the defense is markedly improved. Over the last three games, the Saints defense is top five in the NFL in total D. Sure they give up some points, but they have an ability to stiffen when they need to, and that’s a sign of a pretty solid defense. The special teams unit will be the ultimate demise of this team, and could have already foiled a playoff run.
I”ve seen enough football to know what a playoff team looks like, and this team is of that caliber. I was one of the more cynical media members about this team when they were 0-3, and here they are at 5-6. I like this team's resiliency and moxie, I like their ability to bounce back from setbacks, and maybe most importantly, I like their make up in the locker room.
“I think this team feels that we’re better than our record shows. At the end of the day, we are what we are. We’re 5-6 and we put ourselves in this situation, but this team still has a chance to do something special,” Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief said. Special? Yes indeed, it would be special just to make the playoffs at this point for New Orleans after starting 0-3. This brings me to a greater point.
Those that are calling for Sean Payton to be run out of town? Yeah, you need to stop. I was originally falling in that trap, but not anymore. After reflection and deep thinking, I feel like this could be one of Sean Payton’s best coaching jobs in his 10 year tenure as the Saints head coach. The Saints lacked depth, experience and frankly, talent, but he’s somehow engineered impressive wins over Seattle and Los Angeles, and a near victory over the Denver Broncos. He’s the right guy to lead the resurrection and return to the glory years.
If nothing else, Payton created this mess, so let him see if he can clean it up. I think he can and will. If the Saints miss out on the post-season this year, that won’t be the end of the line. The Saints will be a playoff team NEXT season, that I would be willing to bet on.
The Saints tuned up the Los Angeles Rams for a good old fashioned butt kicking 49-21 on Sunday. QB Drew Brees certainly was familiar with the schemes of Gregg Williams from his days as the Saints DC, but ultimately it boiled down to executing, Brees explained.
“Gregg is doing a lot of different stuff there than he was here. That’s a salty defense, they are tops in the league in points given up. The’ve given up less than 14 points in the last three games in a row. We knew the type of defense this was coming in. We knew we were going to have our opportunities in the run game, we needed to execute them in the pass game... it was a protection game, and we were able to do that today.” The Saints ran up 555 yards of total offense including 28 of 36, 310 yards and 4 TDs from Brees in the win.
The Saints and Brees understood the importance of being more physical than the Rams. “We talked about that a lot, we knew it was going to be a hit them in the mouth and come back for more. We knew it was going to be a game that we shouldn’t look at the scoreboard,” Brees added. The Saints were certainly the more physical team rushing for over 200 yards and constantly changing the line of scrimmage.
The Saints even resulted to the bag of tricks in the win against the Rams, calling a wide receiver double pass from Willie Snead to RB Tim Hightower for a 50 yard scoring play. “That was impressive! We practiced that 3 times doing the week, and today all four of those throws looked the same. I need to take a page out of that book,” Brees said jokingly.
Now the Saints turn their attention to Sunday’s match up with the 7-4 NFC North-leading Detroit Lions. “Detroit is playing really good football.. we know the challenge ahead of us, we have to be ready for it,” Brees added. The Saints are two games back of the Atlanta Falcons with 5 games remaining. Atlanta is 7-4 on the season.
To hear Brees' full interview, click the link below.
Special teams has been less than special for the Saints this season, and now Coach Sean Payton has made a move aimed at improving his staff. Tonight on the Saints Coaches Show, Payton told Bobby Hebert the team will bring in another special teams coach - Kevin O’Dea, formerly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“This is an ego-less business, a guy like Kevin is a big hire for us. He was fired up, he got up in today and started putting in a plan. And coaching a kicker is his specialty.. he's a solid coach.," Payton said. He also pointed out that O'Dea will have an impact not just on the kicking unit but also in the return game. "I know you will see the return game improve. I think Kevin is going to help us in that area, and we’re glad we have him on board,” he said.
The Black and Gold have struggled in that arena, costing them three games this season, “You’re fighting for every blade of grass,” Payton explained.
The Saints are looking to rebound against Los Angeles Sunday after losing two straight games. “I think it’s gonna be important to play well at home in this two game stretch. I know what we have in front of us in a couple of weeks. We have to focus on Los Angeles and play our best game of the year,” Payton said of the game coming up this week against the Rams.