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Payton likes Saints effort in win over Patriots

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METAIRIE, La. — After a horrid start in their preseason opener nine days earlier, the New Orleans Saints gave head coach Sean Payton what he was looking for in the second game against the New England Patriots on Saturday night.

The Saints (0-2) had a bounce-back performance in a 26-24 loss to the Patriots in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after the two teams held joint workouts for two days on Wednesday and Thursday in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

There was good news for Payton, however, after his team was sluggish in a penalty-filled loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Playing without their four starters in the secondary, the Saints held their own against quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots in jumping out to a 21-0 lead before New England rallied late in the first half and in the second half for the win.

But the loss was the last thing on Payton’s mind, especially after his team came out flat against the Ravens and fell behind 17-0 in an eventual 30-27 setback.

“I thought we came out ready to play. … I thought that first half was pretty good,” Payton said of a solid effort, especially against Brady and the Patriots’ starters. “It wasn’t perfect, but overall (we had) good focus and I thought we got to the ball well.

“We tackled well,” he added. “Defensively, the first three drives were important getting off the field. Offensively, we were able to take advantage of that and build some points.”

Playing without cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner and safeties Jairus Byrd and Brandon Browner, the Saints forced the Patriots into three three-and-outs to start the game.

Then, after a long missed field goal, the Patriots had to punt again and turned the ball over on downs before scoring a touchdown on their final possession of the second half after Brady had retired for the night.

Because the two starts were so different, Payton still doesn’t know what he has even though the Patriots had their starters in for the entire first quarter.

“I think it is a process, it is ongoing — and that’s why we have two more,” Payton said. “You are beginning to gather some information in that process. You begin to gather something each week as you go through a week of practice.”

Payton certainly was pleased with the play of some of his younger players, especially those on defense.

“As a coach, you’re never just pleased,” he said. “But there were some things you saw that were encouraging with some of the younger players. What you are hoping to see is a little bit more improvement from the week before. I think we saw that with a lot of them. We’ll continue to work on the details.”

–The Saints are getting a little healthier — especially in the back end of the defense — as they head into the second half of the preseason schedule.

New Orleans played Saturday night’s preseason game against the New England Patriots with all four starters in the secondary — cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner and safeties Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro — and nickel back Delvin Breaux watching from the sideline.

But the Saints got some good news when they held a light practice on Sunday as Lewis, Vaccaro and Breaux were back for the workout — a rarity on the day after a game.

Guard Cyril Lemon and wide receiver Lance Lewis, who also missed the game with the Patriots because of injuries, were also back out practicing.

However, inside linebacker David Hawthorne, running back Khiry Robinson and wide receiver Nick Toon were added to the injury list after apparently being hurt in the loss to the Patriots.

–Saints coach Sean Payton doesn’t talk about injuries during the offseason or training camp, but Fox Sports reported Sunday that Toon, who is in a battle for the third wide receiver spot, had suffered a high-ankle sprain and will be out 2-to-3 weeks.

Toon, who missed his rookie season in 2012 with a broken foot, hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time in the past two seasons although he had 17 receptions a year ago. He is vying with Brandon Coleman, Joseph Morgan and Josh Morgan for the third wideout spot behind Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks.

–Kicker Dustin Hopkins was a little hard on himself after the two-point loss to the Patriots for missing a 55-yard field-goal attempt.

Hopkins, a second-year pro, had plenty of leg on his long attempt and on his kickoffs against the Patriots. But he still was disappointed he didn’t split the uprights to perhaps make a big statement to the coaching staff.

“Obviously, I’d like to have the 55 back,” Hopkins said. “I want to hit that. We needed it this game, we’ve got to do better. I’ve got to do better.”

Hopkins made field goals from 27 and 21 and was impressive in having each of his five first-half kickoffs go for touchbacks.

–After practicing in the mild climate of West Virginia for a little more than three weeks, the Saints were back in the stifling south Louisiana heat on Sunday.

The Saints had a light practice after Saturday night’s preseason game with the Patriots and will have a day off Monday before starting a long week of prep for their third exhibition game on Sunday against the Houston Texans.


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