NFL Wire News

Saints hope to string some wins together

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METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints might have one win under their belt, but they know they can’t afford to think about it too much with the hole they still have to crawl out of.

With their dramatic 26-20 overtime win against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, the Saints avoided the possibility of being the last team in the NFL to notch its first victory of the season.

Yet, the Saints know that one win — as sweet as it was — doesn’t guarantee them anything going into Sunday’s crucial game with the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field.

The game is crucial for both teams, but especially so for the Saints, who have to fly home and regroup to play the undefeated Atlanta Falcons just four days later on Thursday night.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who returned from a one-week absence to lead his team to the big win over the Cowboys, said winning isn’t the only thing that translates into success over the long haul.

Which meant that when they returned to work Wednesday, the Saints were ready to dive into the hectic schedule that awaits them. At least they had a better feeling about themselves.

“(A win) doesn’t entitle you to anything the next game, right, so you have to understand that,” Brees said. “As good as it feels to win and maybe have that victory Monday, you still have to have focus and have mental toughness and discipline to say, ‘We are going to work out and take care of our bodies and we’re going in the film room and get a jumpstart on this next opponent.’

“Each week is so different, your game plan is so different. … (Winning) breeds confidence and makes you feel better about yourself, maybe puts a little pep in your step on Monday and Tuesday. Bottom line is you have to put in the time, effort, the work and be disciplined with your routine and preparation if you want to win again.”

That’s the plan for Sunday’s matchup with the Eagles. The Saints know they have to win to try and stay within shouting distance of the Falcons and Carolina Panthers — both undefeated through four games — in the NFC South standings.

But the Saints feel things are looking up on offense and defense, especially on offense, after three subpar weeks by their own lofty standards.

They drove down to get a shot at a game-winning field goal in regulation against the Cowboys before Brees connected with C.J. Spiller for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the second offensive snap of overtime.

“A lot of these happen throughout the course of the game, obviously you want to be as balanced as you can be, you want to be as sharp as you can be, convert as many first downs as you can, score as many points as you can,” Brees said.

“It was obviously good to see us able to do that. Not just in regulation, but then obviously in overtime. The more you have opportunities to do that the better and more comfortable you are with it. So that was all positive.”

SERIES HISTORY: 27th regular-season meeting. Eagles lead series, 15-11. The Saints have won three of the last four matchups after the Eagles had a five-game winning streak in the series. In their last regular-season visit to Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 20, 2009, the Saints blew out the Eagles, 48-22, for the second of what would be 13 consecutive wins to open a season that ended with them winning Super Bowl XLIV. The teams have also met three times in the post-season, with the Saints winning twice. They last played in an NFC wild-card game in Philadelphia after the 2013 season, which the Saints won 26-24 on Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal as time expired.

GAME PLAN

The Saints certainly hope they found their offense, which finished with a season-high 438 yards in their overtime win against the Dallas Cowboys. While the ground game is still not hitting on all cylinders and ranks 28th at 82.8 yards a game, the Saints were efficient in the passing game vs. the Cowboys. That’s timely and could serve them well against an Eagles team that ranks 25th in giving up 276.5 passing yards per game. Philadelphia is better in ranking 13th against the run, allowing 97.0 yards a game, which could force the Saints to go up top, or at least be productive with the short passing game while QB Drew Brees continues to recover from a bruised rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. Having a healthy C.J. Spiller in the backfield is a key for the Saints.

On the other side of the ball, the Saints didn’t have a bad game against the Cowboys even though they didn’t have to face Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Still, that has to give them increased confidence, especially after getting three injured starters — cornerback Keenan Lewis, free safety Jairus Byrd and weak-side linebacker Dannell Ellerbe — on the field for the first time this season. The Eagles haven’t been dominant running or throwing the ball this season, ranking 29th and 25th, respectively, so the Saints will need to focus on running back DeMarco Murray and make sure he doesn’t get off to a good start and give Sam Bradford opportunities to make something happen.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Saints front seven vs. Eagles RB DeMarco Murray.

The Saints are quite familiar with Murray, having played against him several times when he was with the Cowboys. Murray hammered the Saints for 149 yards and two touchdowns a year ago, so they know that doing a decent job on him and controlling him will be a huge key in this matchup.

–Saints special teams vs. Eagles RB/PR Darren Sproles.

The Saints, of course, know what Sproles is capable of doing considering he starred for them from 2011-13. The speedy and shifty Sproles is up to his old tricks again this season in averaging 19.9 yards per punt return with an 89-yard touchdown. Hang time and keeping Sproles pinned to the sidelines will be vital for the Saints, who will likely have Brandon Fields kicking in place of an injured Thomas Morstead.

–Saints LT Terron Armstead or Andrus Peat and RT Zach Strief vs. Eagles OLB Connor Barwin.

Barwin established himself as one of the league’s top pass rushers a year ago with 14.5 sacks, which earned him a Pro-Bowl berth. The Saints will have to be at their best to keep Connor, who has two sacks so far this season, away from Drew Brees. Giving them some help from tight ends Benjamin Watson, Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui will be a key as well.


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