NFL Wire News

Saints try to keep it together in short week

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The Sports Xchange

METAIRIE, La. — Since the New Orleans Saints don’t have a lot of time to stew about their clunker of a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, head coach Sean Payton gave his team something to think about on the plane ride home.

Following a 39-17 setback to the Eagles on Sunday, the Saints had only four days to dust themselves off and get ready for Thursday night’s game with the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, who lead the NFC South by a half-game over the Carolina Panthers.

While they thought that meeting the arch-rival Falcons would be a huge early-season showdown, the Saints can now only think about surviving after a woeful second-half performance against the Eagles. Between a first-quarter touchdown and another one on the final play of the game, the Saints were outscored 39-3.

So Payton’s message to his players, especially the leaders, was about making sure they don’t let the entire season get away from them and keep the team together through the tough times.

The theme of the speech was about looking no place else but the mirror for answers.

“Everybody, coaches, players, everybody, get it corrected,” strong safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “He wants to see the leaders on this team step up in times like this and get us out of this hole. That’s what it’s gonna take. Somebody.”

The Saints continue to keep digging a hole they got into with a 1-3 start, failing to capitalize on the momentum they gained a week earlier from a dramatic 26-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

After taking a 7-0 lead against the Eagles, they stumbled around for the rest of the day even though they managed to go to the locker room at halftime tied 10-all.

The Saints’ offense gave the ball away four times on three fumbles and an interception, allowed quarterback Drew Brees to be sacked five times and managed just 96 rushing yards behind an offensive line missing two starters — left tackle Terron Armstead and right guard Jahri Evans. They lost a third starter, left guard Tim Lelito, in the second half.

“You can’t give it away four, five different times and expect to win,” a disappointed Payton said after the game. “You just can’t.”

REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES

–PASSING OFFENSE: D. After a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Benjamin Watson to cap an 80-yard drive on their second possession, the Saints’ offense struggled to get a consistent passing game going. Drew Brees completed 26 of 43 pass attempts for 335 yards, but the other numbers weren’t good. Afforded little time to throw most of the day, he was sacked five times, losing fumbles on two of them, and threw an interception under pressure. Wide receivers Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks did have productive games; Snead caught six balls for 141 yards with a long of 59 and Cooks had five receptions for 107 yards with a long gain of 46.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C. While it wasn’t terrible, the Saints were only average in rushing for 96 yards and a 4.6 average on 21 attempts. Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson did have their moments, though, as Ingram had a team-high 57 yards and averaged 4.8 yards on 12 carries, while Robinson averaged 6.0 yards per attempt with 30 yards on five tries. Ingram had a long run of 17 yards and Robinson’s best run went for 12 yards, but they just didn’t have enough of those to slow down the Eagles’ pass rush.

–PASS DEFENSE: C. The Saints had a tough time slowing down Sam Bradford, who was 32-of-45 for 333 yards with two touchdowns. He wasn’t sacked, but the Saints did intercept him in the end zone on back-to-back series in the first half — which is the only thing that made the grade what it was. The Saints were guilty of too many penalties in the back end that kept drives alive and even when they managed to have a play sniffed out, two defenders collided and allowed wide receiver Josh Huff to scamper to the end zone with a 41-yard touchdown reception.

–RUN DEFENSE: D. DeMarco Murray went into the game with just 47 yards in three contests, but he easily exceeded his season total with 83 yards and a 4-yard touchdown on 20 attempts with a long of 24. But he wasn’t the only one who benefited as Ryan Mathews had a big day as well in picking up 73 yards on just eight carries with a 2-yard TD. He had a long run of 33 yards. All told, the Saints were hammered for 186 yards by the Eagles, who netted a healthy 5.5 yards per carry.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: D. With punter Thomas Morstead missing the game with a strained quadriceps muscle, the Saints signed Brandon Fields to fill in. But the former Pro Bowl punter didn’t exactly have a great day in averaging 39.5 gross yards with a net of 36.2 yards on six punts. He did have a 57-yarder and downed two kicks inside the 20, but shanked a 13-yard punt out of bounds and had a 36-yarder as well. The Saints also gave up a 40-yard kickoff return to Josh Huff to start the game and averaged just 21.3 yards per kickoff return and 1.0 yards on one punt return.

–COACHING: C. Sean Payton is trying his best to keep things together, but his offense is struggling and his defense can’t generate much of a pass rush or play consistently well in the secondary — two things that were glaring Sunday in the lopsided loss to the Eagles.


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