NFL Wire News

Changes begin at safety for Saints


METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton wasn’t kidding when he said changes were coming in the aftermath of an embarrassing 41-10 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Payton vowed immediately after the game and again Monday, after reviewing game tapes from the horrific performance, that he would do whatever is needed to get the Saints (5-8) back on track heading into Monday night’s crucial game with the Chicago Bears (5-8) in Soldier Field.

On Tuesday, the bombshells started falling in the wake of the 31-point loss to the Panthers — which equaled the Saints’ most lopsided defeat since he was hired as the team’s head coach in 2006.

First, fourth-year wide receiver Joe Morgan was waived and then starting strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2013, was benched for Monday night’s game, according to the NFL Network.

There could be other lineup changes when the team returns to practice on Thursday, a day later than usual because they don’t play until Monday night.

The NFL Network also reported at least 10 players were called into Payton’s office for one-on-one meetings on Tuesday, the team’s off day, in an attempt to end a downward spiral that has seen them lose four of their last five games — with each of those setbacks coming at home.

Late Monday morning, after what was likely a restless night for the ninth-year coach, Payton gave a rundown of his team’s woeful play against the Panthers — items that must be addressed and fixed quickly if the Saints, who are tied for the NFC South lead with the Atlanta Falcons, want to make the playoffs.

“I saw alignment problems. I saw execution problems. I saw guys not aligned with leverage the way they’re supposed to be,” he noted. “I saw poor tackling, dropped balls, turnovers, fumbles, I saw some ball security issues that weren’t turnovers that very easily could’ve been. … Blown coverages, there’s a guy loose in man-to-man and it’s their top receiver.”

When asked about having to address those fundamental problems so late in the regular season, Payton brought up his second and third teams in 2007 and 2008. They went 7-9 and 8-8 those years and didn’t make the playoffs.

“Those were .500 teams that sometimes played well and won, but obviously, at the end of the day weren’t playoff teams,” he said. “The only reason we are sitting here still with that small sliver of hope is just because the way the division has unfolded this year.

“Here are some key things that hold true every year: It’s about blocking, tackling, the fundamentals of ball security. When those start to slip, you see inconsistent results. That’s just the truth.”

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