2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Saints 'not playing smart,' playoff chances fade

By GUERRY SMITH - Associated Press
    2012-12-10 18:50

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Another mistake-filled loss has left the New Orleans Saints in a situation they've never dealt with since Drew Brees arrived in 2006 - playing for little more than pride in with three weeks still left in the regular season.

Although the 5-8 Saints aren't officially eliminated from the playoff race after falling 52-27 to the New York Giants on Sunday, they know it would take a miracle for them to have a postseason future. Four turnovers and horrendous kickoff coverage against the Giants essentially ended their final chance as they ran their turnover total to 11 in their last three games.

``In the National Football League you have to first keep from losing before you can ever win,'' assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Monday. ``Right now we're not playing very smart and we're not playing very disciplined, and it starts with me. I have to do a better job of making sure our team understands the critical factors that go into winning, and then we have to execute them on Sunday.''

The Saints missed the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, too, but this is the first time in seven years they won't be at least 7-7 after 14 games. Ten NFC teams have a better record than they do entering next Sunday's game with Tampa Bay in the Superdome. Instead of worrying about playoff seeding in the final three weeks, their only motivation is finishing .500 and ending on a positive note.

``We have a prideful group in this locker room,'' said running back Mark Ingram, the only player available for interviews on Monday. ``Our focus going forward is just getting better every single day and improving individually. We've had three straight losses. It would be nice to close the season with three straight wins.''

While Brees threw two more interceptions in the second half against the Giants - he had been picked off seven times in defeats to Atlanta and San Francisco the two previous weeks - the Saints also found two new ways to lose.

Their kickoff coverage, which had been among the NFL's best, allowed a franchise-worst 287 yards on six returns.

Giants rookie David Wilson returned the opening kickoff 58 yards to the New Orleans 44, then scored on a 97-yard return and ran one back 52 yards to the New Orleans 46 on his next two attempts. When Thomas Morstead began pooching his kicks in the second half, Jerrel Jernigan returned one 60 yards to the New Orleans 25.

Before Sunday, the longest kickoff return the Saints had allowed was 38 yards.

``If you're talking about kickoff coverage, lane integrity is the No. 1 thing and No. 2 is leverage,'' Vitt said. ``You have to leverage the football and not the blocker, and you have to make sure you're in the proper lanes and you can't piggyback one another. They broke down yesterday.''

Saints wide receiver Marques Colston and fullback Jed Collins fumbled after catches on consecutive first quarter possessions. Until then, New Orleans had not lost fumble on the road all year.

``We're pressing,'' Vitt said. ``We have to let it go and let it flow. Play hard, play smart and play together and do the things we do in practice every day.''

The litany of mistakes on offense and special teams gave the New Orleans defense almost no chance. The Giants started seven series inside Saints territory, including four from the 35 or closer.

Still, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said his group took a step back after playing better in the previous four weeks. He was particularly unhappy about a 2-minute drill at the end of the first half, when quarterback Eli Manning led a 69-yard touchdown drive that gave New York a 21-13 lead.

The Giants scored touchdowns four of the five times they got inside the New Orleans 20.

``We've had our struggles, but when other phases struggle we have to somehow find a way to rise up,'' Spagnuolo said. ``We have to make them kick field goals.''

After starting 0-4 without suspended coach Sean Payton, the Saints thought they had recovered from their bounty-related distractions when they climbed to 5-5. Three consecutive ugly losses to division-leading teams have proven them wrong.

``We knew we had a tough stretch ahead of us, but we knew we controlled our own (playoff) destiny at that point,'' Brees said Sunday. ``The most disappointing thing is just losing the way we have and doing some uncharacteristic things, doing all the things that get you beat.''

Notes: Vitt dismissed the idea of giving backups more playing time in the final three weeks, saying his goal was to win every game and he would put the most deserving players on the field. ... A year after setting the NFL offensive record for yards in a season, the Saints are still on pace to give up the most yards in NFL history, although the 394 yards they gave up to the Giants lowered their average to 436.9.

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Pierre ThomasOct 30 07:22p

New Orleans Saints RBs Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Pierre Thomas (shoulder) are both inactive in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers Thursday, Oct. 30.

David HawthorneOct 30 07:12p

The New Orleans Saints have declared LB Austin Johnson, LB David Hawthorne, C Jonathan Goodwin, RB Khiry Robinson, WR Nick Toon, RB Pierre Thomas, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste inactive for Week 9.

Amini SilatoluOct 30 07:12p

The Carolina Panthers have declared OG Amini Silatolu, CB Bene Benwikere, OT Byron Bell, RB Fozzy Whittaker, WR Philly Brown, FS Thomas DeCoud, OG Trai Turner inactive for Week 9.

Brandon BrownerOct 30 04:32p

New England Patriots DT Alan Branch (non-injury related) and DE Chandler Jones (hip) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Nate Ebner (finger), DL Dominique Easley (knee), OL Cameron [ More ]

Brandon ThompsonOct 30 04:22p

Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard (hamstring), LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and OG Kevin Zeitler (calf) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. DT Domata Peko (toe) and OT Andre Smith [ More ]

Dwight FreeneyOct 30 04:22p

San Diego Chargers LB Manti Te'o (foot), CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) and S Jahleel Addae (concussion) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) was limited. CB [ More ]

Donald BrownOct 30 04:12p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) practiced fully Thursday, Oct. 30.

Terrell SuggsOct 30 04:02p

Baltimore Ravens WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (foot) and LB Terrell Suggs (neck) all did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. OG Marshal Yanda (knee) [ More ]

Brett KeiselOct 30 03:52p

Pittsburgh Steelers DE Brett Keisel (non-injury), SS Troy Polamalu (non-injury) and SS Ross Ventrone (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Ike Taylor (forearm) and FS [ More ]

Bruce CarterOct 30 03:22p

Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter (finger) suffered a broken ring finger during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, but expects to play in Week 9. He will wear a splint on his finger for protection.

Cullen JenkinsOct 30 03:12p

New York Giants DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back, hamstring) and P Steve Weatherford (ankle) were both limited in practice.

Brandon BoykinOct 30 03:12p

Philadelphia Eagles FS Nate Allen (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. TE Brent Celek (back) and WR Brad Smith (groin) were both limited in practice. CB [ More ]

D'Qwell JacksonOct 30 03:12p

Indianapolis Colts LB D'Qwell Jackson (toe), DT Arthur Jones (ankle), LB Erik Walden (quadriceps) and LB Josh McNary (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Vontae [ More ]

Rashad JenningsOct 30 02:42p

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) said he is on track in terms of his rehab, but there is no timetable for his return. Jennings said he has [ More ]

Jordan CameronOct 30 02:32p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Anthony CollinsOct 30 02:32p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Oniel Cousins is working at left tackle with the first-team offense during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, because OT Anthony Collins (foot) is sitting out practice.

Doug MartinOct 30 02:22p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (ankle) is not participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Jason VerrettOct 30 01:52p

San Diego Chargers CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) is expected to miss two to three weeks with a torn labrum, according to two sources.

DeAngelo WilliamsOct 30 01:52p

Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle) will start the team's Week 9 game against the New Orleans Saints Thursday, Oct. 30, according to head coach Ron Rivera.

R. Griffin IIIOct 30 01:42p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) received most of the work with the first-team offense during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, and will start in Week 9 if he [ More ]

Jaylen WatkinsOct 30 01:32p

Philadelphia Eagles SS Earl Wolff, FS Chris Maragos and CB Jaylen Watkins could be options to start at safety if FS Nate Allen (hamstring) is not able to play in Week 9.

Giovani BernardOct 30 01:22p

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip, shoulder) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Tony RomoOct 30 01:02p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back) didn't take part in the walk-through Thursday, Oct. 30, and will not practice with the team. However, head coach Jason Garrett remains hopeful [ More ]

Trent RichardsonOct 30 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring) is participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Reggie WayneOct 30 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow) is not participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Tony RomoOct 30 12:22p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo's (back) status is making head coach Jason Garrett feel optimistic about his availability for Week 9.

Dallas ThomasOct 30 11:43a

Miami Dolphins OG Dallas Thomas would be the most likely candidate to start at left guard if OG Daryn Colledge (illness) is not able to play in Week 9.

Rashad JenningsOct 30 11:12a

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) has been ruled out for Week 9.

Phil BatesOct 30 10:52a

The Cleveland Browns signed free-agent WR Phil Bates (Seahawks) to the practice squad and released CB Marcus Cromartie Thursday, Oct. 30.

Charles SimsOct 30 10:13a

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Charles Sims could have 10 or more touches in Week 9, in the opinion of beat writer Greg Auman.

Ryan MathewsOct 30 09:52a

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) is likely to sit out of the Week 9 game and return after the Week 10 bye.

Dennis PittaOct 30 09:52a

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) may never be able to play football again after two surgeries on a fractured and dislocated hip in as many seasons.

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