2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Disappointed Panthers, Saints seek strong finish

By BY BRETT MARTEL - AP Sports Writer
    2012-12-28 20:24

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are about to close the book on a season that may forever be defined by the word ``bounty.'' They want to do it by avoiding the ``losing team'' label, even if the playoffs are out of reach.

The Panthers had no such scandal overshadowing their season, only the disappointment of failing to reach expectations that may have been unfairly high after Cam Newton's stellar rookie campaign. Still, Carolina has won three straight and four out of five, offering hope that one productive offseason may be all the Panthers and their talented, dual-threat quarterback need to become contenders again.

So when the Saints (7-8) and Panthers (6-9) meet Sunday, what might otherwise look like an anticlimactic season finale between two teams going nowhere will mean much more to the players and coaches involved.

``You want to go out and play your absolute best and really feel good about our team, the way we were able to finish and the future despite not meeting some of the goals that we had for this season,'' said Brees, whose season has been about as wildly inconsistent as his team's. ``We want to finish strong, and we want to really have something we can build on moving forward. Over the last two weeks we've done that, but we have to complete that trifecta by doing it again this week. This is the most important game of the season.''

Brees, who held out until shortly before training camp for a five-year, $100 million extension, has been plagued by a league-high 18 interceptions, while at the same time remaining among the most productive quarterbacks in NFL history.

With one more touchdown pass, Brees will become the first quarterback to throw 40 scoring passes in consecutive seasons. With 4,781 yards passing, Brees is the first player in NFL history with three straight 4,500-yard seasons, and he needs 219 yards - well below his average - to be the first in NFL history with three 5,000-yard seasons.

``Well, let's hope we hit those. Let's hope we win the game. And then we'll reflect once the season is over,'' Brees said. ``In the end, as a quarterback, it's did you win or did you lose, did you go to the playoffs or did you not, did you have a chance at the championship or not? That's what drives you.''

For the Saints, the game is expected to be the last under assistant head coach Joe Vitt. He has served in an interim role while Sean Payton has served his season-long suspension in connection with the NFL's investigation into the Saints' cash-for-hits performance pool.

It might even be the last game Vitt coaches in any capacity. While appearing as a witness earlier this month on behalf of players appealing their bounty suspensions, the 58-year-old Vitt said he ``could've retired last August.''

``I'll make a decision after the season what I'm going to do with my career,'' Vitt said, according to transcripts of the closed hearing obtained by The Associated Press.

The Saints are expecting Payton to return as head coach when his suspension ends following the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 - perhaps earlier if Commissioner Roger Goodell permits it. Payton agreed in principle to a multiyear contract extension on Friday, according to two people familiar with the deal. The people spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been signed and exact terms were still being worked out.

Meanwhile, Carolina coach Ron Rivera's future is unclear as he concludes a second straight losing season. A loss would doom him to consecutive 6-10 finishes, but Rivera said he believes the team is headed in the right direction.

``This week we're playing the Saints and then after that we'll just go forward and see what happens,'' Rivera said, referring to the talk about his job security. ``It's crazy because you kind of wonder where it all came from and it never came from (Panthers owner Jerry Richardson) and that's the thing. I'm on the hot seat; at no point was I ever told that.''

Certainly, his players haven't given up on him as they look to close out the season.

``Everybody feels like we're playing well, but it's kind of a bittersweet moment, because we feel like we should have been playing like this all year long,'' Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell said. ``We know we have a good coach here. Hopefully he'll come back. We all want him back.''

One of Carolina's few early-season wins came in Week 2 over a Saints squad en route to an 0-4 start. The Saints' defense was playing much worse back then, however. New Orleans' defense started so poorly, in fact, that despite substantial improvement it remains on pace to give up more yards than any in NFL history.

The Saints have yielded 6,512 yards, 281 yards short of the record 6,793 allowed by the 1981 Baltimore Colts, a team on which Vitt served as a third-year assistant.

Vitt concedes the numbers are not flattering, but also said they don't tell the story of how the unit responded to a poor start under first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

``You talk to any defensive member of the team and they're proud to be a part of that unit. The coaching staff certainly is,'' Vitt said. ``There has been improvement, there has been (a) shutout. Instead of being the negative part, the all-time leader, whatever that means, we have a chance to be 8-8 and be an improved defense. That's more important - not where we were, but how we finished.''

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Arian FosterSep 23 12:43p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring), who is day-to-day with a hamstring injury, is unsure if he'll be able to return in Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills. RB [ More ]

Deonte ThompsonSep 23 12:43p

The Baltimore Ravens re-signed WR Deonte Thompson Tuesday, Sept. 23. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

James HarrisonSep 23 12:43p

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Jarvis Jones (wrist) had surgery to fix his dislocated wrist Tuesday, Sept. 23, and he'll miss at least eight weeks. LB Arthur Moats is expected to [ More ]

Brandon MarshallSep 23 12:33p

Chicago Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle) was held to just one catch for six yards in the team's Week 3 win over the New York Jets Monday, Sept. 22. [ More ]

Martellus BennettSep 23 12:33p

Chicago Bears TE Martellus Bennett had five catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns in the Week 3 win against the New York Jets Monday, Sept. 22. He leads [ More ]

Mike TolbertSep 23 12:33p

Carolina Panthers FB Mike Tolbert (leg) was placed on Active/Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Sept. 23.

D.J. SmithSep 23 12:33p

The Carolina Panthers signed D.J. Smith (Texans) to the active roster Tuesday, Sept. 23.

Eric BerrySep 23 12:33p

Kansas City Chiefs SS Eric Berry (ankle) is dealing with a high ankle sprain, according to a league source. Berry suffered the injury in Week 2 and sat out [ More ]

Kellen DavisSep 23 11:53a

The Baltimore Ravens are working out TEs Emmanuel Ogbuehi, Jake Murphy, Matt Mulligan and Kellen Davis. Dennis Pitta (hip) is headed to the Reserve/Injured list.

James HarrisonSep 23 10:23a

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed free-agent LB James Harrison (Bengals) to an undisclosed deal.

Eric DeckerSep 23 10:23a

New York Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring) said he didn't re-injure his hamstring Monday, Sept. 22, but it just wouldn't loosen up. He said he pulled himself from the [ More ]

Denard RobinsonSep 23 09:33a

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Denard Robinson will start to receive more targets in the near future. He had eight carries for 33 yards in Week 3. 'I think that Denard [ More ]

Jonathan StewartSep 23 09:13a

Updating previous reports, Carolina Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (knee) could miss a month due to his sprained knee, in the opinion of beat writer Joseph Person.

Sherrod MartinSep 23 09:03a

The Jacksonville Jaguars re-signed free-agent SS Sherrod Martin to an undisclosed deal.

Manti Te'oSep 23 08:33a

San Diego Chargers LB Manti Te'o (foot) will miss several weeks due to a fractured foot. He won't be placed on Injured Reserve, but he'll miss multiple weeks. The [ More ]

Bishop SankeySep 23 08:23a

Tennessee Titans RB Bishop Sankey's footwork is still an issue of concern to head coach Ken Whisenhunt, despite Sankey's 10-carry, 60-yard performance in Week 3.

Josh BynesSep 23 06:33a

Free-agent LB Josh Bynes (Ravens), who was cut from the team but brought to the practice squad at the start of September, will sign with the Detroit Lions within [ More ]

Marion GriceSep 23 06:23a

The Arizona Cardinals signed RB Marion Grice to a two-year contract Monday, Sept. 22, financial terms of which were not disclosed. Grice had been on the San Diego Chargers' practice squad.

Marcus EasleySep 23 06:23a

Updating a previous item, Buffalo Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee) suffered a sprained MCL and could be out 4-6 weeks. The team has not used its injured reserve/designated to [ More ]

DeAngelo HallSep 23 06:13a

Washington Redskins CB Bashaud Breeland, the team's fourth-round draft pick this year, could see more time on the field in the wake of the injury to CB DeAngelo Hall (Achilles').

Brandon MarshallSep 22 10:33p

Chicago Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle) was back on the field in the second half after leaving the team's Week 3 contest Monday, Sept. 22, with an ankle injury.

EJ ManuelSep 22 09:33p

Buffalo Bills QB EJ Manuel struggled with deeper passes in Week 3, completing just three of his 12 attempts. He didn't have a completion for more than 16 yards. [ More ]

Kam ChancellorSep 22 07:33p

Seattle Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor (knee) considered ankle surgery after Week 2, according to a source. Chancellor is dealing with bone spurs in his ankle, and he would have [ More ]

Alshon JefferySep 22 07:21p

Chicago Bears WRs Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (ankle) are both active for the Week 3 game against the New York Jets. Both were questionable for the game.

Brandon MarshallSep 22 07:13p

Chicago Bears WRs Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (ankle) are both active for the Week 3 game against the New York Jets. Both were questionable for the game.

Eric DeckerSep 22 07:13p

New York Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring) is active for the team's Week 3 game against the Chicago Bears Monday, Sept. 22.

A.J. EddsSep 22 07:13p

The New York Jets have declared LB A.J. Edds, OG Ben Ijalana, OL Dakota Dozier, CB Dee Milliner, DE IK Enemkpali, DL T.J. Barnes, WR Walter Powell inactive for Week 3.

Ryan ShazierSep 22 07:02p

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Ryan Shazier's (knee) medial collateral ligament sprain isn't expected to be season-ending. Shazier was walking around with his right leg in a brace Monday, Sept. 22.

Keenan RobinsonSep 22 06:53p

Washington Redskins DE Chris Baker (ankle, hip), DE Kedric Golston (groin), DE Jason Hatcher (hamstring), LB Akeem Jordan (knee), DE Frank Kearse (ankle), OG Shawn Lauvao (knee), C Kory [ More ]

Ike TaylorSep 22 06:53p

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Ike Taylor (forearm) underwent surgery to fix his broken right forearm Monday, Sept. 22, and he is expected to be out six weeks.

Mike CatapanoSep 22 06:33p

The Kansas City Chiefs transferred DE Mike Catapano (undisclosed) from the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list to the Reserve/Injured list Monday, Sept. 22.

Eric DeckerSep 22 06:23p

New York Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring) said he felt good while working out before the game and expects to play in Week 3.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group