Saints head into bye week with hope for turnaround
If the New Orleans Saints can salvage this season, they may look
back at their second-half performance against the San Diego
Chargers as the turning point.
Drew Brees’ touchdown passes to Marques Colston showed the
offense still has the punch to mount a comeback – without suspended
coach Sean Payton overseeing the unit. Even the Saints’ defense
started to look like it was figuring out how its personnel best
fits the scheme of first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
”We’re definitely on the rise,” New Orleans interim coach
Aaron Kromer said Monday. ”We need to keep it going.”
A big question is whether the Saints’ defense will build on its
performance against the Chargers when it returns from the bye week
or revert back to the mistakes that plagued the unit in New
Orleans’ first four losses.
New Orleans, last in the NFL in yards allowed, gave up 288 yards
to San Diego in the first half. The defense still appeared lifeless
when the Chargers cruised into the end zone to go ahead 24-14
following a turnover to start the second half.
After that, however, a transformation took place.
The Saints shut out San Diego, allowing only 113 yards the rest
of the way, and New Orleans rallied to win 31-24. In the fourth
quarter, New Orleans sacked Chargers QB Philip Rivers three times
and intercepted him once.
Safety Roman Harper, who said last week the Saints were the most
confident 0-4 team ever, had his first interception since 2010 on a
pass that fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins tipped in the fourth
”We’re still very confident,” Harper said. ”Nothing has
really changed. I understand we lost some games, but you can’t let
them see you sweat. We understand we’re right on the cusp of
greatness. We just have to go out there and achieve it, and we did
that last night.”
Now the Saints get some needed rest.
After meeting Monday, the Saints were due to take off the rest
of the week, following their normal plan for an open date. Their
next game is at Tampa Bay on Oct. 21.
They are not happy with their 1-4 record, but they feel a whole
lot better entering their bye week off a win, particularly since
the maligned defense played a huge role.
The Saints, who had six sacks through four games, were able to
pressure Rivers. Defensive ends Junior Galette, Cam Jordan and
Martez Wilson all got to him in the fourth quarter, with Wilson
knocking the ball out of his hands and falling on the ball in the
final minute to seal the victory.
”We never lost any confidence,” Galette said. ”We were 0-4,
but what other team in the NFL was not supposed to have its record
more than the New Orleans Saints. We need to use this as a
steppingstone. We set a mountain for us to climb, so we just have
to keep climbing it.”
Despite beating San Diego, the Saints know they have plenty of
corrections still to make on defense.
The Chargers had six plays of 20 or more yards in the first
half, including Rivers completions of 39, 32 and 45 yards. The last
one was an easy throw to a wide-open Robert Meachem, who left New
Orleans for San Diego as a free agent last March.
”It was a miscommunication in the defense,” Jenkins said. ”We
ended up not having a post safety, and they ran a post. The guys
got mixed up.”
On the Chargers’ final drive, the Saints benefited from a pair
of offensive penalties, one for interference on tight end Antonio
Gates that wiped out a 28-yard catch and another for holding that
nullified a 23-yard reception.
”We have a lot of work to do,” Spagnuolo said. ”The good Lord
helped us out on a number of plays. … It’s such a competitive
league. You need a break here or there.”
The Saints plan to enjoy their break from football this week.
Expecting to contend for the Super Bowl when the season began, they
felt the pressure mount with each unexpected loss. The teams that
beat them in the first four weeks are a combined 2-14 against
”These last few games, they played extremely hard, they put
their bodies to the test, and there’s a lot of wear and tear on
these guys,” Kromer said. ”It’s an opportunity for them to get
healed. We just need to carry the momentum back into the next week
when we get back.”
Notes: Kromer said CB Jabari Greer, who left against San Diego
in the first half, had re-aggravated a groin injury that required
sports hernia surgery in early August. Still, Kromer said Greer
might be able to play against Tampa Bay. … Kromer said TE Jimmy
Graham, who sprained his right ankle against San Diego, still had
to be evaluated. . The Saints have placed a commemorative name
plate in memory of long-time Associated Press writer Mary Foster on
the front row of the Superdome press box. That seat will remain
empty for the rest of the season. Foster, who covered the Saints
for AP from 1988-2005, and who also covered the club before joining
AP, died on Sept. 24 from complications from cancer diagnosed
earlier this year.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and