Saints Bury Past, Hope for Bright Future


Posted Oct 11, 2007


The winless Saints went to great lengths to try and end their three-game losing streak last week, but they didn't exactly work in a 16-13 setback to the Carolina Panthers. Prior to facing the Panthers, the Saints dug up replicas of the many team and individual awards they won during the 2006 season -- which they buried in a makeshift coffin during a mock funeral last summer.

The point was to forget the 2006 season and look ahead to 2007.

Since that didn't work and they were saddled with an 0-3 start, they unearthed the awards in the hopes that it would be helpful. But that too failed, so the Saints (0-4) will have to try something different for Sunday night's nationally televised game with the Seattle Seahawks in Qwest Field.

Saints coach Sean Payton all but ruled out wholesale lineup changes earlier in the week, but he's not afraid to try some different things to get his team to snap out of its season-long funk.

Payton, the consensus Coach of the Year in the NFL when he led the Saints to a 10-6 record and NFC South title before steering his team to within one win of the Super Bowl last year, believes he has the players to win football games.

His job now, he said, is to make sure he's playing the right ones at the right time. And he made it clear to his team and media earlier this week that the solutions to the myriad problems are already on the Saints roster.

"The answers to getting this thing turned around lie within this locker room," Payton said. "The answers lie within this coaching staff, within this personnel department.

"The Lone Ranger is not going to come riding in here with the right plan to all of a sudden turn things around. It's going to happen from within, and it is not easy. You have to be tough. It's what tests you as a player, it's what tests you as a coach. And we are going to respond the right way."

Strongside linebacker Scott Fujita, one of the team's defensive captains, said he's ready to try anything to produce that first win.

"We talked about the expectations all the time and how everybody was ready to embrace the expectations," he said. "For whatever reason, we haven't responded well to that. It's just been kind of a meltdown."

Because of that, he said he would be "on board" for lineup changes.

"Sometimes a shakeup can be a good thing," Fujita said. "But it's Sean's decision. I trust him. But I think making people a little uneasy is healthy sometimes."

Payton said he's willing to make adjustments, but does not want to change things that worked well last week -- which was perhaps their best outing of the season.

"We've got to be able to correct these mistakes," Payton said. "Now, if that means playing some other guys a little bit more on either side of the ball or on special teams, then so be it."

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. The Seahawks lead the series, 5-4, after winning the last three matchups of the two teams. The Saints have lost their last two games played in the Great Northwest, falling to the Seahawks 20-10 in Husky Stadium in 2000 and 27-10 in Seahawks Stadium (now Qwest Field) in 2003. Seattle also prevailed in the Superdome in 2004, 21-7.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Saints are 0-4 for the first time since 1996, which was Jim Mora's final season as the team's head coach, going into Sunday night's nationally televised game at Seattle. All told, the Saints have started a season with at least four losses seven times in the 41-year history of the organization. Their best finish after an 0-4 start or worse came in 1995, when they won seven of their final 11 games to post a 7-9 mark.

--Saints coach Sean Payton is 0-4 for only the second time in his 11-year career as an NFL coach. Payton was the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach in 1998, his second year in the league, when they started 0-5 en route to a 3-13 finish in Ray Rhodes' final season as the team's head coach.

--The Saints lost for the first time under Payton when going into the fourth quarter with a lead in dropping a 16-13 decision to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Last season, the Saints were 10-0 (9-0 in the regular season) when leading after three quarters. The Panthers trailed 13-6 before scoring a touchdown and adding a 52-yard field goal on the game's final play to claim the win.

--The Saints made some wholesale changes to their practice squad this week, starting Monday when they reached an injury settlement with wide receiver Titus Ryan and then released running back Quinton Smith on Tuesday. They added quarterback Tyler Palko, wide receiver Dante Ridgeway and running back Jamaal Branch to reach the maximum of eight practice-squad players. Palko was waived from the active roster on Saturday so they could bring up linebacker Marvin Mitchell from the practice squad.

Ridgeway and Branch are no strangers to the Saints. They were on the practice squad last season and were in training camp with the team this summer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Sacks by the Saints in four games this season. They went more than 20 quarters, dating to the NFC divisional playoffs in January, without one before defensive end Will Smith dropped Carolina quarterback David Carr with 1:48 to play in the first period last week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going to stand by each other. There's no finger-pointing. That's the most important thing." -- Saints DE Charles Grant, on his team's fourth consecutive loss.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Desperate to develop some rhythm in his passing game, Saints coach Sean Payton could try some new combinations in his three- and four-receiver sets this week at Seattle. Devery Henderson caught four passes for 101 yards last week against Carolina, but he's had trouble with drops this season. Payton said earlier this week he would like to get veteran David Patten and youngster Lance Moore involved more to give Marques Colston some help.

Another option would be Terrance Copper. He started several games last season and filled in well when Joe Horn was injured in the second half of the season, but has been used sparingly in the first four games.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--K Olindo Mare did not participate in Wednesday's practice because of a groin injury. Mare will try to kick Thursday to see if he'll be available for Sunday night's game in Seattle.
--SLB Scott Fujita returned to practice Wednesday after missing Sunday's game with the Carolina Panthers with a sprained right ankle. He should be ready for Sunday's game.
--DT Kendrick Clancy, who's been sidelined for the last two games with a turf toe injury, also practiced Wednesday.
--S Jay Bellamy, who has been bothered by a sprained left ankle that kept him out of Sunday's game, participated in Wednesday's practice.
--RCB Jason David did not practice because of a fractured left forearm that will likely keep him out another two-to-four weeks.

GAME PLAN: Because they've had a hard time playing from behind, the Saints don't want to get in a hole early in a noisy Qwest Field. While they want to get their passing game going, they're going to have to run the ball effectively against the Seahawks, who rank 20th in allowing 115.6 yards a game. Getting a lead could take some pressure off the passing game and possibly help take the crowd out of the game. Defensively, the Saints have been better against the run this season and have done a credible job the last three weeks. So preventing Shaun Alexander from running wild early would be a good start on that side of the ball.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Saints WR Marques Colston vs. Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant. Colston hasn't been as productive as he was when he burst onto the scene early last season, but this week would be a good time to start. Getting open down the field and making some big plays against a quality corner like Trufant could be a good sign for the Saints.

Saints RDE Will Smith vs. Seahawks LT Walter Jones. Smith, who had 10.5 sacks last season en route to the Pro Bowl, got his first last week against the Panthers. On Sunday, he will go against one of the best in the league in Jones. Smith won't win every battle, but getting enough pressure to make Matt Hasselbeck uncomfortable will be a key for the Saints defense.

Saints front seven vs. Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander. While Alexander has averaged just 75.6 yards a game this season, the Saints know they can't afford to let him get loose. Keeping him at or near the line of scrimmage and not allowing him to get into the secondary, where he uses his size and speed to punish defensive backs, is simply a must for the Saints in this game.

INJURY IMPACT: RCB Jason David will miss his second straight game on Sunday with a fractured left forearm.RCB Jason Craft will likely start in David's spot against the Seattle Seahawks.



Related Stories
First Look: The New Orleans Saints
 -by NorthwestFootball.net  Oct 9, 2007
NFC West News & Notes - 10/11/07
 -by NorthwestFootball.net  Oct 11, 2007
Patriots Defensive Front One Of The Best
 -by PatriotsInsider.com  Oct 11, 2007

PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION INCLUDES
> Members-only Forums
> Insider Information
> Free Agency &
   Draft News
> Expert Chats

Sign Up Today!

Free Email Newsletter
Don't miss any news or features from NorthwestFootball.net. Subscribe to our newsletter to have our newest articles emailed to you on a daily or weekly basis.
Click here for a list of all Team Newsletters.

Add Players to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite players. Click name to add to My HotList.
LB Scott Fujita (profile)
DE Charles Grant (profile)
WR Devery Henderson (profile)
[View My HotList]