It is still hard to believe that the performance the New Orleans Saints put out on the field last Sunday was real. If you’re still having trouble comprehending how the Black and Gold lost 40-32, well you’re not alone because the players still are as they try to move forward and prepare for Sunday’s divisional showdown at Carolina.
Wednesday after practice reporters questioned coaches and players about what went wrong Sunday and if it could be fixed. A national reporter quickly found out that despite being persistent in trying to make the connection between the Saints performance Sunday and the absence of head coach Sean Payton as the reason for the loss, the team wasn’t going to say that is what took place.
Brees also played therapist for concerned Saints fans reminding all that hope it not yet lost. “As we get into the season you kind of start to come together as a team. You start to establish that identify and sometimes you’re going to have struggles,” says Brees. “You got to find a way to pull through it. We just have to kind of swallow it there, that hey we didn’t go out and play our best. It Didn’t start the way that we wanted to especially in our home opener but there is no better way to get back on track then this week at Carolina a divisional opponent.”
Do your job. We know that is the final directive given by Sean Payton as he left the team to serve his suspension. Acting head coach Aaron Kromer telling his team this week, that doing your job isn’t just a motto anymore. “The biggest thing we came out of that game with is everybody do your own job. There were a lot of people trying to cover for other people it appeared,” says Kromer. “I think it’s a case where we just have to make sure we’re doing our job, our particular job and handle that and things will be fine.”
“I mean the coaches saw what they saw,” Saints offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod said on the observations. “If they saw that we were trying to do too much or we weren’t in the places that we needed to be and that goes back to us needing to stay poised. We got to stay poised. Take a deep breath and go out there as 11 and continue to trust the guys to our right and to our left.”
The truth is you get the sense that Saints players are just as puzzled as the fans as to how the team played. The offense wasn’t in its usual rhythm and Brees wasn't the Brees we've become accustomed to watching.
“It felt like every third pass was completed. It was one of those days,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said when asked about his below fifty percent completion percentage. “There was an inordinate amount of batted balls in that game that I felt like, hey those are completions. There is one to Jimmy (Graham) that is a touchdown that gets batted. They blow a coverage and yet instead of walking away with seven points we end up only getting three. That’s a big play in the game.”
Defensively you got the sense in the locker room that players just need to go out on the field and relax and play football. “I think we just need to cut loose,” safety Malcolm Jenkins says. “A lot of plays we were a step away or a hesitation away from really being a big play on our part, to being a big play for the offense. I think once we get the game plan set down, we work hard, practice has been going good that when we get to the game we just need to cut loose and really trust our instincts and just play together.”
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo this week was quick to make everyone accountable for their errors. “He’ll point it out to the whole group, this player, we appreciate your effort but it’s not the right thing. You’re not supposed to be doing that,” says linebacker Jonathan Casillas of the film study. “We all take it as a whole and we correct it.”
“I think it’ll be a totally different look. We’re going to play a lot faster, more direct in this game,” Kromer predicts of the upcoming defensive performance. Saints fans sure hope he is right.
Smartly the Saints realize the Carolina deserves their full attention. A 0-2 start in the division for the Panthers would put a serious dent in their hopes of contending in the division. “I know how good of a team Carolina is. I know what the game was like when we went there last year. It took sixty minutes for us to pull that one out in the end,” says Brees. “They’re healthy. They’re probably about as angry as we are right now after their week one loss. We know what to expect.”
Who-Dats probably have already started downing antacids in preparation for Sunday’s game. The last thing they want to see is another mobile quarterback that can beat you with his arm and legs. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is on deck this week and he is a player who clearly on Wednesday was on many of the Saints defensive player’s minds.
“He’s a superior athlete. He’s a mutant almost,” described Casillas. “It has to be a team effort stop this guy not only their offense in general but when we are hitting this ball carrier, because at the end of the day when he’s running ball he’s not a quarterback anymore he’s a ball carrier. He’s a running back and a big one. Everybody has to get hats on him because he can run through arm tackles. He will run through linebackers. I’ve seen him through some defensive lineman and he’s very dangerous in that regard. It has to be a team effort to get this down when he runs with the ball.”
A big topic when speaking to Saints defenders was on how much of the Redskins game plan they expected Carolina to use.
“I’m pretty sure that they’ll test some things that we saw versus the Redskins but I know they’ll stick to their offense as well,” Jenkins believes. “They’re not going to change their entire offense to run what they saw on film.”
Newton last season in the first meeting in Charlotte was 16 of 31 for 224 yards to go with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. In the second meeting, Newton went 15 of 25 for 158 yards to go with a touchdown and an interception.
DE Turk McBride (ankle), WR Devery Henderson (head), and CB Johnny Patrick all did not practice. LB Scott Shanle (knee) was limited and CB Jabari Greer (sports hernia) was listed as fully participating.
The team placed WR Adrian Arrington on injured reserve and signed receiver Greg Camarillo back to the team. Camarillo was signed late in training camp when a few of the receivers got injured. He was released on the final day of cuts.