The New Orleans Saints got back to work on Wednesday as they prepare to take on the (3-5) Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Oakland is coming off of a 55-20 drubbing in Baltimore while the Saints are coming off of 31-27 hard fought win over division rival Atlanta. Next week the Saints face San Francisco, the team that knocked the Saints out of the playoffs last season with the Falcons after that on a short week.
The message continued following practice on Wednesday that this game is a dangerous one for the resurgent (4-5) Saints. “Today was also about educating our football team on everything to expect for when we fly to Oakland to play the game on Sunday,” Vitt told reporters. “History tells us that since 2005, any football team that has given up 55 points and they now return home (that) it’s a different football team that you’re going to play. History tells us that (they in the next game at home) give up 20 points a game defensively, they force three turnovers and (have) four sacks. Offensively, they score 26 points a game and have 146 yards rushing on the day. We’re going to prepare as well as we can and we know we’re going to get the Raiders’ best effort with Dennis Allen as their head coach who knows us extremely well”
Vitt, who is always entertaining during his media sessions, was asked a few times about the potential of his team overlooking the Raiders and their three wins. Time and time again he kept insisting that it was the media who made that a story-line. “I never said trap game, did I?. You guys said that,” was one response.
Following that response a reporter asked it in another way. How tough is it to get up emotionally this week following the emotion of Sunday’s Falcons’ game? The response was classic Vitt.
“Did you listen to what I said earlier...” Vitt started. “They’ve played good football this year. I don’t (care) if we’re playing the Palestine Eagles or the Beirut Buffalo Bulldogs, that’s the profile of a team in the National Football League when what happened to them (Raiders) happened last week. (We can expect) their A game, which is pretty good.”
Perhaps the talk of a let down game comes from the fact the Saints winning four of their last five games has fans wondering if indeed the Saints can become only the second team in league history to start 0-4 and reach the post season.
The Saints can’t lose many more games however if history is to be made and the Raiders should be a team the Saints can beat. “It’s still very much head down, nose to the grind stone, focused on each week, one at a time,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees says of the mentality the team must have right now. “This is the most important game of the season because it’s the next game and it’s the game that could (get) us back to .500 after a 0-4 start.”
Vitt gave the stat that when teams lose by 55 points, NFL tells us the next time that team plays they have gone 5-1. “So much of this league is not who you play, it’s when you play them,” Brees comments about the stat. “The way I look at it is you can’t hardly turn on last week’s film because they have a bunch of guys hurt and they have a bunch of tough circumstances that they’re working through. Everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong. It was just one of those games. That’s not the Raiders. That’s not the team that we’re going to face at all.”
The Raiders may have looked bad last Sunday but back on October 14 the Falcons found out the hard way that Oakland can present a challenge. 23-20 was the final in Atlanta in a game the Raiders could have and probably should have won. “You flip on the film against Atlanta and these guys obviously gave Atlanta all that they could handle and they really had a chance to win it at one point in that game,” says Brees. “This is a team that beat Pittsburgh right there at the end of the game. They’ve played extremely well at times.
Brees added that the Raiders defense four times this season have held opposing offenses to under 300 yards of offense.
There was some good news and not so good news on Wednesday as the team released its first injury report of the week.
Running back Darren Sproles returned to practice on a limited basis. Sproles suffered a broken hand in the game at Denver and hasn't practiced since. Sproles could be close to playing even though he was listed as limited. “We were in shells only, so he caught the ball well. He ran great. I was very encouraged with his work today,” Vitt said of Sproles’ practice performance.
Wide receiver Courtney Roby also got back to practice on a limited basis as well. Roby hurt his should against the Broncos trying to catch a pass.
There were three Saints that did not practice. Right tackle Zach Strief (groin), defensive end Junior Galette (ankle), and cornerback Corey White. White was injured a few plays following his interception in the Atlanta game and while assistant head coach Joe Vitt said it was a knee injury, there were no additional details other than White will not require surgery to heal.
The Saints normally depart for a road game following a Saturday morning practice for a Sunday game. Under the Sean Payton era however, the team has at times left early especially for games out west. A few weeks ago the team left on Friday following practice to adjust to the altitude and cold for the Denver game.
This week the Saints will depart for Oakland on Friday as well to adjust to the time difference. Kickoff is set for 3:05 here in New Orleans.