Sand$: Locked
Black and Gold Looks Foward to Home Opener

Doug Miller,
Monday, September 17, 2007 - 11:54 AM

The theme was universal in the Saints’ locker room this morning.

It’s good to be home, and it’s even better to finally be gearing up for the Saints’ first home game of the season. Just one of three NFL teams to have begun the 2007 season with two straight games on the road, the sentiment in the locker room was that there is no place like Dome.

“There is no excuse for starting 0-2,” said defensive end Charles Grant. “But it is what it is. We have goals that we can still obtain and we aren’t backing away from the road that we have in front of us, starting with Monday night’s game against a tough Tennessee team.”

The road from which Grant speaks finally winds it way through the Bayou and into the Crescent City on Monday, September 25 with a 7:30 pm kickoff and each player that spoke to media today virtually echoed each other’s thoughts.

“We are disappointed in the way it’s started for us, but this is when we need our fans that most,” said fullback Mike Karney. “We want them to show up, have a good time and get behind us like they were for the playoff game against the Eagles last season. They’re great fans with a lot of passion and they help create our home field advantage.”

“This may sound crazy to some people,” said quarterback Drew Brees, “but after watching film and spending a whole lot of time thinking about (yesterday’s) game, I am really excited. Maybe more so than I have been since I got here.”

Brees stated that seemingly every team goes through ups-and-downs in a season and the Saints are enduring a rough patch of pavement right now, but that the road back to smooth terrain starts right in the Saints’ locker room.

“The first thing we are going to do is to correct the mistakes that have put us in a hole, and that’s on each and every guy in here,” he said. “There’s not a single person on another team in the NFL that feels bad for us and we know that, accept it and I believe it is pulling us tighter together. We believe in each other and are going to feed off of the frustration and put it towards having a great week of practice and get ready for the Titans. That is our only focus right now. It start right here and right now for us.”

“What is in the past is in the past,” he continued. “We have to be smart enough to learn from the mistakes and put it towards getting better and earning our first win and hopefully build off it.”

After a quiet trip across the Gulf of Mexico on the team’s charter flight back to New Orleans last night, the team showed up bright and early this morning for film, strength-and-conditioning sessions and a team meeting, which was followed by positional meetings to review the team’s performance yesterday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The Saints, keenly aware that their upcoming opponent is a stingy group of Titans from Tennessee, will face a formidable opponent that had an opportunity yesterday to upset the Colts.

“The calling card for the Titans is that they are tough, physical team that has offensive weapons and we’ll need to bring our best game,” said Karney. “We know that and we will study what they do and figure out a game plan this week. It’s on us to get schooled up on it, prepare ourselves for a great week of practice and get ready to play.”

“I have only been here a short amount of time compared to some of the other guys in the locker room,” said CB Jason David. “But there are a lot of guys in here with a lot of pride and I have heard that the fans will be behind us 100% on Monday and I know that’s exciting for us. I am anxious to get out there and experience it and just wish the next game wasn’t a week from today.”

The home field advantage that David speaks of is clearly evident around the NFL early this season, as home teams have won 65% of the games through the first two weeks of the season. The Saints, Falcons and Chiefs all have had the dubious task of starting their seasons on the road with two straight games, and (coincidently?) share the same 0-2 records to date.

“To me that puts an added emphasis on this game,” Grant said. “We know that you don’t throw your helmets out there just because you’re at home and expect to win. But to be able to play in front of our fans, to be able to prepare and be in our routine, I think, will be an advantage for us.”
Last edited by sugarcane64 on Tue 09.25.2007, 00:15, edited 1 time in total.
Sand$: Locked
Tennessee Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher Q and A

Justin Macione,
Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - 2:05 PM

Q: Can you discuss your club leading the NFL in rushing through the first two games of the season?

Jeff Fisher: “Obviously it’s been an emphasis of ours dating back to early last season. It’s important for us to get back to running the football. We finished up the year last year running it pretty well. You don’t know if it’s going to carryover or not. We emphasized and worked on it through training camp and the preseason and were fortunate to get off to a good start in our opener. We had some efficient runs in the game Sunday against the Colts. Statistics are very, very misleading this early in the season.”

Q: How does Roydell Williams fit into your wide receiver package?

Jeff Fisher: “He had a productive day. Against the Colts, he had four catches, three of which were tough in a very, very close ballgame. Vince (Young) looked at him three or four times and he made each catch. He’s improved since the day he got here. We’re pleased. His training camp was a little unsettling for him because he battled injuries off and on, but he’s now healthy, had a real good week of practice and we’re happy to see it carryover into the game.”

Q: What do you see about Vince Young that makes you like him?

Jeff Fisher: “Keep this in mind that he’s yet to play a full season and I think we look at Sunday’s game a little differently with Peyton (Manning) on one side and Vince on the other who hasn’t played a full season and we had a chance to win the game. He’s improving each week. We like what he’s doing on the practice field. I thought he had a very, very good offseason. He had a productive preseason especially on the practice field at training camp. His numbers are reflective of a pretty good effort on Sunday against a tough Colt defense.”

Q: Would you like to see him work on the passing game a little bit more?

Jeff Fisher: “That’s people’s opinion. What I’d like to see him do is win ballgames. That’s really what he’s done since he’s taken over as the starter. He’s going to continue to develop. He’s a young quarterback that’s yet to play a full season. There are a lot of things that he can improve on, no differently than anybody else that young in their career. I think the thing that is special about Vince is that he finds ways to win ballgames right now.”

Q: How surprised are you at the start of the Saints season?

Jeff Fisher: “Their record certainly doesn’t reflect the ability and the talent level and what they have going. Sometimes really good teams get off to a slow start for whatever reason. It’s not going to continue. I personally hope they get things straightened a week from now, but they are a very talented team that is well coached. The Colts are a tough team to beat, especially if you’re not familiar with them, especially at home. Last week, I thought the Saints improved. Tampa Bay just made a couple of real tough plays with a couple of good catches. All of a sudden you blink and you’ve gone down to 0-2, but that doesn’t mean to say that they’re not going to be there at the end. They’re too good of a football team and talented to not be again challenging for the NFC Championship.”

Q: Is it mystifying that they are so different this year offensively?

Jeff Fisher: “They have the same people doing the same things. There’s a dropped ball here and there, an incomplete pass and a drive that’s stalled. This is no time to panic and they know that. Players know that and the staff knows that. You just have to line up and keep playing and you work through the tough times. That’s how the National Football League is. They are too good of a team to give up on right now and they know that. They’ll be fine. Coach (Sean Payton) did a great job with them last year and he’ll get them back.”

Q: When you see the cover two defense so successful against the Saints in the first two weeks of the season, in the big picture of things, does it encourage you to adapt your schemes for an proponent if there is a tendency like that?

Jeff Fisher: “We look at things a little different. We look at situations. We look at things that are called at specific times. I think Tampa Bay’s defense in particular did a lot of different things. They just didn’t line up in the one front of coverage with a bend but don’t break type of setup. That’s the case with the Colts as well. Every week it’s different. People have different types of approaches to different opponents. That’s the challenge of the National Football League. I don’t particularly believe that the Saints offense faced the same coverage or were having difficulty with any coverage in particular. The Colts are a different team. We know that. You have to set them aside and deal with the other teams in the league because they are so different. You take that game out. We don’t include Colt games in breakdowns. People are so different as far as they’re concerned.”

Q: What is your take on Eric Moulds in terms of how he’s played and progressed?

Jeff Fisher: “We were very fortunate to get things worked out with Eric. He’s been a real nice addition. He’s been a real good influence on some of the younger receivers, works hard. I believe he still has a lot left. I think all of the receivers are off to a slow start due to our play selection and our stress on running the football early. I believe Eric will have very adequate numbers and make plays for us. He has several years left and he’s been a real nice addition.”

Q: Are you concerned that this is the first Monday night game for Vince Young and some of your other younger players?

Jeff Fisher: “He handles pressure very well. We have a somewhat of a young team. We have a number of players that have not been in marquee games like this. We do have some, the Chris Hope’s and the players that we’ve acquired from the Colts, Kevin Mawae and a number of those players. They’ve been there before. They’ll remind the younger players. That does not include Vince because I know Vince can handle this, but some of the younger players, they’ll remind them of what’s at stake here, how you have to move forward during the week and how you have to prepare for it, because you really can lose perspective if you’re not careful, especially if you’re too young. You just work through it, pay attention to detail, focus on the game plan and right before kickoff, take a deep breath and have fun.”

Q: Can you discuss the contributions of Kevin?

Jeff Fisher: “He came in and was real excited about joining the program because we met Kevin over at the Pro Bowl several years ago and I think he was intrigued about Tennessee and real interested in Vince. He’s done a great job. We have a really young offensive line with two second year starters at the tackle positions who I think have really improved. He’s worked well with Jacob (Bell) and Benji (Olson). He handles things very well. He’s been a calming factor for Vince. If you talk with Kevin, he’s very, very surprised at how quickly Vince has picked things up. Vince has now taken over some of the roles on the line of scrimmage as far as changing plays. Kevin’s been a great addition in terms of leadership, experience and he’s a real pro. He takes a professional approach to work everyday and it’s been good for everybody.”

Q: What did you see in Reggie Bush when you were making your preparations for the 2006 draft?

Jeff Fisher: “He’s going to have a great career. He’s someone that I think defenses have to build game plans around. There’s very few of those types in the league. There’s one of them in San Diego (LaDanian Tomlinson). He’s somebody that you have to know where he’s at and know his potential each and every play. There is no question in our mind he’s going to be a great pro. We were still a little bit surprised as the Saints were that he lasted. He’s done some things on the field as a pro that you just don’t see done. As a result of that, you really have to be concerned about where he is and what he’s doing and be smart about it, because he can turn a game very, very quickly.”

Q: Do you see any differences or similarities in terms of the frenzy of the Monday night game for the Saints last year reopening the Superdome and this year’s Monday night game?

Jeff Fisher: “Last year’s circumstances were different than certainly this Monday night’s circumstances. There are also some similarities. That’s become a very, very tough place to play. The way we look at this is that the Saints took off after the playoffs and had a victory against Philadelphia and really have not been back since. They’ve been back in the preseason. There is a tremendous following there now. The fans I’m sure are very, very excited to have him back and to show their appreciation for what happened last year. You go up and play in the Championship game and only to fall short and then take off for a couple weeks and come back. The situation’s different, but I believe it’s going to similar. The atmosphere is going to be emotional and electric and that’s one thing we obviously have to remind our club about that it’s going to be one of the toughest places to play on the road this year.”

Q: Having coached both Steve McNair and now Vince Young, do you find any validity to Donovan McNabb’s comments?

Jeff Fisher: “I’m going to let his comments speak for itself. I don’t feel it necessary to comment other than that quarterbacks are obviously the first player on the team that’s going to be judged whether they play well or they don’t. They win games and they don’t win games. That’s just basically the way it is. We’ve had Warren Moon as our starting quarterback for many, many years, Steve McNair and now Vince Young and regardless of shape or color, it doesn’t matter. If you play well you’re praised. There’s criticisms. I think Philadelphia is a unique sports town. It has no patience. It has very, very high expectations and they’re going to voice their opinion.”
Sand$: Locked
Wednesday Sept 19 Drew Brees Chat

Doug Miller,
Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - 3:30 PM

(on playing at home after two road games)

Brees: "It’s very nice to get back in our home stadium. Obviously [we had] two tough road games and two losses, so we’re just trying to get some things figured out right now and I’m confident that we will. We’re definitely happy to get in front of the home fans and there’s no better atmosphere than Monday Night Football in New Orleans."

(on how dangerous the Titans’ defensive line is with Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth)

Brees: "They’re pretty stout. That’s definitely something that sticks out the minute you turn on the film. With their pass-rush and their energy, I think those guys are very active and make a lot of plays. That’s something we’re definitely going to have to have a plan for."

(on the frustration of the Saints’ 0-2 start and what he feels is going wrong)

Brees: "I think it’s probably just making things a little more complicated than they really need to be. Obviously expectations were high this year and we do have a very good football team. I think we’re just trying to kind of find ourselves a little bit right now. I’m confident that that’s going to happen very soon. We’ve addressed some of the issues that we’ve been having and we’re having a good week of practice so far, so we just hope we can keep it going."

(on the importance of keeping young players from panicking)

Brees: "You always [have to remind] the young guys or guys who haven’t been in this situation before. But we’ve got a lot of veteran guys on our team. We’ve got a lot of guys that have been in this type of situation, so it’s definitely a very calm atmosphere. Definitely [there is] a sense of urgency, but nobody’s panicking, nobody’s overreacting. We understand that it’s really all about getting that first win. Once you get that first win, I think you gain some confidence. We need to get that swagger back and then we’ll just move on from there."

(on if it is dangerous to deem this game a “must-win” game for the Saints)

Brees: "We don’t throw that term around here as much as the media likes to. There’s definitely a sense of urgency, we understand how important it is to win this game, but we don’t throw that term around. We just want to play relaxed and our type of football."

(on what he thinks about this game being billed as “Vince Young vs. Reggie Bush”)

Brees: "That’s all for the fans. They obviously get excited about that thing. I’m sure that’s probably why they paired the two of us to play on Monday night, so they can talk about those two guys. That’s part of it. It’s definitely not a distraction, though. We still go about our business not even thinking about it."

(on what he has seen from injured first-round pick Robert Meachem so far)

Brees: "He’s got a lot of talent, just a raw kind of an athlete. He’s the guy who continues to improve every day. They’re just trying to polish him up every day. We’re pretty deep at wide receiver, so there’s really no urgency for him to play until he’s ready, so we’re just waiting for that time."

(on Reggie Bush’s importance to the Saints’ offense)

Brees: "As involved as you can get him in the gameplan and as many touches as you can get him in success, I think the better he is. We’ve got so many weapons, so we’re going to spread the ball around as best we can. Obviously he’s a big part of what we do and we’re going to continue to try to feed it to him."

(on what element of the game is the hardest for a young quarterback such as Vince Young to pick up)

Brees: "In this league, just the speed of the game. I think you can get away with some of the mistakes you make in college. You can overcompensate later in the game. At this level, mistakes are magnified a little and you don’t have the opportunity to make up for it like you can in college. I’d say the complexity of the defenses. There are a lot of things you just kind of have to adjust to. There’s definitely a learning curve. Obviously he has done a very good job."
Sand$: Locked
Wednesday Sept 19 Head Coach Sean Payton

Doug Miller,
Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - 4:20 PM

(on how the crowd in the Superdome will affect the game)

Payton: “Well, we’ve had a good following when we’ve played at home. For us, I think our players are looking forward to getting back to a home game. It seems like we’ve been on the road for quite a while now. Our fan support has been really strong, and that began last year. I hope and know it will continue. They appreciate and understand the importance of the noise inside and how that can affect games. Obviously it’s something that, for us right now, we’re looking for any edge that we can get, and it will be good for us to get back home.”

(on what has been most frustrating in the first two weeks of the season)

Payton: “Well, I think the most difficult thing, obviously, it is difficult losing. But a little bit more frustrating would also be the fact that you’re into the fourth quarter playing a catch-up game in both cases, where you’re down three scores and you become one dimensional. That doesn’t suit us, and I don’t know how many teams it suits. That’s been disappointing. You don’t get enough rushing attempts. You end up being in a predictable situation, and all of a sudden it’s a harder job to be a quarterback; it’s harder to pass protect. That can come up during the course of the year late in the games when you’re in your two-minute [drill], but I think the most frustrating thing is that it has happened in both games we’ve played.”

(on what the Titans have done best in their first two games)

Payton: “Well, I think it’s a physical team, and they always have been under Jeff (Fisher). They play really good defense. They pride themselves on playing run defense and their ability to run the football. I think it’s a team that is very disciplined, very well coached. You add the dynamic of a young player like Vince Young on offense, who obviously has provided a spark and leadership. They create a bunch of problems, and they’re a big challenge for us. They’ve done a good job on both sides of the ball, as it pertains to running the football and defending the run. Those are ingredients that I know Coach Fisher believes in, just like we do in regards to winning football games.”

(on if pitting Saints running back Reggie Bush against Titans quarterback Vince Young makes the game more intriguing)

Payton: “Sure, but that draft seems like about 10 years ago to me right now, but those are exciting players. The fans get excited for good reasons, both Tennessee and New Orleans fans, to see guys like that obviously contributing and playing a bunch. They were exciting in their college days, and they were successful players in college. Now that’s carried over, obviously, with these guys at the pro level. Both of them are going to be exciting for a long time, I think.”

(on his impressions of Vince Young)

Payton: “I met him at the (Scouting) Combine first, and at that time we were still kind of in that mix with the second pick in the draft. (Saints quarterback) Drew (Brees) wasn’t available yet at that time; it was shortly after that period of time. So you go through the evaluation process. The one thing about him, just having the chance to follow some of his career when I was living in Texas, was that you saw someone who was a real good leader, very similar to the traits that Brees brings in regards to the leadership, his winning ways. Drew is someone that in college and then with the teams he has played for in the NFL, his teams have found ways to be successful. You see that same thing in Vince’s case, and that’s not by accident. Those are some of the specifics you look for at that position. Obviously those two are uniquely different, but there are some common characteristics that I think are essential at that position, and I think he has those.”

(on if this is a must-win game for the Saints)

Payton: “I think the approach is that it is a ‘show-me’ game each week. We understand that. The games are broken down more and talked about more than ever before. As long as you understand that and you understand the type of game we’re getting ready to play. Where it is on our schedule, we, just like Tennessee, have a bye after this. So, you probably tend to downplay some of that, but you do want the sense of urgency and the understanding of the importance of us getting our first win. So there’s a balance there, and it’s a good question”

(on the level of hype leading up to a Monday Night Football game)

Payton: “Well last year before we played Atlanta, that was a big concern that we had. You knew the players were going to be physically ready, but it still comes down to the assignment. It still comes down to the technique and the execution of the fundamentals. You know, it comes down to blocking and tackling well. It comes down to not turning the football over. So you try to preach that as much as you can. The other things, in regards to the excitement of the game, they kind of take care of themselves. Now that being said, you want to make sure that there are no dumb penalties, and you limit the penalties. When you play a team like Tennessee, the margin for error that we have against a team like [that], that we have, is small.

(on if cornerbacks are becoming more important defending against the run)

Payton: “I think that often times, scheme can dictate that, depending on what type of support defensively you’re in from a coverage standpoint. Obviously if you’re in ‘cloud’ support, where the corner a lot of the times is counted upon to be part of the support, you want those guys to be guys that are willing tacklers. Some of your man schemes and some of your quarter schemes, they become secondary in support. I think when you talk defensive football, you want guys that are willing and capable tacklers, guys that are not afraid to be physical and use the proper technique. Sometimes there is a give-and-take when you get a real good player, but I think the real good ones end up both being good in coverage and good in tackling.”

(on if he sees Titans cornerbacks Nick Harper and Cortland Finnegan having an affect on run defense)

Payton: “I see those guys being real physical. [Middle linebacker] Ryan Fowler was with us in
Dallas, and he’s having success playing the [middle] linebacker position. Bulluck has been there quite some time and been really successful. I can always just remember Tennessee on film. The year we went to the Super Bowl in New York, we played them in 2000 in Nashville, and I think we had about 115 yards of total offense that day. So they’ve been, traditionally, a really good and well-coached defensive team. So you see some of that right now. You see the young players flying around. You see the veteran players up front doing a good job. They’re stout, they’re physical, and it is a real good defense.”

(on if Vince Young’s leadership quality is the main strength of his game)

Payton: “Well, I think as he gets exposed more and more to the live reps in each game, there is nothing like that from a learning experience. It’s hard to simulate that. He is someone that obviously can threaten you not only with his arm but also with his feet. I think he’s a strong, tough sack because of his body size. He’s physical. He has a presence about him. The first thing I remember when I first saw him was how imposing or how strong he looked. That becomes challenging in regards to putting pressure on him and trying to get sacks. He’s strong in the pocket. I think (Titans offensive coordinator) Norm (Chow) and the coaches there have done a good job in their implementation of their scheme, and they’ve really put him in a good position to be successful. Certainly the reps you get as a quarterback at a young age build confidence, and you can see the confidence in his teammates.”

(on his thoughts on game-day deactivations and the 53-man roster)

Payton: “I’m content when we’re healthy and we don’t need players 48, 49 and 50. Then I’m not content when we need those guys. I think it’s challenging. They were able to put the quarterback in as a non-counted player when you add a third quarterback, which helps a little bit. What’s tough is when you have that player that is injured for two or three weeks, and you’re trying to help on special teams. Right now, I don’t know if I have a strong feeling for or against (the 45-man active roster), but I know that sometimes there is added pressure on those guys playing special teams because the number is what it is. If it ever does change, I’m sure it won’t be that drastic.”

(on the progress of injured rookie wide receiver Robert Meachem)

Payton: “He’s progressed. He fell behind in the spring. He had a knee scoped in the spring and missed most of our mini-camp and OTA work. Training camp, he struggled some. It was just him getting used to it, number one mentally and then number two physically. He wasn’t 100 percent. He’s getting close to it. He’s been inactive and still has a ways to go, but he is a guy who has worked hard at it. We’re looking forward to big things from him. He has just got to keep learning and get to where he is 100 percent, and he can go. There is a learning curve, and for him it has been a little steeper than we had hoped.”

(on how wide receiver Marques Colston was able to succeed so well as a rookie)

Payton: “That’s a good question. Sometimes you can’t pinpoint it. He, after the rookie mini-camp and mini-camp in the spring, looked like it was going to be a while. He wasn’t real impressive then. It wasn’t until training camp after the summer, and he was in real good shape when he came back and had a tremendous training camp. He caught most everything we threw to him. He picked things up quick. If you just paid attention to it as he was playing, he got more reps at that time because (Donte) Stallworth was nicked up and wasn’t able to play, and he just caught on. Sometimes for whatever reason, and often times you’re talking about a guy who is a quick study, it came to him really quick. He was able to help us right away. Hopefully we can get Robert (Meachem) going to where he is up to speed, and he is 100 percent running, because he is someone who has ability and has speed.”
Sand$: Locked
Thursday, 09/20/07

Struggling start surprises Saints
Titans may see more passes instead of Bush, McAllister

Staff Writer

A popular pick to make it to the Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints have a much more modest goal in mind for Monday night against the Titans.

How about a win?

The Saints have stumbled to an 0-2 start, losing in grand fashion at Indianapolis on opening night and again at Tampa Bay.

They've been outscored 72-24, falling behind quickly and becoming one-dimensional as they looked to quarterback Drew Brees to throw it in an effort to catch up. In so doing, they largely abandoned the one-two run game punch of Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush.

"That doesn't suit us, and I don't know how many teams it suits," Saints Coach Sean Payton said Wednesday. "That's been disappointing.

"You don't get enough rushing attempts, you end up being in a predictable situation, and all of a sudden it's a harder job to be a quarterback, it's harder to pass protect."

Once kickoff arrives in their home opener Monday night, the Saints pledge they won't have bought into the idea that it's a must-win game, but they'll certainly have heard a lot of discussion about it being just that.

While the Titans will be playing to head into their bye week at 2-1, the Saints could endure some restless time off for their Week 4 bye if they hit it at 0-3.

"We're going to get the Saints' best," Titans receiver Eric Moulds said. "Any time a team is 0-2 and at home, their fans are going to come out and rally around them. It's a team that everybody thought was going to be a Super Bowl contending team.

"When your back is against the wall you come out swinging. It'll be tough to go there. At the same time we're confident whoever we play we can go out there and get it done."

Quarterback Vince Young said it would be a mistake for the Titans to think the Saints' showing so far has revealed their true identity.

"You can't really just go off that," he said. "I really feel like Week 8 and Week 9 are when you really know your team, how they're going to be, how they're going to end up. Week 2 or Week 3, that's kind of early to judge a team."

Struggles on defense, too

Of particular concern for the Saints is their pass defense. It hasn't recorded a sack or an interception. The Colts scored on pass plays of 27, 28 and 45 yards while Buccaneers receiver Joey Galloway scored on 69- and 24-yard receptions.

Meanwhile, McAllister and Bush haven't gotten on track and the offense has just one touchdown of its own, a Brees pass to Marques Colson late in Tampa Bay with the game out of reach.

The Saints hope their Superdome advantage will give them a boost on the Monday Night Football stage.

"Our players are looking forward to getting back to a home game," Payton said. "It seems like we've been on the road for quite a while now. Our fan support has been real strong, and that began last year. I hope and know it will continue.

"They appreciate and understand the importance of the noise inside and how that can affect games. For us right now, we're looking for any edge that we can get and it will be good for us to get back home."
Sand$: Locked
Thursday, 09/20/07

Saints not in a rush to get Meachem out on the field

Staff Writer

Saints quarterback Drew Brees answered the question with a question.

"Who?'' Brees said when asked about former University of Tennessee star Robert Meachem, the Saints' first-round pick this year.

Brees didn't seem to be calling out Meachem. An audio problem during a conference call with Nashville media Wednesday more than likely prompted the response.

Meachem has been a non-factor so far this season, however. He fell behind in the spring after arthroscopic knee surgery, struggled in training camp and was inactive for the first two games.

"He's got a lot of talent, just a raw kind of an athlete. He's the guy who continues to improve every day,'' Brees said. "We're pretty deep at wide receiver, so there's really no urgency for him to play until he's ready. We're just waiting for that time.''

Saints Coach Sean Payton said Meachem is getting close to 100 percent but has work to do.

"We're looking forward to big things from him,'' Payton said. "He has just got to keep learning and get to where he is 100 percent, and he can go. There is a learning curve, and for him it has been a little steeper than we had hoped.''

For the Vols last season, Meachem had 71 catches for a school-record 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns.

No pointing: Saints running back Reggie Bush created a stir during the NFC championship game last season. Running for a touchdown he turned around and pointed at pursuing Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck doesn't want Bush pointing at him on Monday Night Football.

"He is not going to do that,'' Bulluck said with a smile. "But I might do it to him when I score. I told you I am Mr. Monday night, baby.''

Bulluck said the Titans are probably even more wary of Deuce McAllister.

"Reggie Bush is a great player. It is not like he is sneaking up on anyone," Bulluck said. " … But I am a firm believer that offense goes through Deuce McAllister and I won't overlook him.''

McAllister missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury.

Titans injuries: Tight end Casey Cramer (hamstring), C Kevin Mawae (knee) and G Benji Olson (illness) did not practice Wednesday. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan (hamstring) and running back LenDale White (foot) were limited.
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Patten's proof that 0-2 can be overcome
Brady Aymond

METAIRIE - By now, every New Orleans Saints player has heard the statistic.
Since the 1978 expansion to 10 teams, only 26 of 224 teams to start a season 0-2 have qualified for the playoffs.


But if the Saints need any motivation, or inspiration, after this year's dismal 0-2 start, they have to look no further than David Patten.

Patten was a member of the 2001 New England
Patriots team that started the season 0-2 only to get hot and win the Super Bowl.

"I think about it all the time," Patten said. "That year, I think we might have lost five games, but the bottom line is that it's a week-to-week thing - whether you lose early or late, it's still a loss.

"Everybody expected us to be so high and be so good, and right now, we're not looking like that. We have 14 more games and even if we were 2-0 right now, it doesn't mean a thing. We could still end up 14-2. We just have to keep working."

The Saints have bucked history before in regards to the 0-2 start. In 1990, the Saints opened the season 0-2 before finishing 8-8 and making the playoffs.

"It definitely can be done, that's the bottom line," Patten said. "Sure, you'd like to win them all, but it's still early and a lot can happen."

Speaking of 0-2

Three NFL teams have started this season with back-to-back road games - the Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs.

All three teams are currently 0-2 heading into home games this weekend.

The Falcons play host to Carolina and the Chiefs - the only 0-2 team to qualify for the playoffs in 2006 - welcome the Minnesota Vikings into Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.

The Saints open the home schedule Monday night against the Tennessee Titans.

Role reversal

Former Opelousas High School star Devery Henderson did a little role-playing on Wednesday, taking one of the television cameras and a microphone and interviewing Patten.

Henderson started off the questioning by grilling Patten on the Spygate scandal in New England.

"How much of a role did you play in that New England thing?" Henderson asked the veteran wideout.

"I already said I'm not talking about that," Patten replied. "If you were a professional reporter, you'd know not to ask those kinds of questions."

"I'm just trying to do my job, man," Henderson responded, before firing off another question, just like a pro.

"Tell me about the leadership you have with these young guys?" Henderson asked.

"I don't think it's tough. I think these guys make it easy on me," Patten replied. "We have young guys like Devery Henderson, he's a very humble guy, but he's a knothead. Other than that, it's good."

After two questions, Henderson already had enough of being a reporter.

"Man, this thing is heavy. I'm too worn out to ask another question," Henderson said.

Henderson focused

Henderson was benched in favor of Patten during the second half of the Saints' loss to Tampa Bay last Sunday.

Henderson, who had a couple of drops in the first half and a missed assignment in the second half, was not making any excuses Wednesday.

"I dropped passes, I didn't do my job," Henderson said. "I'm not mad or anything, it's an understanding. If you don't do your job, you're not going to play. I'm not going to make any excuses. It doesn't matter if it's a tough play or not, I'm supposed to catch the ball and if I don't, that's a drop.

"I'm not going to hang my head. I'm just going to keep working and do what I can to help this team win."

Injury report

Four players were held out of practice Wednesday as the Saints continued preparations for the Titans.

Deuce McAllister was nursing a sore right knee. Kendrick Clancey was out with an injured toe. Jonathan Goodwin was out with a back and Jay Bellamy was out with a left ankle injury.

"Because of our extra day, I backed off of him and let him sit," Payton said of McAllister skipping the on-field work Wednesday. "We'll see where he's at tomorrow, but he's going to be fine."

Darth McAllister

For the first time in his career, McAllister will wear a visor Monday night, to help protect an injury he suffered during the Tampa Bay game.

McAllister suffered a black eye when his helmet slid down, making contact with the top of his eye. He said he also got poked in the eye later, adding insult to the injury.

It's the second time McAllister has injured that eye. He said he suffered a broken orbital bone earlier in his career.
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Saints' defensive line still looking for first sack

Gary W Green/MCT
Hollis Thomas and the rest of his Saints defensive teammates have been able to put precious little pressure on opposing quarterbacks like Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia.
Chat at our new Saints message board
'Dat Blog': Saints blog with Larry Holder
McAllister sits out of practice to rest knee

Where do the Saints need to improve most?

Coaching: Where's the team's fire?

Reggie Bush: Where's the breakout season?

Drew Brees: You can always blame the QB.

Wide receiver: They can't stretch the field.

Kicking game: Anybody miss John Carney?

Turnover ratio: The Saints are minus-4.

Pass rush: They haven't sacked anybody yet.

Your vote has been counted, thank you for voting.

METAIRIE, La. --Jason David and the rest of the secondary have caught much of the blame for the New Orleans Saints' defensive woes in the team's 0-2 start. Wide receivers flying past the last line of defense into the end zone at 50 yards a pop might be enough evidence to support the assumption.

Defensive end Charles Grant took a different approach. And he could have a point.

"It's not a secondary thing," Grant said. "You can't point one finger at the secondary. The secondary starts with the D-linemen getting to the quarterback. We ain't getting there. We had our chances, we didn't get there. That's on us. That quarterback's in that pocket, that's on the D-line. You can't put that on the secondary. Right now, you can put it all on the shoulders of the D-line."

The Saints have amassed a grand total of zero sacks in the first two weeks. Going back to last season including the playoffs, the Saints have only one sack in their last five games.

Last year the Saints racked up seven sacks in their first two games and picked up five more in Week 3 against the mobile Michael Vick.

The New York Jets are the only other team in the league without a sack. Both the Saints and Jets are 0-2.

It's not only the defensive line lacking pressure on the opposing quarterback. But with two of the league's better defensive ends in Grant and Will Smith on the roster, the expectations to pounce the quarterback are there.

"It's the second game of the season," Grant said. "How many guys in the NFL that play end have gotten sacks so far?"

Since Grant asked, 43 defensive ends have at least one sack in the first two weeks of the season. The list includes Pro Bowlers Aaron Kampman and Jason Taylor, along with 2006's No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams, who has two sacks.

Grant is the highest-paid non-Pro Bowl defensive end in the league as the Saints gave him a seven-year deal worth up to $63 million with $20 million guaranteed during the offseason to avoid spats involving the franchise tag.

Smith has been the more productive of the two during the last two seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in 2006 with 10½ sacks. He's figured to receive a contract along the same level, which may be more lucrative than Grant's deal.

Neither player has anything to show for it. Grant wasn't shying away from the blame, but he warned it's still early in the season.

"Me and Will don't have none and you've got to put that on me and Will," Grant said. "It's a long season. We've got 14 games."

Grant said the Saints will win 12 games and he has a prediction for his and Smith's production by year's end.

"I promise you, both D-ends will be in double-digit sacks," Grant said. "I ain't worried about all that because sacks come."

Saints coach Sean Payton said despite the team's lack of pressure, he's been pleased with the play of the front four - in particular, the play of Smith and Grant.

"There's a lot of things we don't have," Payton said. "We don't have any wins yet. We'd like to be doing a better job in the kicking game, do a better job throwing the football. You can point to a number of things... . We're looking to pick up this week and hopefully get a few. (Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young is) a tough challenge. He's a hard sack. He's elusive. He's strong. Even in that preseason game a year ago you see him come off sacks. He's physical. That presents a big challenge this week."
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Titans running game to challenge struggling Saints

Advocate sportswriter
Published: Sep 20, 2007 - Page: 1C

METAIRIE — After giving up 11 pass plays of 24 yards or more — including five touchdowns —in their first two games, the New Orleans Saints defense faces a different challenge this week.

Instead of the pass, the Saints will have to be ready to defend the run first in their home opener against the Tennessee Titans on Monday night in the Superdome. And they had better be up to the task.

After two games, the Titans lead the NFL in rushing with 211.5 yards a game. They pounded the Jacksonville Jaguars for 282 yards in the season opener and last week picked up 141 yards against the Indianapolis Colts.

So there’s no doubt the running game has been the bright light in their 1-1 start. And, according to the Saints, there’s little doubt about what the Titans are going to do Monday night.

“They’re a team that comes out there and doesn’t use any tricks,” Saints middle linebacker Mark Simoneau said. “They just come off the ball. They have a physical team and like to come right at you. That’s how they’ve had success. You have to be ready to play a physical game against these guys.”

The Titans don’t do it with just one running back. Against the Jaguars, Chris Brown slashed his way to 175 yards on 19 carries with a long run of 42 yards and LenDale White added 66 yards on 18 attempts.

Last week, the 235-pound White led the team with 64 yards on 15 carries and Brown had 34 yards in a complementary role. But quarterback Vince Young joined the party with 53 yards on five carries.

Saints defensive tackle Hollis Thomas, a run-stopping specialist who could return to the starting lineup because of a turf toe injury to Kendrick Clancy, said the defense will be up to the challenge.

“We’re ready to go every week,” he said. “They’re No. 1 in the NFL right now and they’re doing a good job of running both their backs. They have a good physical offensive line, so we’ll be put to the test this week.”

The Saints rank 22nd against the run in allowing 125.5 yards a game in their first two games. But in last week’s 31-14 setback to Tampa Bay, they held the Bucs to 87 yards and just 2.7 yards per attempt.

“The Bucs had a good scheme, but we were able to corral them,” Thomas said. “This week we got two good backs — one big guy (White) and one slasher (Brown). So we have to be at our best again.”

“Both of those guys are doing a great job,” strongside linebacker Scott Fujita said. “It’s two backs that really fit into what they’re trying to do. That’s how they’re going to try and attack us.

“They have a big strong, physical offensive line that uses a lot of zone blocking stuff, which is great for what those two guys do. They’re going to try and pound us, so we just have to be ready for them.”

Titans coach Jeff Fisher, whose team finished fifth in the league in rushing last season, is certainly pleased with what he’s seen. But he knows it’s early.

“Obviously, it’s been an emphasis of ours dating back to early last season,” Fisher said. “It was important for us to get back to running the football. We finished last year running it pretty well, but you don’t know if it’s going to carry over or not.

“We emphasized it and worked on it through training camp and the preseason, and were fortunate to get off to a good start in the opener. We had some efficient runs against the Colts. Statistics are very, very misleading this early in the season.”

But Thomas isn’t buying that at all.

“What they did in the first two games was very impressive,” he said. “The offensive line is doing a great job of blocking the plays that they like to run. So you just have to line up stripe to stripe and see who wins.”

While Young and the Titans haven’t been much of a passing threat with only 120.0 yards a game so far, the Saints have to be aware of his ability to take off and run.

“He does a lot of great things in the pocket, so it’s going to come down to our ends being able to contain him and just play good ball that way,” said Fujita. “But it’s really their running game. That’s how they’re going to attack us.”

Simoneau said the key, as it is every week, will be in holding the Titans running game down and forcing them to go to the air.

“We have to get them in those third-and-6 and third-and-8 situations,” he said. “You always want to make a team one-dimensional, but it’s more important to play well against the run this week.”
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McAllister nursing injuries

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Advocate sportswriter
Published: Sep 20, 2007

METAIRIE — The New Orleans Saints began preparing for Monday night’s home opener against the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday with running back Deuce McAllister watching from the sideline.

McAllister wore a stocking on his right knee to keep down some swelling that appeared after their 31-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs. Both he and Saints coach Sean Payton say he should be ready for Monday.

“There was swelling and I didn’t want to get any contact and have it flare up on me,” said McAllister, who had surgery on the knee in 2005 to repair a torn ACL. “I’ll be fine.”

Payton said he kept McAllister out because the Saints have an extra day of practice this week as a result of the Monday night game.

“Just because of our extra day, I backed off of him and just had him sit,” Payton said. “We’ll see where he’s at (today). He should be fine.”

Sackless Saints

The 0-2 Saints are one of only two teams, along with the New York Jets, that have not recorded a sack. Last year, the Saints had seven after just two games and finished the season with 38.

But not having a sack is the least of Payton’s worries even though the elusive Vince Young, who weighs 233 pounds, will pose a challenge again this week.

“Well, there’s a lot of things we don’t have,” Payton said. “We don’t have any wins yet. We’d like to be doing a better job in the kicking game, we’d like to be doing a better job throwing the football. You can point to a number of things.

“I’ve been pleased with the (defensive) front, they’ve done a good job and the ends are playing well. We’re looking to again pick up this week and get a few, but this guy’s a hard sack. He’s elusive, he’s strong and he can come off sacks.”


While McAllister had some swelling in his knee Wednesday, the swelling over his left eye continues to go down.

McAllister’s helmet came down over his face on the first play Sunday, which gave him a mouse — or bruise over the eye — and caused him to have blurred vision on and off during the game. He said he had an MRI on Monday.

“There could be an old fracture. But there’s nothing fresh, nothing new,” he said. “That was the best thing about it.”

Injury report

McAllister was one of four players to miss practice Wednesday.

The others were safety Jay Bellamy (ankle), defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy (turf toe) and center/guard Johnathan Goodwin (sprained back). All three were injured against the Bucs.

Payton said Monday that Goodwin should be back for Monday night, but the status of Bellamy and Clancy likely won’t be determined until the weekend.

Been there, done that

After falling to the Bucs, the Saints are 0-2 for the 17th time in the team’s 41-year history. The best they’ve finished after starting with two straight losses is 8-8 — which they did in 1979 and 1990.

While they were outscored 72-24 by Indianapolis and Tampa Bay the first two weeks, their worst 0-2 start came in 1972 when they were clubbed by Atlanta (62-7) and Dallas (40-3).

Rallying the troops

At the request of fans, the Saints will host a rally Friday at the team’s training facility. The gates open at 3 p.m. There will be a live band and a performance by the Saintsations, and Payton and players will address the fans.
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Thursday Q & A with Reggie Bush
Thursday, September 20, 2007 - 4:00 PM

Q: Are you intrigued by the matchup with Vince Young even though you guys don’t have to go up against each other directly?

A: Honestly that’s the last thing I’m thinking about. The only thing on my mind is a win this week against the Tennessee Titans and that’s it as far as it goes. I’m not even thinking about who we play afterwards, what I’m doing afterwards for the bye week. I’m thinking about getting this win first.

Q: Do you have to walk a fine line between needing a victory and not wanting to put too much pressure on yourself?

A: We just need to be ourselves and not try to press and do too much. Everything else will happen. The reason why we are 0-2 right now is that we have been kind of pressing too much. Guys are trying to do too much. I’m guilty of it myself. We just have to focus on that one team and that’s it.

Q: Can you discuss the advantage to being back in your own building?

A: It’s four quarters and it’s long game, but definitely having our fans behind us this game, being at home is definitely going to be a huge advantage for us. We have to take advantage of it, full advantage of it and use it to our advantage. Our fans are great. They’re loud, every game, the entire game. We love that. The fans are great.

Q: Can you discuss the opportunities for receivers such as Lance Moore and David Patten to step up this week?

A: It’s not just David Patten and Lance Moore. It’s everybody. It’s all 53 guys or all 11 guys on the field at one time. It’s all about playing together as a team and not really about any individual efforts. It’s about playing together as a team this game and us playing well, getting off to a good start, creating some tempo on offense early in the game and hopefully that carries us through those four quarters and we come through with a win. It’s not about any individual efforts. This game is about playing well as a team and establishing a team effort.

Q: Have you felt more of a sense of urgency personally?

A: No, not at all. This is only week three. We have 14 games left and it’s a long season. It’s a long distance race and not a sprint. We’re not ready to hit the panic button and we’re not going to. We’re going to go out there and hopefully come out with a win.

Q: Have you kept a little bit of a watch on Vince Young since you guys have been linked through the draft?

A: Not really. I just try to focus on my team, us and getting wins and not really focusing on anybody else and what anybody else is doing during the season, especially when they’re not in our conference. As far as this game goes out there, obviously he’s a playmaker. If you don’t watch a guy like that, he can take the game away from you.

Q: Can you discuss the difference between being 2-0 to start the season as a rookie and 0-2 through the first two games of your second year?

A: Obviously it’s a huge difference coming home for the opening game. We were 2-0 last year, but last year’s done and in the books. This is a new year. The season isn’t over. I know a lot of people are ready to jump off the bandwagon right now because we’re 0-2, but we still believe in ourselves. That’s really all that matters is the fact that we believe in ourselves. That’s it.

Q: Do you still talk to LenDale White a lot?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you follow how his career has gone at all?

A: Just a little bit. Not a whole lot. Like I said, I’m really focused on our team right now. We have some stuff to get straightened out here. I’m focusing on this team and this team only.

Q: He seems to be emerging as their number one running back. Are you surprised?

A: I’m not surprised at all. I’m definitely not surprised. He’s a great player. I played with him and I know what he’s capable of.

Q: How would you describe your relationship with Vince Young?

A: It’s just like any other relationship. He’s cool. He’s a good guy. We talk off the field. That’s really it.

Q: Do you guys have any sort of friendly rivalry?

A: No, not at all.

Q: Do you have any type of John Madden video game rivalry since you have the commercial and he has the cover?

A: No, not at all.

Q: Why do you think everybody sees this Reggie vs. Vince?

A: That’s just the way it goes. You have two guys, two up and coming guys in the league who are kind of faces of their teams and then the fact that we played against each other in college and it was such a great game. Obviously he won that battle. That’s obviously what it’s about. You have up and coming athletes who are the face of their franchise coming in playing against each other on Monday Night Football on a national stage. The game’s all built up to be a great game.

Q: Will this be a tiebreaker of sorts since you won the Heisman and he won the Rose Bowl?

A: Some people may. I don’t look at it that way, but some people may.

Q: Can you talk about the week to week challenge of playing football whether you’re 0-2 or 2-0?

A: I definitely think this is a 0-2 team who is a lot better than the record shows and we definitely fell short these last two games. I know we haven’t played to our capability, because I see it, I’m here every day, I’m around these guys every day, I know how we practice and how hard we work and I know it’s just a matter of time before the hard work pays off. This team is definitely one of the hardest working teams if not the hardest working team. That’s how I feel. I know how hard we work. We really put a lot of time and effort into this thing week in and week out.
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New Orleans Rockers “Cowboy Mouth” to Perform Prior to Saints-Titans Monday Night Contest
Thursday, September 20, 2007 - 8:00 PM

New Orleans homegrown rockers Cowboy Mouth will help kickoff pre-game activities outside of the Louisiana Superdome at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, September 24 on the Bud Bridge, located at Gate C (LaSalle Street). The band will play a 90-minute set, wrapping up at 6:30, with the game set to kick off at 7:30.

The New Orleans Saints Experience will kick off the day’s official festivities with inflatables and interactive activities at the northeast corner on the Plaza Level between gates B and C.

National recording artist Clay Walker will perform the National Anthem, and halftime will feature the New Orleans Police Department, who will present the colors.

For more than 15 years, the members of Cowboy Mouth have embraced, embodied, preached and shouted at the top of their lungs the joys of their hometown, sharing a slice of Mardi Gras heaven with fans around the world on 11 recordings and at their legendary live shows, which to date have been witnessed by more than 8 million and captured best by Cake magazine when it noted: "...on a bad night they’ll tear the roof off the joint and on a good night they’ll save your soul."

Their most recent new album, Voodoo Shoppe (Eleven Thirty Records), was released in February, coinciding with the start of Mardi Gras. For the four unrelenting emissaries of New Orleans music and spirit, the timing of the release was, if not symbolic, appropriate and a tribute to their passion for the Crescent City, as it signaled the ongoing revival of spirits for the band and their fans, as well as a resurrection of sorts, of the free-spirited music that has always been intrinsic to both Cowboy Mouth and their city.

Recorded first in New Orleans and then completed in Atlanta as Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, as well as band members’ homes, Voodoo Shoppe is without a doubt Cowboy Mouth’s most dynamic, hard-hitting and emotionally charged album to date. The lead-off track, “Joe Strummer,” is a popular song among and is a hard-hitting number with a fist-in-the-air punk flare and blistering dual guitar attack from John Thomas Griffith and Vance Degeneres while the powerhouse vocals of Fred LeBlanc tell of a girlfriend who simply “had to go ‘cause she didn’t know who Joe Strummer was.” Meanwhile, the title track, “Voodoo Shoppe,” with its soul shuffling rhythms reminiscent of a parading band on a French Quarter avenue, is proof that Cowboy Mouth, as Peter Holsapple, (The Continental Drifters) once said, “never could be from anywhere else.”

While the majority of the songs were written prior to Katrina, songs such as the poignantly solemn “The Avenue” and the hauntingly soulful “Home” were written immediately in the wake of the storm that tore through band members’ homes and hearts and possess all the raw emotion, both in lyrics and music, one would expect as the band contemplated lives lost and displaced and familiar streets and places that were all but washed away.

But just as Cowboy Mouth has always done when faced with adversity, they shine light on better days sure to come, with “The Avenue” optimistically and defiantly declaring that “the parades will ride again” and “Home” making it known that they will all go back to “where the good times roll.” And fittingly, the latter is followed by “Glad,” a mercilessly upbeat pop number that puts to song what has become a Cowboy Mouth mantra: “Get your head out of your hands / Scream and shout like you were five / Are you glad to be alive?”

And indeed, Cowboy Mouth’s Fred LeBlanc, Vance Degeneres, John Thomas Griffith and Regina Zernay are, as they've always said, glad to be alive, and glad to be in a band they call Cowboy Mouth – perhaps now more than ever.

Because despite enduring what was no doubt the band’s most trying year – and that’s saying a lot for a group that’s been going at it for more than a decade and a half now – the four have not only managed to survive, but they have thrived.
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Stumbling Saints face another tough test vs. Titans

By Brett Martel, AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS — Saints linebacker Scott Fujita lives in New Orleans' warehouse district, where he routinely gets out in public to walk his dogs or dine in a sushi restaurant that named its Mount Fujita roll after him.
A few days ago, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Fujita was out with his wife when someone came rushing out of a shop with bag of footballs, asking the Saints' defensive co-captain to sign them.

"So after I'm done signing for him, he says, 'You guys gotta wake up this week,"' Fujita recalled.

The Saints, who entered this season with all the build-up of a Super Bowl contender, could have been accused of sleepwalking through their first two games - blowout losses in Indianapolis and Tampa Bay.

An 0-2 hole was the last thing they needed coming into their home opener Monday night against the improving Tennessee Titans (1-1), whose lone loss was by two points to the same Colts team that stomped New Orleans 41-10 on opening night.

But as this week has progressed, the Saints have begun to exude a sense of confidence and calm, as if they've figured something out.

"We tried to be too perfect - paralysis by analysis," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, leader of an offense that has produced only two touchdowns and turned the ball over five times.

Last year, Brees led the league in passing, and the Saints led the league in total offense.

"Guys have been trying to do too much. I'm guilty of it myself," said Saints running back Reggie Bush, who has a surprisingly low 117 yards on runs, receptions and punt returns combined. "I know a lot of people are ready to jump off the bandwagon right now because we're 0-2, but we still believe in ourselves and that's really all that matters."

The Saints expect to be back in the playoffs, but it only gets harder if they fall to 0-3.

"They were a lot of people's preseason Super Bowl pick. They still have those same guys," Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "We know we're going to get a different team because it is their home opener and it's going to be a big emotional boost for them."

So far, however, Tennessee has looked like the better team.

LenDale White may have been overshadowed by Bush when they were teammates at Southern California, where Bush won the Heisman Trophy in 2005. But after two games this season, White has the better numbers, running the ball 33 times for 130 yards and teaming with fellow running back Chris Brown to help the Titans accumulate the best rushing totals in the NFL (211.5 yards per game).

Versatile Vince Young has aided the Titans' success on the ground, scrambling for 75 yards and a touchdown. His passing numbers have been less impressive at 262 yards and one touchdown, but Titans coach Jeff Fisher isn't getting too caught up in statistics so much as the intangibles Young demonstrates: poise and the ability to make clutch plays.

"He's a young quarterback that's yet to play a full season. There are a lot of things that he can improve on, no differently than anybody else that young in their career," Fisher said. "I think the thing that is special about Vince is that he finds ways to win ballgames."

And Young seems to thrive in big games.

"This is the stage to show the whole world what type of team we have on Monday night," Young said.

The Saints are worried about him. They hope defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant can prevent Young from scrambling outside, where he's a threat to run or pass, somewhat like suspended Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick, who the Saints saw twice last season and beat both times.

"They're different players, though," Payton said. "This guy is strong and powerful - not that Michael isn't - but they're a little different in their body types. I don't see them the same way, but (Young) is explosive and certainly a big part of what they do offensively, and more importantly, he's a real good leader and a winner."

Long passing plays have not been the Titans' forte, although maybe all they need is a game against the Saints, who have given up a slew of them.

New Orleans can only hope new defensive backs Jason David and Kevin Kaesviharn, who were both on the field for Joey Galloway's 69-yard touchdown last Sunday, continue to show progress in their adjustment to the Saints' defensive schemes.

David, who won a Super Bowl with the Colts last season, was confident the pass defense will improve.

"I'm getting better and feeling a little more comfortable out there and being able to play a little bit faster," David said. "Morale's up in the locker room. Everybody's kind of excited to be at home and play such a big game."

Even though neither team has a winning record, there is a big-game vibe emerging in New Orleans. Perhaps because it's a rematch of sorts between Young and Bush, who faced one another in the 2006 Rose Bowl, when Texas beat USC for the national championship in a thrilling game.

Or perhaps it's simply because it's a home opener on a Monday night, a year since the Louisiana Superdome, damaged badly by Hurricane Katrina, reopened for the first time - also for a Saints home game on "Monday Night Football."

Of course, a year ago, the Saints were 2-0 heading into their home opener, which they won handily over Atlanta on an emotionally charged night.

"With the opening of the dome last year, obviously there was a lot behind that. We needed that win last year, and I think more so because we wanted to give it to the fans, we wanted to give it to the city, after everything that everyone had been through," Brees recalled. "I think this year, we need it for ourselves. We need it for our team. I think the fans understand how much we need it for our team. Obviously, they're a huge part of our success."
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Mickles: Keys to Saints victory

Advocate sportswriter
Published: Sep 21, 2007 - Page: 1C

Shortly after his team’s shocking loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that managed to win four games last season, New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita heard something that he didn’t already know.

Considering his team had dropped its first two games by a combined score of 72-24, the words from a couple of Bucs players didn’t come as a big surprise.

“They came up and said it’s going to be tough,” Fujita said. “They said, ‘Everybody’s gunning for you now and you guys are going to be marked.’ ”

After reaching the NFC Championship Game last January, the Saints are indeed the hunted.

Fujita said he liked that idea coming into the season, wanting to be at the top to have everyone gunning for his team.

But this is certainly not what he or any of his teammates expected. As a result, the Saints have to do a lot of the things that made them successful last season. So here are five things they must do starting Monday night against the Tennessee Titans:

1. Get Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush involved.

Last season, the dynamic duo combined for 160.1 total yards a game in touching the ball on 48.1 percent of the team’s 1,057 plays. In two games this year, they’re averaging 108.0 yards while touching the ball 39.3 percent of the time. Falling behind has hurt, but they must figure a way to get them the ball in open space — especially McAllister.

2. Play with the lead for a change.

The Saints have held a lead for a grand total of 5 minutes, 41 seconds this season — all against the Indianapolis Colts. If they could finish a couple of drives and put a score or two up early, it would make McAllister and Bush more productive and take some of the pressure off their struggling defense.

3. Crank up the vertical passing game.

Last season, Drew Brees led the NFL with 41 completions of 25 yards or more. This year, he has one in two games, in part because the Saints have faced two teams that live and die with the “Cover 2” pass defense in which two safeties split the back of the secondary. When executed properly teams must throw underneath a lot, so the Saints need to start airing it out.

4. Get after the opposing quarterback.

The Saints have no sacks in two games and are one of only two teams that haven’t recorded one this season. Sean Payton said the front four has played well, but yet have little to show for their efforts. Applying pressure at critical times would take some of the heat off a secondary that’s been burned for 11 pass plays of 24 yards or more.

5. Get a big play to give the team a spark.

The Saints have produced two big plays — a 55-yard fumble return by Jason David and a 58-yard reception by David Patten. They have no interceptions, no sacks, no electrifying runs by Bush, no special teams excitement. It doesn’t matter who does it, they just need one — before it’s too late.
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Saints say their struggles with the Cover 2 defense are self-inflicted Friday, September 21, 2007By Mike Triplett
Two weeks into this season, it sure seems like the Cover 2 defense is the Saints' kryptonite.

Both the Indianapolis Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make heavy use of the defensive formation, a zone coverage with two deep safeties that is actually known as the "Tampa 2" because it was pioneered by the Buccaneers.

But don't expect the rest of the NFL to switch to the Cover 2 when they play the Saints. Even the opposing coaches can recognize that the Saints have done just as good of a job beating themselves on offense as the opposing defenses.


"We've had success against that defense before," said receiver Devery Henderson, who caught touchdown passes of 52 and 45 yards against the Buccaneers last season when the Saints' offense was on a roll. "So we can't just sit there and say it's working. We didn't do some things (at Tampa Bay last Sunday). I didn't catch some third-down plays. I didn't score in the end zone. Stuff like that. It's us."

"I don't think anybody's 'caught on' to what we're doing," quarterback Drew Brees said. "I feel like we spread the ball around enough, we're creative enough and we have enough weapons that teams have to worry about us, and not the other way around.

"(The Cover 2) takes a lot of patience, and your big plays come from just kind of wearing on them, wearing on them, then all of a sudden it pops."

With the two safeties staying back to prevent the deep pass, the conventional way for offenses to attack a Cover 2 is with underneath throws and the running game.

The Saints, however, haven't been able to put long drives together early this season because of fumbles, dropped passes, penalties and a handful of other breakdowns.

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