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‘We’re all the reason’: Saints address disappointing 1-3 start

Some of the most prominent Saints were in the locker-room at team headquarters Monday to face the media after a 38-17 defeat at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday dropped their 2014 record to 1-3.

Below is some of the best material they delivered in their conversations with reporters.

–Saints safety Jairus Byrd, on whether the team lacks hunger to be better than it’s been in defeats to 2-2 Atlanta; 1-2 Cleveland; and 3-1 Dallas, after a victory over 2-2 Minnesota: “I don’t know. All I know is that we just got to figure out what we’re doing. As far as the hunger and all that, if you’re in this sport and you’re playing this game, you better be hungry. … This thing doesn’t stand for long, and you have to take advantage of your opportunities.”

Byrd caused the Saints’ lone turnover this year, forcing a fumble New Orleans recovered in the first quarter of a Week 1 loss at Atlanta. New Orleans has given the ball away seven times and was tied for last in the NFL Monday with a turnover differential of minus-6.

–Veteran tackle Zach Strief, on whether the team has identified precisely what area is to blame for the 1-3 start: “We’re not looking around the room to find who’s the reason. We’re all the reason.”

The poor turnover ratio hints at that, as both the offense and defense contribute to that statistic. There have also been miscues on special teams, where kicker Shayne Graham missed a field goal in Dallas and had an extra point deflected against Minnesota.

–Byrd again, but this time on the importance of the different phases of the game not blaming each other for the Saints’ struggle: “Now’s not the time to start looking at getting in cliques and pointing fingers. You can’t start doing that.”

–In remarks similar to Byrd’s, Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette on the importance of staying committed and upbeat when fans who thought their team would be a Super Bowl contender are panicking: “It’s very humbling, but we still believe in our team and we still believe the sky’s the limit. We’re down, but we’re not out the game. It’s not over. It’s a long season. We have to stay as positive as possible and pull guys up and not try to be individuals and start getting in little groups, just stick together and stick this one through.”

–Meanwhile, in his usual day-after-game press briefing, Saints coach Sean Payton on whether it surprised him that his team was off to such a slow start: “Our players will respond well. (But) we’re playing like a 1-3 team right now.”

Indeed. Evidence of this is plenty, but here’s a sampling: the defense as of Monday was surrendering the fourth-most yards (396) and what was tied for the fifth-most points (27.5) per game in the NFL. The offense is gaining the third-most yards in the league per game (425.8), but its seven giveaways in four contests are way too many to achieve any meaningful level of success.

The Saints host Tampa Bay (1-3) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at noon this upcoming Sunday.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King says the Saints were “vastly overestimated” before the season

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is helped up after being sacked during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is helped up after being sacked during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

Who are the 1-3 New Orleans Saints after their 38-17 loss at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday?

Peter King of Sports Illustrated has a good idea, and he doesn’t hold back in his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column released on Monday.

Here is what King said:

“I think we vastly overestimated the Saints. Not only on defense—Rob Ryan’s unit isn’t even mediocre; it’s bad—but the offense is not nearly as reliable as a normal Drew Brees offense. The worrisome thing I saw Sunday night was the continuation of a trend that’s plagued the Saints often during the Payton years: They’re awful on the road. Since the start of the 2013 season, New Orleans is 9-0 at home and 4-9 away from the Superdome. The pass-rush isn’t there as it was late last year, and the Saints haven’t had consistent play in the back end around cornerback Keenan Lewis; plus, ace safety Kenny Vaccaro is still recovering from late December ankle surgery that ended his 2013 season. He doesn’t look the same. The Saints can rebound from 1-3, because there’s not a super team in the NFC South. But the ugliness of the first month won’t be easy to overcome.”

The good news for Saints fans is that King doesn’t completely write them off this season.

Still, it’s clear that the veteran NFL reporter doesn’t think Saints fans should be making Super Bowl reservations either.

Click here to see the rest of King’s column.

Pierre Thomas is now the Saints’ all-time leader in receptions by a running back

Saints running back Pierre Thomas

Saints running back Pierre Thomas

ARLINGTON, Texas — It wasn’t much consolation for him, the Saints or their fans, but New Orleans’ Pierre Thomas emerged from Sunday’s 38-17 shellacking by the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium with the franchise record for receptions by a running back.

Thomas caught two passes for 15 yards against Dallas (3-1) — he needed one reception to surpass the Saints’ all-time mark for receptions by a running back, which had been 294 by Reggie Bush (2006-10 and now with Detroit). Thomas has 296 for his career and for the Saints (1-3), whom he joined as an undrafted free agent in 2007.

He is one of seven Saints on the team that won Super Bowl XLIV in February 2010.

Additionally, Thomas opened the season needing three receiving yards to break the record for receiving yards by a running back, which had been held by Dalton Hilliard (1986-93). He had 95 receiving yards on 12 catches through four games of 2014 after Sunday and also owns the franchise mark once established by Hilliard.

Thomas has 2,325 receiving yards and 38 total regular-season touchdowns for his nine-year career with the Saints and in the NFL. This season, aside from his running-back receptions records, he has one rushing touchdown.

Nonetheless, after defeats at Atlanta (2-2), Cleveland (3-1) and Dallas as well as a sole victory at home against Minnesota, the Saints haven’t been able to give Thomas the fanfare they may have liked to.

Thomas on Monday said, “Honestly, I didn’t even know I had (those records). I let my fans and my family members worry about that stuff for me — my main focus is what I have to do to help this team get a win.”

On Sunday, the Saints turned the ball over three times and allowed running back DeMarco Murray to rush for 149 yards and two touchdowns off 24 carries. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was 22-of-29 passing for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, after facing a 24-0 halftime deficit, the Saints could only respond with a field goal by kicker Shayne Graham in the third quarter and one touchdown grab each by tight ends Josh Hill and Jimmy Graham in the fourth period.

The Saints host Tampa Bay (1-3) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this upcoming Sunday. The Saints have won the last 18 times (including once in the playoffs) they have played at home with coach Sean Payton on the sidelines.

‘There’s no way someone should run the ball’ on Saints defense like DeMarco Murray did, N.O. linebacker Lofton says

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) fights off a tackle attempt by New Orleans Saints' Junior Galette (93)during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade) ORG XMIT: CBS207

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) fights off a tackle attempt by New Orleans Saints’ Junior Galette (93)during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade) ORG XMIT: CBS207

ARLINGTON, Texas — The stat line disgusted Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton.

It read: 24 carries, 149 yards and two touchdowns for Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray as Dallas (3-1) dealt a 38-17 throttling to New Orleans (1-3) at AT&T Stadium on Monday.

“There’s no way,” Lofton said, “someone should run the ball on us like that.”

Yet Murray did, outrushing the Saints as a team by 45 yards. He scored his fourth and fifth touchdowns of the season on runs from 15 yards and 28 yards out to give the Cowboys leads of 17-0 and 31-10 in the second and fourth quarters, respectively.

Murray entered the game as the NFL’s leading rusher with 385 yards on 75 carries. The Saints knew they had to stop him to have any chance of improving to 2-2, but they couldn’t; as he caused numerous missed tackles with New Orleans trying in vain to strip the ball from him and force what would’ve been only its second turnover of 2014 and its sixth in 13 regular-season games dating back to last year.

Then, when they did contain the Cowboys’ rushing attack, the Saints struggled to get their defense off the field, letting Dallas gain new sets of downs on eight of 14 third-down situations.

“What it comes down to is you have to whup the man across from you, and if you don’t do that, then you’re not going to be successful,” said Lofton, whose team headed into halftime trailing 24-0 and never looked to truly be back in the fight despite outscoring Dallas by a combined 17-14 in the third and fourth quarters. “There’s no magic schemes, no magic ‘I’ve got to do this,’ or, ‘I have to do that.’ You’ve got to whup somebody in front of you.”

Meanwhile, Murray attributed his success to blocking from his offensive line as well as outside from wide receivers such as Dez Bryant, who also had three receptions for 44 yards and the last touchdown in the game late in the fourth quarter.

“I think,” Murray said, “we’re all on the same page.”

Murray denied he took any extra satisfaction in Sunday’s victory, regardless of what had happened the previous time the Cowboys met the Saints. The Saints clobbered Dallas 49-17, set an NFL record for first downs converted (40) and established a franchise mark for yards on offense (625) while limiting Murray to 89 rushing yards and a score on 16 carries.

All he did was “come out here and play a good game with his teammates,” Murray said.

“I’m not worried about what happened last year or last game,” Murray said. “I just always try to prepare myself and gives us a great chance to win.”

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was 22-of-29 passing for 262 yards and three touchdowns. The Saints turned the ball over three times (an interception and two lost fumbles) and didn’t take it away. They managed only two touchdowns grabs from tight ends Josh Hill and Jimmy Graham as well as a field goal by Shayne Graham in an effort that was clearly far from good enough.

“We’ve got to do the little things better,” Saints safety Jairus Byrd said. “They can’t be able to run and pass at will.”

Welcome to AT&T Stadium for today’s game between the Saints and Cowboys

ATT

 

ARLINGTON. Texas — Let’s just start by saying AT&T Stadium is outrageous.

This place is a celebration of excess and it is absolutely fantastic. There are a few things that might make you chuckle (the cider and alcohol mixology center, for example) but Jerry Jones certainly spared no expense. You have to appreciate that.

ATTENDANCE, PLEASE: The Saints ruled out FB Erik Lorig, S Marcus Ball and RB Mark Ingram earlier this week. DL John Jenkins also did not travel with the team to Dallas. That means three more players have to be ruled out prior to kickoff.

THE STAKES: The Saints need to win this game. It’s as simple as that. If they can pick up this one and next week’s game against TampaBay, they’ll be 3-2 heading into the bye. If they lose this game, their record falls to 1-3. It’s a long way back from 1-3.

KEY BATTLE: I’ll be keeping a close eye on how the Saints defend Dez Bryant. Keenan Lewis matched up on him for 20 of 27 snaps last year. Will the team take the same approach? It wouldn’t be surprising, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they use Corey White and safety on Bryant this time. That would free up some resources for the rest of the defense.

 STICK WITH US: We’ll have a live chat in a little bit and everything else you need to know throughout the game on here.

Saints at Cowboys pregame chat

Live Blog Saints at Cowboys pregame chat

John Jenkins did not travel to Dallas

John Jenkins will not be suiting up against the Cowboys.

The defensive tackle did not travel with the Saints to Dallas for Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys, according to The Associated Press.

Jenkins has already been a healthy scratch twice this season and appears to have fallen firmly below Brandon Deaderick on the depth chart.

Signed as a free agent this offseason, Deaderick has played 82 snaps as a reserve interior defensive lineman. He has recorded one tackle.

Projecting the Saints’ inactives against the Cowboys

Safety Marcus Ball, fullback Erik Lorig, and running back Mark Ingram have already been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys in Dallas, meaning the Saints will have to deactivate four other players prior to kickoff.

Here is a guess at who those four men will be:

Cornerback Patrick Robinson – The veteran cornerback was held out of practice Friday with a hamstring injury, placing his availability for Sunday in doubt. He only logged one snap on defense last week but played a role a special teams. The guess here is that second-round pick Stanley Jean-Baptiste will be active for the first time this week.

Wide receiver Joe Morgan – The guess here is that Jonathan Goodwin will be active Sunday just days after reportedly suffering an ankle sprain. If that hunch is wrong, Morgan could end up being active this week.

Wide receiver Nick Toon – No reason to think things change for Toon this week.

Defensive tackle John Jenkins – The Saints might want to dress an extra offensive lineman to provide insurance for Goodwin. If that happens, Jenkins could once again be inactive.