Brees named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

In what wasn’t exactly a surprise, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was named Tuesday as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Brees was selected less than 24 hours after throwing four touchdown passes and running for another score in leading a 49-24 nationally-televised shellacking of the New York Giants on Monday night.

The 11-year veteran reached the 300-yard mark in passing for the eighth time in 11 games this season in throwing for 363 yards while hitting on 24 of 38 pass attempts. Eight of his completions went for 20 yards or more with a long of 50 yards to wide receiver Marques Colston.

Brees, who didn’t throw an interception for the second straight game and was not sacked for the third consecutive contest, finished the night with a passer rating of 129.6.

It is Brees’ 12th NFC player of the week award in five-plus seasons with the Saints and second this season as he was also honored after throwing five TD passes in a 62-7 beating of the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7.

BREES NOMINATED: In addition to his NFC honor, Brees is listed as one of three candidates for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week award along with New England’s Tom Brady and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.

The award, along with the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week award, is decided by a fan vote via the internet. Voting at http://www.NFL.com/FedEx will continue until 2 p.m. Friday with the winner to be announced that night.

The candidates for the ground award are Arizona’s Beanie Wells, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson and Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson.

PRODUCTIVE NIGHT: With rookie running back Mark Ingram’s 35-yard touchdown run with 1:02 to play in the game, the Saints came close to breaking the club record for total offense in a single game.

Their 577 total yards was the second-highest in club history as they came up just 18 yards shy of matching the franchise record of 595 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 19, 2006. They lost that one, however, 31-16.

The 577 yards on Monday night was the second-highest total ever allowed by the Giants and the most they have given up in 68 years as they were pounded for 682 yards by the Chicago Bears back on Nov. 14, 1943.

BALL SECURITY: The Saints did not turn the ball over for a second straight game against the Giants and now have been turnover-free for the last nine quarters of play.

The last giveaway came on the first drive of the second half of a 27-16 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs on Nov. 6 when Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber picked off a Brees pass.

The Saints are now 18-0 all-time in the regular season under Payton when they have no turnovers.

The Giants, on the other hand, had their NFL-long streak of 23 consecutive games with at least one takeaway come to an end. The last time they came up empty was on Sept. 26, 2010 against the Tennessee Titans.

NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER: In completing a third straight unbeaten November with an 11th consecutive victory in that month, the Saints also have posted the best record in the NFL since 2008 with a 13-2 mark in that four-year span.

The Saints’ last loss in that month came on Nov. 30, 2008 when they dropped a 23-20 decision at Tampa Bay.

RECORD-SETTING NIGHT: The Saints set an attendance record for the third time in five home games this season when 73,068 fans were crammed into the newly-remodeled Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

With 3,000 new seats in the building, the Saints easily topped the old regular-season mark of 70,940 in Week 2 against Chicago (73,019) and bettered that in Week 9 against Tampa Bay (73,043).

GETTING THE FLIP: For the first time this season, the Saints won a coin toss against the Giants, who, as the visiting team, actually made the call.

The Saints had lost each of the coin tosses at the start of their first 10 games and also came up empty in an overtime flip at Atlanta in Week 10.

Saints perform well again under bright lights

NEW ORLEANS — Playing at home in primetime seems to bring out the best in the Saints under sixth-year coach Sean Payton.

The Saints ran their home record on national television under Payton to 10-4 with a convincing 49-24 win against the slumping New York Giants on Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

That 71.4 percent winning percentage includes a franchise scoring-record 62-7 victory against the winless Indianapolis Colts in Week 7 last month.

It bodes well for the NFC South-leading Saints (8-3), who play twice more at home in primetime this season — against the Detroit Lions at 7:20 p.m. Sunday (NBC) and Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 26 (ESPN).

ANOTHER 300: Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 363 yards against the Giants, marking the 52nd time he’s had at least 300 yards in a game.

Brees snapped a tie with Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, who had 51 300-yard games in his career, and is now tied with Kurt Warner for fourth place on the NFL’s all-time list.

Only Peyton Manning and Dan Marino (63 each) and Brett Favre (62) have more 300-yard outings than Brees and Warner.

EVANS ROLLS ON: All-Pro right guard Jahri Evans started his 91st straight regular-season game Monday night, tying the club record for consecutive starts to begin a career with the Saints.

Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson set the Saints’ record with 91 starts in a row, a streak that ran from 1981 to 1987.

VILMA OUT AGAIN: Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee earlier this month, missed his third straight game.

Vilma was able to return to practice on a limited basis this week but was held out of Friday’s workout. At the time, he was listed as questionable for the game by coach Sean Payton and Monday night was listed as one of the team’s seven inactives about 90 minutes before kickoff.

INACTIVES: Besides Vilma, the Saints other inactives were defensive end Turk McBride (ankle), running back Chris Ivory, cornerback Johnny Patrick, wide receiver Adrian Arrington, tackle William Robinson and tight end Michael Higgins.

Inactives of note for the Giants were four starters — running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring), tackle Will Beatty (eye/back) and wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee).

INJURY REPORT: Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return, while wide receiver Hakeem Nicks returned after suffering a rib contusion in the third quarter.

LOUISIANA CONNECTION: The Giants have three players on their roster with ties to Louisiana.

Quarterback Eli Manning, of course, is a native of New Orleans who was playing for the second time in his hometown as a pro.

He was joined in the starting lineup by running back Brandon Jacobs, a native of Napoleonville, and cornerback Corey Webster, a Vacherie native who played at LSU and won a BCS title with the Tigers in the Superdome in 2003.

JONES ON SIDELINE: Former LSU two-sport star Chad Jones, a third-round draft pick of the Giants in 2010, helped lead the team out of the tunnel and onto the field before the game.

Jones badly injured his left leg in a one-car accident in New Orleans two months after being drafted and continues the long rehab process with the hope of going to training camp with the Giants next summer.

JOURNALISTS HONORED: Ten prominent members of the local sports media and public relations field were recognized with their names etched into small plaques that were affixed to a glass partition on the third row of the press box.

The honorees were Peter “Champ” Clark, Bill Curl, Buddy Diliberto, Peter Finney, Hap Glaudi, Wayne Mack, Bruce Miller, Bob Roesler, Jerry Romig and Frank Wilson, a longtime Saints correspondent in the 1970s and ’80s for The Advocate and the old State-Times.

LAGNIAPPE: With the win, the Saints are 3-3 in their first game after a bye since Payton took over in 2006. It was their third win in a row following a week off. … The Saints are now 8-2 on Monday Night Football under Payton, winning their last six. … Brees now has at least one touchdown pass in 38 straight games — leaving him just nine shy of Johnny Unitas’ NFL record of 47 consecutive games.

Sheldon Mickles and Brian Allee-Walsh contributed to this report.

Vilma inactive for Saints once again

NEW ORLEANS — The Saints will be without Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the third straight game when they face the New York Giants on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Vilma, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee earlier this month, was able to return to practice on a limited basis this week but was held out of Friday’s workout.

He was listed as questionable for the game by coach Sean Payton and Monday night was listed as one of the team’s seven inactives about 90 minutes before kickoff.

Also not dressing Monday night are defensive end Turk McBride (ankle), running back Chris Ivory, cornerback Johnny Patrick, fullback Korey Hall, tackle William Robinson and tight end Michael Higgins.

GIANTS INACTIVES: Among those not playing for the Giants are four starters — running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring), tackle Will Beatty (eye/back) and wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee).

The other inactives are safety Derrick Martin (hamstring). defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy and tackle James Brewer.

Saints-Giants: Three Things to Know

THREE THINGS TO KNOW

1. PAYTON’S SUCCESS: Saints coach Sean Payton will be facing one of the teams he once worked for Monday night. He is 7-2 all-time against the Giants (2-0), Eagles (3-1, including a playoff win) and Cowboys (2-1).

2. STILL OH-FOR: The Saints have yet to win a coin toss this season, going 0-for-10 to start a game. They’re 0-for-1 in overtime, losing the toss to start a sudden-death period at Atlanta on Nov. 13.

3. GIANT ADVANTAGE?: The Giants are 8-3 all-time when their opponent is coming off a bye and they aren’t. The Saints enjoyed their bye last week, while the Giants were defeated by the Eagles, 17-10.

WHO HAS THE EDGE

Offense — Saints

Defense — Giants

Special teams — Saints

Intangibles — Saints

PREDICTION

The Giants desperately need a win after losing their last two games, but the Saints are headed the other way with two straight victories. They also hold the all-important Dome-field advantage Monday night.

SAINTS 28, GIANTS 20

Sheldon Mickles

Vilma questionable for game with Giants

After practicing on a limited basis all week, Saints middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma didn’t work Saturday and is listed as questionable for Monday night’s game with the New York Giants.

Vilma has missed the last two games because of a lingering knee injury that reportedly required arthroscopic surgery, but hoped to return for the game with the Giants in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) did not practice either and was ruled out of the game by coach Sean Payton.

Defensive end Cameron Jordan (hand) and cornerback Patrick Robinson (stomach) worked fully and are probable.

BRADSHAW, BOLEY OUT: For the Giants, running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring) were among four players who did not travel with the team Sunday.

Also ruled out of the game by coach Tom Coughlin were tackle Will Beatty (eye/back) and defensive back Derrick Martin (hamstring).

Boley was listed as doubtful by Coughlin on Saturday.

Wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee) is questionable, while tackle Kareem McKenzie (toe), and defensive ends Justin Tuck (ankle/shoulder) and Osi Umenyiori (knee) are probable for Monday night.

CLAYTON ON IR: Giants wide receiver Michael Clayton, a former Christian Academy and LSU start, was put on injured reserve Saturday and will have surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus.

Clayton, who was cut by the Giants at the end of training camp, was re-signed in late September and played in five games with no receptions.

ROSTER MOVE: The Saints added tackle Phil Trautwein to their practice squad on Thursday.

Vilma may have shot at playing Monday night

Judging by his ability to practice at least on a limited basis this week, New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma may have a shot at playing in Monday night’s showdown with the New York Giants in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Vilma, who was inactive for the last two games because of a lingering knee injury, worked limited again Friday after returning to practice on Tuesday.

Vilma reportedly had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and missed two games and also had a bye week last weekend in which to recover.

He was injured in a Week 2 game against the Chicago Bears and missed just one game before playing in five straight. But he went to the sideline when the knee did not respond to treatment.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Tuesday that Vilma was doing well and his treatment was going well, but would only say that he was day-to-day and that they would measure how he was moving later in the work week.

PRACTICE REPORT: The Saints had just three players on their practice report Friday as they continued to prep for Monday night’s game.

Besides Vilma, the only other players on the report were defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) and defensive end Cameron Jordan (hand).

McBride did not work, while Jordan had full participation for the second straight day.

ROBINSON BACK: One name that hasn’t appeared on the practice participation report the last few days is cornerback Patrick Robinson.

The second-year pro missed practice and was held out of the last game before the bye against the Atlanta Falcons with stomach pains. Payton said Robinson underwent all kinds of tests, all of which came back negative.

“We knew going into the bye that had we played that weekend, he would’ve been able to play,” Payton said. “Fortunately for us, it wasn’t appendicitis and it wasn’t a sports hernia — or any of those other things.”

GIANTS AILING: On the other side of it, the Giants had a long injury report Friday.

Starting tackle Will Beatty (eye/back) did not work and won’t play Monday night, while three other key players — linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee) — did not practice as well.

Defensive ends Justin Tuck (ankle/shoulder) and Osi Umenyiora (knee) had limited participation Friday.

PAYTON NOT FAZED: Payton said he’s not thinking about a possible NFL suspension for Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was ejected from Thursday’s game with Green Bay for stomping on an opposing player’s upper arm.

The Lions’ next game is against the Saints in the Superdome on Dec. 4.

“That’s so far off our radar right now,” Payton said. “I know it’s a game that’s a week away, but the focus for us really, and it has to be, has been New York.

“Certainly those are things that the league handles, but there are enough things here in our own building that we’re worried about and making sure that we’re ready with our preparation.”

DEMPSEY TO APPEAR: Former Saints kicker Tom Dempsey will appear at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum prior to Monday night’s game.

Dempsey, who set an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in 1970, will be available for autographs and pictures from 5-6:30 p.m. at the museum, which is located at Gate B on the Plaza level of the Superdome.

Fresh off bye, Saints back at practice

By Brian Allee-Walsh

Special to The Advocate

METAIRIE — The NFC South-leading Saints resumed practice Tuesday in preparation for Monday night’s nationally-televised game against the New York Giants at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Saints (7-3) have been off since Nov. 13 after edging the Atlanta Falcons 26-23 in overtime at the Georgia Dome. After an off-day Wednesday, the Saints will work on Thanksgiving Day and continue game preps through Sunday.

 “This game Monday night will be a big challenge and our players recognize that,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of the Giants (6-4) who are coming off a 17-10 loss at home to the struggling Philadelphia Eagles. “We’ll have our work cut out for us, and we’ve got to have a real good week of practice and have a real week of getting back into our routine.”

THOMAS’ SEASON IN DOUBT: Veteran Saints’ tight end David Thomas’ season appears to be in jeopardy after he left the team’s most recent game 10 days ago with an undisclosed head injury.

Thomas was not on the practice field Tuesday. He was sidelined for five games earlier this season with a severe concussion.

Payton said no decision has been made with regard to Thomas’ roster status.

 “Nothing new to report,” Payton said when asked if the team had made a roster move at tight end. “We will when it’s official.”

Thomas has five catches for 16 yards.

PRESSURE WITH A CAPITAL ‘P’: Keeping quarterback Drew Brees “clean”’ Monday night will be Job 1 for the Saints’ offensive line, particularly for tackles Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief.

The Giants share the NFL lead in sacks with 31 with Minnesota and Washington and are led by defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (10.5) and Osi Umenyiora (7).

 “These guys can rush the passer very well without having to rely on additional pressure,” said Payton, alluding to the Giants’ ability to be effective with a conventional three- and four-man pass rush. “When you look at their numbers, they are very impressive. So those one-on-one battles will be as challenging, if not more challenging, than any game we’ve played to date.”

The Saints have yielded 19 sacks, tying them with the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Giants for eighth fewest in the NFL.

INJURY REPORT: Payton offered no update on the status of his injured players, pointing to Thursday as the first day he must comply with the league mandate.

Starting middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, most notably, has missed the past two games with an injured knee.

“He’s doing well,” Payton said. “His treatment is going well. With him, it’s day to day. You measure how he’s moving. Thursday, we’ll be able to give you a better indication of where he’s at.”

LAGNIAPPE: It has been 39 days since Payton suffered a broken left leg and cartilage damage during a sideline collision at Tampa Bay with Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham. “I’ve got two more weeks without (putting) weight on it and then we begin the process of partial weight bearing,” Payton said. “My goal is maybe by Christmas being able to walk without crutches. And I think the long-term goal would be March 1st where it’s 100 percent. So far, it’s going well.” Payton said he will remain on the sideline on game day through the remainder of the season. … Former Saints left tackle Willie Roaf is among 26 semifinalists being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Roaf played nine seasons in New Orleans (1993-01) and ended his career with the Kansas City Chiefs (2002-05). Fifteen finalists from the modern-day era will be announced in early January. Roaf was a finalist last year. … Saints running back/return specialist Darren Sproles continues to lead the NFL in all-purpose yards with 1,604 (348 rushing, 448 receiving, 635 kickoff return and 173 punt return).

Saints-Lions moved to NBC primetime slot

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK — The Saints and Detroit Lions are moving to prime time.

The Dec. 4 game between the Saints and Lions will be played on “Sunday Night Football” on NBC, which in the latter stages of the season can use “flex scheduling” to change its game to a more attractive matchup.

Kickoff is set for 7:20 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Colts-Patriots matchup was originally in that slot, but the NFL previously announced it was shifting that matchup to earlier in the day under the league’s flexible scheduling policy.

Indianapolis is 0-10 without injured quarterback Peyton Manning, robbing the matchup with Tom Brady and the Patriots of its luster. Instead, the meeting between two playoff contenders — the 7-3 Saints and 7-3 Lions — would take its place.

Porter to serve up food for needy

Saints cornerback Tracy Porter, a Port Allen native, will spend his off day Sunday hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for needy families at DC’s Grill in Port Allen.

Porter, one of the heroes of the Saints’ Super Bowl XLIV win, recently launched his Tracy Porter Pick Six Foundation. The 501(c) (3) foundation provides underprivileged youth with support systems and mentoring activities to better themselves through academics and recreation.

Porter will be joined by former LSU star Chad Jones in hosting and feeding about 100 people who were pre-selected with the help of Porter’s church.

“Thanksgiving is a time for family,” Porter said in a news release. “I want this dinner to bring people together during the holidays, and give them a chance to share the many things we have to be thankful for.”

Saints ease into bye-week schedule

After getting pointers from Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid a couple of years ago on how to deal with a bye week, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has enjoyed the same results Reid has — to a lesser degree.

Which is why Payton decided to give his team an extended period of time away from the practice field before bringing them back next week to start preparing for a Nov. 28 game with the New York Giants.

Two years ago, Payton was 0-3 in the first game after a bye when he dialed up Reid, who, at the time, was 10-0 after a week off. He’s since added three more wins and is 13-0 after ripping the Dallas Cowboys, 34-7, last month.

The secret, Reid told Payton, was to give his players as much down time as possible to let them relax and recharge their batteries.

Since Payton backed off a regimented bye-week practice schedule, the Saints won their post-bye game in both 2009 and ’10. He didn’t want to mess with the football gods this season and turned his team loose again.

“Prior to the ’09 year, I had a chance to visit with Andy,” Payton said. “You call around and you try to find out what guys do. I don’t know that there’s anyone in our league that’s been better after a bye than Andy and the Eagles.”

Of course, it’s a lot easier to do when the formula has worked the last two seasons and you’re 7-3 and atop the NFC South standings by 1 1/2 games.

“We talked to the players about it and got everyone out of the building for a good period of time,” Payton added. “There’s a part of you — as a coach — that feels like when that happens, you’re not nervous, but you feel like you want to be back in the building.

“Yet, you also recognize that after 10 weeks there is a point it can be beneficial both physically and mentally.”

VILMA REHABBING: During a news conference on Wednesday, Payton did not confirm a report that three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Citing league sources, the Times-Picayune reported after Sunday’s 26-23 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons that Vilma had a cleanup procedure on his knee. Vilma has missed the last two games because of the ailing knee.

Payton would only say that Vilma, who was hurt in Week 2 and later played five games with the injury, is rehabbing the knee and is hoping to be back for the next game against the Giants.

When asked about Vilma, Payton said, “I’d rather update you guys next week and not really get into detail right now. I know he’s doing well. He hasn’t really made mention to it, and I don’t want to as well, especially during this bye week.”

HARPER HONORED: Veteran strong safety Roman Harper was named Wednesday as the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his work in the win over the Falcons.

After a review of the coach’s film, Harper was credited with 16 tackles, two altered passes, a sack and he also broke up one pass. The release from the NFL noted that six of his tackles came within four yards of the line of scrimmage or behind it.

Harper, who also won the award in Week 2, is the third safety in franchise history to be honored as Defensive Player of the Week twice in one season — joining Sammy Knight (2001) and Malcolm Jenkins (2010).

BREES NOMINATED: Drew Brees is one of three nominees for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week, which is voted on by fans via the internet.

Brees, who is going against New England’s Tom Brady and Dallas’ Tony Romo, was 30-of-43 for 322 yards with two TDs and no interceptions in the win over the Falcons. He also had a passer rating of 106.9.

Fans have until 11 a.m. Friday to vote at http://www.NFL.com/FedEx with the winner to be announced later that evening.

ROSTER MOVE: The Saints on Monday waived reserve tackle Ray Willis and signed tackle William Robinson from the practice squad to the 53-man active roster.

Willis, a former Seattle Seahawks starter, was signed on Nov. 2 when backup tackle Charles Brown was put on injured reserve with a hip injury that required season-ending surgery. Willis, however, was inactive for the two games he was with the Saints.