RB Ingram suffers setback with turf toe injury

Saints running back Mark Ingram missed practice on Thursday after suffering a setback Wednesday with his turf toe injury and will likely miss a fourth consecutive game this week.

Coach Sean Payton said Ingram, who was injured in a Dec. 4 game, reinjured the toe while practicing on a limited basis Wednesday and had to be held out of Thursday’s workout as the Saints continued preparing for Sunday’s game with the Carolina Panthers.

The Saints hoped to have Ingram back for the upcoming playoffs, if not Sunday’s game, but now it’s not known when he might return.

“He got it again and had some soreness in it, so we backed off,” Payton said after Thursday’s practice. “He had been making progress, and I would say he had a setback (Wednesday).”

When asked if it would be tough to work Ingram back into the mix at halfback with Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles all healthy, Payton said they’ll continue to evaluate Ingram weekly.

“We just have to wait until it’s healthy,” Payton said. “It’s real simple.”

PRACTICE REPORT: While Ingram was out, the Saints got at least some good news Thursday when middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and free safety Malcolm Jenkins were able to practice on a limited basis.

Vilma (knee) and Jenkins (neck) were held out Wednesday, with Vilma likely resting his left knee he had arthroscopic surgery on last month.

Wide receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) and tight end John Gilmore (toe) did not practice again, however, making them questionable at best for Sunday.

RECORD IN JEOPARDY: After watching Drew Brees break the NFL’s single-season passing record on Monday night, Saints fans may be treated to more history Sunday.

The Saints, who’ve already set the club record with 6,857 total yards, need just 219 yards Sunday to break the league mark of 7,075 by the St. Louis Rams, who were dubbed “The Greatest Show on Turf,” in 2000.

Payton said Wednesday he wasn’t aware that the Saints, who are averaging a league-leading 457.1 yards per game and have had fewer than 300 yards just once in 15 games this season, were that close.

“What’s most important is we do our best to put in the best game plan to beat Carolina,” he said. “The winning aspect still trumps all the things we’re discussing. And what made Drew’s record an accomplishment is it happened during a game in which we were securing the NFC South.”

A ‘FINE’ DAY: Saints running back Pierre Thomas was fined a total of $12,500 by the NFL for two violations of the league’s uniform code during Monday night’s game with the Atlanta Falcons.

Thomas was fined $7,500 for pulling a Christmas bow out of his uniform pants and placing it on the ball before handing it to a fan after his 4-yard TD run in the first period. The Saints were also penalized on the ensuing kickoff because Thomas used the ball for a prop during his end zone celebration.

Thomas also was fined $5,000 for using red and green wristbands as players are allowed to only wear their team colors on the field.

PERFECT AT HOME?: The Saints are 7-0 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this season and with a win Sunday will go undefeated at home for the first time in club history.

Payton’s team has already set a franchise record for home wins in a season, beating the teams that went 6-1 in a strike-shortened 1987 season and 6-2 in 1991, ’92, 2008 and ’09 — the last two on Payton’s watch.

The Baltimore Ravens were 8-0 at home this season, while the Green Bay Packers and Saints can finish 8-0 with wins at home on Sunday.

FINAL-GAME WOES: Payton, who has a record of 61-34 in six seasons with the Saints, is 0-5 in regular-season finales going into Sunday’s game.

To be fair, two of those losses came when the Saints had no chance to improve their playoff seeding in 2006 and ’09 and they fell 23-13 to the Tampa Bay Bucs after Payton cleared his bench early.

OPPONENTS SET FOR ’12: Because the Saints wrapped up the NFC South title on Monday night, their slate of opponents for the 2012 season has been determined.

At home, the Saints will play Philadelphia, Washington, San Francisco, San Diego, Kansas City and division foes Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay.

The road schedule includes games with their three NFC South foes as well as Green Bay, Dallas, New York Giants, Oakland and Denver.

BREES UP FOR FEDEX: Fans have until 2 p.m. Friday to vote for the FedEx NFL Air & Ground Players of the Week at www.NFL.com/FedEx.

Brees, who has already won twice this season, is a finalists for this week’s award with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.

Payton to keep pedal to the metal for finale

METAIRIE — It didn’t take Saints coach Sean Payton long to decide that his team, which has won its last seven games, needs to keep playing with the same intensity it has during the past two months.

Faced with the same dilemma as a year ago — trying to get a higher seed for the upcoming playoffs when it seems unlikely they’ll achieve it — Payton made the decision Wednesday to play his regulars in Sunday’s regular-season finale with the Carolina Panthers.

Last year, Payton chose to play his starters in the final game with an outside chance of claiming the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a win and an Atlanta Falcons’ loss. But that meant doing a lot of scoreboard-watching, which didn’t turn out so well when the Falcons won.

On Sunday, the 12-3 Saints, who can be no worse than the No. 3 seed for the upcoming playoffs, can get the No. 2 seed and first-round bye that goes with it, if they beat the Panthers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the San Francisco 49ers (12-3) lose to the lowly St. Louis Rams (2-13).

While the second part of the equation is unlikely to happen, Payton said he wants his team to take the momentum it built during its seven-game winning streak into the playoffs.

“We talked about it at length,” Payton said Wednesday. “Our approach is going to be much like it has been: We’re going to play all of our guys. There’s still seeding at stake.”

The only difference in last year and this season, he said, is he won’t be paying much attention to the out-of-town scoreboard Sunday.

“I know it’s similar to a year ago,” Payton said. “I think we’re getting better as a team week to week right now, and there’s a value in that. That progress might be something we need going into this postseason. I’d like to think it’s something we need. … We’re going into it full-speed ahead.”

GETTING A BREAK: The Saints practiced Wednesday for the first time since clinching the NFC South title with a 45-16 rout of the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

As is his custom after a Monday nighter, Payton gave his players a little extra time to recover from the late game and had them report to the team’s training facility after lunch on Wednesday.

That pushed meetings and practice back to the late afternoon hours and will also bring them in a little later on Thursday.

PRACTICE REPORT: Not participating in Wednesday’s practice were middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), wide receiver Lance More (hamstring), free safety Malcolm Jenkins (neck) and tight end John Gilmore (toe).

Vilma has missed some practices early in the work week since returning from arthroscopic surgery last month and likely was held out to rest the knee.

Running back Mark Ingram (turf toe) worked on a limited basis for the first time since being injured and missing three games, while Jonathan Casillas (knee) had full participation after being sidelined for three games. Cornerback Patrick Robinson (hip) was worked fully.

ROSTER MOVES: With Gilmore hurting, the Saints signed veteran Tory Humphrey to add some depth at the position behind Pro Bowler Jimmy Graham and undrafted rookie Michael Higgins.

To make room on the 53-man roster for Humphrey, the Saints released reserve tackle William Robinson.

Also, the Saints signed wide receiver Andy Tanner and running back Chris Taylor to the practice squad and released quarterback Sean Canfield. Taylor takes the place of running back Joique Bell, who was signed to the Detroit Lions’ active roster.

PRO BOWL ALTERNATES: After having five players named as primary selections to the annual Pro Bowl game on Tuesday, Payton said the Saints also have four alternates.

Chosen as alternates were Jenkins, strong safety Roman Harper, fullback Jed Collins and punter Thomas Morstead.

Quarterback Drew Brees, guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, tackle Jermon Bushrod and Graham were on the NFC team announced Tuesday for the Jan. 29 game in Honolulu.

BREES EARNS NFL HONOR: For the third time this season, and a club-record 13th time since joining the Saints, Brees has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Brees broke Dan Marino’s 27-year-old single-season yardage record in completing 23 of 39 passes with four touchdowns Monday night. His final pass of the evening, a 9-yard TD to running back Darren Sproles, gave Brees 5,087 yards this season — topping Marino’s old mark of 5,084.

PLAY IT AGAIN: For his efforts in the win over the Falcons, Brees is a finalist for the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week award along with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.

Brees has won twice this season, including last week.

Fans can vote online for the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week until 2 p.m. Friday at www.NFL.com/FedEx with the winners to be announced later than day.

Saints’ Brees, four teammates voted to Pro Bowl

METAIRIE – Five members of the Saints’ record-setting offense were selected on Tuesday to the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl game, which will be played Jan. 29 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The list of Saints to be voted into the game by fans, coaches and players is headed up, of course, by quarterback Drew Brees and also includes a record-setting tight end and three of his offensive linemen.

Less than 24 hours after breaking Dan Marino’s 27-year-old NFL single-season record for passing yards, Brees was named to participate in the all-star game for a fifth time in six seasons with the Saints.

In addition to topping Marino’s old record of 5,084 yards with 5,087 yards in a 45-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night, Brees also helped the Saints break the club record for total yards in a season with 6,857 yards.

The Saints can etch their name in the NFL record book again with 219 yards Sunday in the regular-season finale with the Carolina Panthers. That’s how many yards they need to better the old single-season record of 7,075 yards by the 2000 St. Louis Rams.

Brees will be joined on the NFC squad by second-year tight end Jimmy Graham, who ranks third in the NFL with 91 receptions and has 1,213 yards with 10 touchdowns — a club tight ends record.

Graham, a third-round draft pick in 2010, is the first Saints tight end chosen to the game since Hoby Brenner in 1987. Only one other tight end, Henry Childs in 1979, has represented the Saints in the all-star contest.

“Being selected to represent the NFC in the Pro Bowl is a tremendous honor,” Graham said in a statement on the team’s website. “If you look around the NFC, you see a ton of amazing and talented players at tight end. To be thought of in that company by my peers, the coaches and the fans who follow the NFL is something I take seriously.”

While Brees will be one of two reserves behind Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Graham was voted in as a starter ahead of the Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez, a 15-year veteran who was chosen to his 12th Pro Bowl.

Joining Graham on the starting unit will be Saints guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans. Nicks will be going for the second straight season, while Evans makes his third appearance in a row.

Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod was also selected to the game as a backup.

Five players with Louisiana ties were also voted to the Pro Bowl.

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, a former LSU star, was chosen as the NFC’s kick returner, while Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (Tulane) and Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (UL-Lafayette) were selected as backups.

Destrehan native Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens was selected as the AFC’s starting free safety and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, a New Orleans native, was named along with Brees as the backups to Rodgers.

Saints break club record for total yards in a season

NEW ORLEANS — In a game in which Drew Brees broke a 27-year-old NFL record for single-season passing yards, he and his teammates also shattered a franchise mark.

Going into Monday night’s game with the Atlanta Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Saints needed just 178 total yards to break the club record of 6,571 yards they set in 2008.

It didn’t take long to get there as Brees, who went on to break Dan Marino’s record of 5,084 passing yards in a season, put the Saints over the top with a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Lance Moore early in the second period.

The Saints, who went on to a 45-16 win, finished the evening with 463 yards and now have 6,857 this season. With one game to play, they have a chance to break the NFL record of 7,075 yards in a season — which was set by the St. Louis Rams in 2000.

STREAK ENDS: While it was Brees’ night, the 11-year veteran did throw two interceptions.

The first one, which came on a spectacular play by the Falcons in the second quarter, snapped a streak of 232 consecutive passes without an interception.

Brees tried to hit tight end Jimmy Graham in the back of the end zone, but linebacker Curtis Lofton had Graham covered and tipped the ball away. As he did, free safety William Moore slapped at the ball to make sure Graham didn’t have a chance to catch it and cornerback Dominique Franks got it.

Prior to that play, Brees hadn’t thrown an interception in five full games — which dated to the third quarter of a Nov. 6 game against Tampa Bay.

KASAY SETS RECORD: With his second extra point of the night, Saints kicker John Kasay broke the franchise’s single-season record for scoring with 131 points.

The 42-year-old Kasay, who was signed by the Saints in training camp when Garrett Hartley was lost for the season with a hip injury, went into the game with 129 points — one shy of the record of 130 set by John Carney in 2002.

INACTIVES: The Saints inactives were running back Mark Ingram (turf toe), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee), defensive end Turk McBride (ankle), cornerback Leigh Torrence, tackle William Robinson, wide receiver Adrian Arrington, and tight end Michael Higgins.

Ingram, whom coach Sean Payton hopes to have back for Sunday’s regular-season finale, and Casillas both missed their third consecutive game.

The only inactives of note for the Falcons were cornerback Kelvin Hayden (toe) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (toe).

INJURIES: Saints wide receiver Lance Moore, who was limited in practice last week with a tight hamstring, left the game in the second half and did not return.

BY THE NUMBERS: 42 — Consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass for Brees, leaving him just five games shy of the NFL record of 47 games by Johnny Unitas. The last time Brees didn’t throw one was on Oct. 4, 2009.

LAGNIAPPE: The Saints are now 15-6 in primetime games under Payton, including a 9-2 mark on Monday Night Football. They have also won seven in a row on Monday night. … Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Julio Jones with 1:31 to play in the first quarter, which was the first touchdown in the opening quarter against the Saints’ defense in 10 games. The last one was on Oct. 9 at Carolina.

Ingram, Casillas inactive for third straight game

NEW ORLEANS — Saints running back Mark Ingram and linebacker Jonathan Casillas will miss their third consecutive game Monday night when the Saints host the Atlanta Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Ingram (turf toe) and Casillas (knee) were both listed as doubtful by coach Sean Payton when he issued his final injury report for the week after Saturday’s practice.

Payton said late last week that Ingram has been progressing and the hope is he’ll be ready for the upcoming playoffs if not Sunday’s regular-season finale with the Carolina Panthers.

The Saints’ other inactives are defensive end Turk McBride (ankle), cornerback Leigh Torrence, tackle William Robinson, wide receiver Adrian Arrington, and tight end Michael Higgins.

FALCONS INACTIVES: Not dressing out for the Falcons are cornerback Kelvin Hayden (toe), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (toe), wide receiver Kerry Meier, center Brett Romberg, tackle Kirk Chambers, defensive end Cliff Matthews and quarterback John Parker Wilson.

PANTHERS-SAINTS: Depending on the outcome of Monday night’s game, the kickoff time of the Saints and Panthers game on New Year’s Day in the Superdome could change.

The NFL announced Monday that the game, which is set for noon, will move to 3:15 p.m. if the Saints lose to the Falcons. If the Saints defeat the Falcons or tie, Sunday’s game will remain at noon.

Saints-Falcons: Three Things to Know

THREE THINGS TO KNOW

1. LUCKY SEVEN?: The Saints will go after their seventh win in a row, which would be the second-longest streak under Sean Payton behind their 13 consecutive wins in their Super Bowl season of 2009.

2. LET’S DO IT AGAIN: The Saints and Falcons get together for the 85th time on Monday night, with Atlanta holding a 45-39 series edge. The Saints, however, have won nine of the last 11 matchups.

3. ROAD TOUGH: The visitors have taken the last four games, with the Saints prevailing in the Georgia Dome the past three seasons and the Falcons slipping away with a victory in the Superdome in 2010.

WHO HAS THE EDGE

Offense — Saints

Defense – Falcons

Special teams — Saints

Intangibles – Saints

PREDICTION

The last four games in this series have been decided by three points, with two of the last three going to overtime. There are many reasons to believe that it’ll be another tight one.

SAINTS 27, FALCONS 24

Sheldon Mickles

Graham also going for longstanding NFL record

While Drew Brees goes for Dan Marino’s 27-year-old single-season passing record when the Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night, tight end Jimmy Graham will try to break an even older NFL record.

With 1,171 receiving yards, Graham is just 120 yards away from breaking the single-season record of 1,290 yards by a tight end. The mark was set back in 1980 by former San Diego Chargers’ star Kellen Winslow.

Graham also has 87 receptions, which is 15 shy of the record for a tight end by the Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer, when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004.

Brees, who needs 305 yards to top Marino’s record of 5,084 yards, was asked if he thought Graham, a second-year pro who only played one year of college football, was capable of putting up those numbers.

“I’ve been around a guy that you kind of felt like, if everything works out the way it’s supposed to, this guy can be special,” Brees said of former San Diego teammate Antonio Gates. “I feel that way about Jimmy, where he has come from, where it all started, where he’s at now, where he still has left to go. You just say, man it’s pretty awesome.”

TITLE MARCH?: With six consecutive victories, the Saints are on the verge of claiming their third NFC South title in six seasons under Sean Payton.

The Saints need to win just one of their remaining two games — either Monday night over the Falcons or on Jan. 1 when they host the Carolina Panthers — to finish the job and earn a home playoff game.

Prior to Payton’s arrival in 2006, the Saints won two only division titles — under Jim Mora in 1991 and Jim Haslett in 2000 — in the first 39 years of the franchise’s existence.

INGRAM SITS AGAIN: Rookie running back Mark Ingram did not practice again Friday because of a turf toe injury that he suffered on Dec. 4 and is likely to miss his third straight game on Monday night.

Payton wouldn’t say that Ingram had turned the corner in his recovery, but noted Ingram had done more in his rehab than the day before.

“He’s getting there. The truth is we just have to see day-to-day,” Payton said. “It’s coming along. … I’d say he felt better (Thursday) than he did a day ago, or certainly a week ago at this time.”

PRACTICE REPORT: All-Pro guard Jahri Evans, who hurt his left knee in Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, missed practice again Friday and his status for Monday night won’t be known until Payton turns in his final injury report Saturday.

Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (hamstring) worked on a limited basis Friday after being held out Thursday, while wide receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) was added to the injury list after being limited.

Also limited were linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee), defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (ankle) and linebacker Ramon Humber (knee).

TURNER LIMITED: Falcons running back Michael Turner, who didn’t practice Thursday because of a groin injury, was limited Friday and likely will play Monday night.

Cornerback Kelvin Hayden (toe) and running back Jason Snelling (illness) were sidelined again on Friday, while wide receiver Harry Douglas (groin), cornerback Brett Grimes (knee) and linebacker Curtis Lofton (ankle) were limited.

BREES, BUSH HONORED: Brees, who threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns in the win over the Vikings, was selected in an online vote of fans as the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Brees also won the award after a Week 12 win over the New York Giants.

Former Saints running back Reggie Bush, who rushed for a career-high 203 yards and a touchdown in the Miami Dolphins’ win at Buffalo, was voted the FedEx NFL Ground Player of the Week.

LAGNIAPPE: Brees, who threw 10 interceptions in the first eight games, has just one in the last six outings. He has 215 consecutive attempts without one since Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber got him early in the third quarter of a Nov. 6 game. … Former Saints offensive lineman Steve Korte will meet and greet fans at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum, located at Gate B on the Plaza level of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, from 5:30-6:45 p.m. Admission is free to ticketholders.

Brees focusing on game, not Marino’s record

METAIRIE — When the Saints returned to work on Thursday to begin prepping for Monday night’s game with the Atlanta Falcons, which could clinch the NFC South title for the Saints, much of the talk centered on Drew Brees’ pursuit of the NFL single-season record for passing yards.

Brees needs 305 yards in the final two games to overtake Dan Marino’s 27-year-old record of 5,084 yards. Considering that Brees has already broken the NFL record for 300-yard games with 11 in 14 games this season, he’s got a good shot to do in on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

But while Brees predictably tried to downplay the talk about the record during his weekly news conference Thursday, he did say that he talked to Marino about the mark after he came up 16 yards short in 2008.

“At the time, it was like, ‘We made our run at it,’ ” Brees said, recalling he thought at the time the chances of making another run at it were pretty slim. “Honestly, I’ve really tried to numb my senses to the whole thing right now and just think about winning football games … executing this offense, being as prepared as I can be, focusing on the process. I just know the result will take care of itself.”

Brees said Marino, who now works for CBS Sports, reached out to him to talk this week. Brees declined, deciding Monday night’s game was more important than any more discussion about the record.

“I’d really like to just focus on the game,” Brees said. “I respectfully said, ‘Let’s wait here and just kind of let everything fall into place the way it is.’ We’ll definitely sit down. I would love to do that.”

THE VOTES ARE IN: Saints players and coaches cast their ballots Thursday for the Pro Bowl game, which will be played Jan. 29 in Honolulu.

Fan voting ended after Monday night’s game before all 32 teams got their shot Wednesday and Thursday. Fans, players and coaches all count one-third toward the AFC and NFC all-star squads that will be announced Tuesday.

Brees finished third overall in the fan vote with 1,188,893 and was second among NFC quarterbacks behind top vote-getter Aaron Rodgers (1,581,982).

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (725,612) and strong safety Roman Harper (147,542) led at their respective positions in the NFC.

A pair of Louisiana natives — New York Jets kick returner Joe McKnight (140,926) and Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed (198,075) — were among the AFC position leaders.

PRACTICE REPORT: Running back Mark Ingram did not participate in Thursday’s practice and could miss his third straight game since suffering a turf toe injury on Dec. 4 against the Detroit Lions.

Also not participating were middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), guard Jahri Evans (knee) and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (hamstring). Vilma had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last month, but has played the last three weeks even though he’s sat out some practices.

Linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee) returned to practice on a limited basis after missing two games, while defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and linebacker Ramon Humber (knee) were also limited.

TURNER HELD OUT: Falcons running back Michael Turner, who has rushed for 1,129 yards and nine touchdowns this season, did not practice Thursday because of a groin injury.

Jason Snelling, one of Turner’s backups, also did not work because of an illness, while cornerback Kelvin Hayden (toe) also sat out.

Wide receiver Harry Douglas (groin) was limited.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Saints completed the road portion of their schedule last Sunday with a 42-20 rout of the Minnesota Vikings, which gave them a 5-3 record away from home thanks to three straight victories.

It’s the third straight year the Saints have had a winning mark on the road, which is a club record. They were 7-1 in 2009, 6-2 in ’10 and 5-3 this year and are 30-18 on the road under Payton since he took over in 2006.

The only other times the Saints had back-to-back winning seasons were in 1987-88 (6-2, 5-3) and 1991-92 (5-3, 6-2).

BREES NOMINATED: For the fifth time this season, Brees has been nominated for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week award after he shredded the Vikings for 412 passing yards and five touchdowns.

Fans can vote on the award along with the FedEx Ground Player of the Week, for which former Saints running back Reggie Bush is a nominee, online until 2 p.m. Friday at www.NFL.com/FedEx.

Turnover-free streak ends in Saints’ victory

MINNEAPOLIS — The Saints’ lengthy turnover-free streak came to an end rather quickly Sunday in their 42-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Going into Sunday, the Saints had gone four consecutive games without a giveaway and the streak actually covered 17 quarters as their last one came early in the third quarter of a Nov. 6 meeting with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

On the Saints’ third offensive play, however, tight end Jimmy Graham had the ball knocked from his grasp after catching an 18-yard pass from Drew Brees with Vikings free safety Mistral Raymond recovering.

It was only the fourth lost fumble this season for the Saints, who suffered another in the second period when center Brian de la Puente snapped the ball to Brees while he was calling out a protection and wasn’t ready for it.

DEFENSE RISES: Despite a short field, the Saints’ defense held the Vikings to a 44-yard Ryan Longwell field goal in the first quarter, marking the ninth consecutive game in which they haven’t allowed a touchdown in the opening period.

The Saints, who’ve given up just 53 points in the first quarter of their 14 games, last allowed a touchdown in the first quarter of an Oct. 9 game at Carolina on a 54-yard pass from Cam Newton to Steve Smith.

INACTIVES: Not suiting up for the Saints were running back Mark Ingram (turf toe), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee), defensive end Turk McBride (ankle), cornerback Leigh Torrence, tackle William Robinson, wide receiver Adrian Arrington, and tight end Michael Higgins.

Ingram and Casillas both missed their second straight game, while McBride was out for a fifth straight game even though he practiced limited last week.

INJURIES: Saints right guard Jahri Evans, who started his 94th consecutive regular-season game, left in the second quarter with a left knee injury, but returned six plays later with a brace on the knee. … Vikings cornerback Asher Allen left in the first quarter with concussion symptoms and did not return.

ENDING THE SPELL: The Saints were victorious in Mall of America Field, which used to be called the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, for the first time in their last six visits to the stadium.

The losing streak, which began in 1994, included a 34-16 setback to the Vikings in a 2000 NFC Divisional Playoff game.

CENTURY MARK: Sean Payton coached his 100th game Sunday, counting the playoffs, since joining the Saints before the 2006 season. Payton is now 64-36 overall, including a 60-34 mark in the regular season.

‘AMBUSH’ RETURNS: After the Saints’ second touchdown, Payton called a surprise onside kick for the first time since he did it to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV.

This one wasn’t as successful, however, as Courtney Roby and Will Herring had shots at the ball before Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen fell on it.

LAGNIAPPE: Saints defensive end Jeff Charleston and defensive tackle Tom Johnson recorded their first sacks of the season Sunday. … Saints strong safety Roman Harper, who was fined $22,500 by the NFL for a pair of personal foul calls last week, drew an unnecessary roughness penalty in the third period when he rolled over Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder after he slid down on a scramble. … Saints running back Pierre Thomas celebrated his 27th birthday Sunday. … The paid crowd of 62,623 was the 144th sellout in a row for the Vikings.

No surprises among Saints’ inactives

MINNEAPOLIS — There were no surprises among the seven inactives turned in by Saints coach Sean Payton for Sunday’s game with the Minnesota Vikings in Mall of America Field

Payton said Friday that running back Mark Ingram (turf toe) would miss his second straight game and linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee) would be sidelined for his second game in a row after missing practice all week.

On Sunday, they were joined by defensive end Turk McBride (ankle), cornerback Leigh Torrence, tackle William Robinson, wide receiver Adrian Arrington, and tight end Michael Higgins.

McBride will miss his fifth consecutive game with a high-ankle sprain even though he was able to practice on a limited basis this week.

Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis will play after missing last week’s game at Tennessee because of a tight hamstring.

VIKINGS’ INACTIVES: Not dressing out for the Vikings are cornerback Chris Cook, safety Andrew Sendejo, linebacker Xavier Adibi, center Brandon Fusco, tackle DeMarcus Love, tight end Allen Reisner, and defensive tackle D’Aundre Reed.