All posts by Ramon Antonio Vargas

Ramon Antonio Vargas has covered the Saints for The Advocate since 2013. He can be reached at rvargas@theadvocate.com and is @RVargasAdvocate on Twitter.

Mark Ingram wins 2nd career FedEx Ground Player of the Week award

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) celebrates his touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. The Saints won 44-23. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) celebrates his touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. The Saints won 44-23. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

Saints running back Mark Ingram bagged his second career FedEx Ground Player of the Week award on Thursday.

Ingram earned the award after rushing for more carries (24) and yards (172) against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night than he ever had since entering the NFL as one of the Saints’ first-round draft choices in 2011. He also scored a touchdown in the 44-23 pummeling of the Packers during what was the most productive outing by a Saints running back since 2003.

Ingram was nominated for the award alongside Houston running back Arian Foster, who had 20 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans’ 30-16 victory against the Tennessee Titans; and Dallas’ DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 141 yards and added 80 yards receiving for 221 total yards from scrimmage in a defeat against Washington on Monday night. Fans voting at NFL.com/FedEx lodged more votes in favor of Ingram than they did for either Foster or Murray.

Ingram has won the FedEx Ground Player of the Week once previously — after Week 10 last year, when he rushed for what was then a career-best 145 yards as well as a touchdown in a 49-17 rout of the Cowboys.

He leads the Saints in rushing yards this year with 331 and is tied for first on his team in touchdowns scored (four). He’s also No. 1 among NFL running backs who rush the ball at least 6.25 times per game in the yards per carry category (5.7).

After beating the Packers (5-3), the Saints (3-4) had a short week to prepare for a visit to the Carolina Panthers (3-4-1) on Thursday night.

Saints kicker Shayne Graham is October’s NFC Special Teams Player of the Month

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints kicker Shayne Graham (3) celebrates a score with New Orleans Saints tackle Marcel Jones (70) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Luke McCown (7) in a preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Friday, Aug. 15, 2014.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON–New Orleans Saints kicker Shayne Graham (3) celebrates a score with New Orleans Saints tackle Marcel Jones (70) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Luke McCown (7) in a preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. Friday, Aug. 15, 2014.

No special teams player was better than Saints kicker Shayne Graham was in the NFC for the month of October, the NFL announced Thursday morning.

The 14-year-veteran earned the first Special Teams Player of the Month of his career after going 9-of-9 on field goals and 9-of-9 on extra points kicked in three games the Saints have played in October, two of which they won.

He was the only player to convert at least three kicks in every game his team played between Weeks 5 and 8 of the NFL season, according to the league.

One of Graham’s field goals — a 44-yarder — tied up an Oct. 5 clash in New Orleans against Tampa Bay at 31 late in the fourth quarter. The Saints subsequently triumphed 37-31 in overtime.

Then, as the Saints (3-4) pummeled the Green Bay Packers (5-3) by a score of 44-23 in New Orleans on Sunday night, Graham nailed all three of his field goal attempts in the first half as the two teams played to a 16-16 stalemate. That helped set New Orleans up to pull away in the second half.

Graham’s award comes about a month after he had somewhat put himself on the metaphorical hot seat. He had a missed extra point deflected in a win at home against Minnesota on Sept. 21, and the following week he pushed a kick wide in a blowout loss at Dallas.

Nonetheless, Graham this season is a rock solid 13-of-14 on field goals (92.9 percent) and 20-of-21 on extra points (95.2 percent).

The Saints close out their October on Thursday night with a visit to the Carolina Panthers (3-4-1).

The Packers’ Eddie Lacy lives up to billing in New Orleans homecoming, but loss to Saints will be tough for him to swallow

On an individual level, Packers running back and New Orleans-area native Eddie Lacy did not disappoint his supporters who went to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night to watch his first game there as a pro.

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) carries over a fallen New Orleans Saints free safety Rafael Bush (25) in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) carries over a fallen New Orleans Saints free safety Rafael Bush (25) in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

Lacy had 182 yards from scrimmage against the Saints — 59 off 13 carries and 123 off eight catches. A screen pass he hauled in for a 67-yard gain set up a field goal that gave Green Bay a 10-7 lead in the first quarter.

But in the end, it was far from enough as the Saints (3-4) trounced the Packers (5-3) by a score of 44-23 to ruin Lacy’s homecoming; and his personal brilliance was of no consolation.

“It’s always great to come back home and play a game,” said Lacy, whose Packers had won four straight before their ill-fated jaunt to New Orleans. “But I wasn’t happy with the result — we’re a much better football team than that.”

Lacy’s ties to southeastern Louisiana are famously deep. He hails from the community of Gretna just outside New Orleans’ West Bank section; and, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his family’s home in 2005, he finished high school at Dutchtown in Geismar, where he was a highly-recruited running back.

Lacy played for former LSU coach Nick Saban at Alabama in college, and he was teammates with Saints running back Mark Ingram for a season there. Lacy was part of two BCS titles for the Crimson Tide and redshirted for a third championship between 2010 and 2013.

One of those championships was clinched at the Superdome at the expense of LSU (where his half-brother, Donovan Grayson, used to play linebacker): in 2012, when Lacy was a sophomore.

Lacy declared for the draft in the spring of 2013, and the Packers chose him in the second round. He rewarded them in his first season in Green Bay with 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns off 284 carries; 257 yards on 35 pass receptions; a Pro Bowl berth; and the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year trophy as the Packers qualified for the playoffs.

Midway through his second season in Green Bay, Lacy has 637 yards from scrimmage and four rushing touchdowns. The Packers had a more than viable shot at a fifth-straight win when facing a Saints team that dropped four of its first six games this year; but, after playing to a 16-16 halftime stalemate, Green Bay was intercepted twice and lost the ball a third time on downs.

The Saints got 21 points off the interceptions and the turnover on downs to vanquish the Packers.

“We started the game … good, but then we had some turnovers, and that can’t happen,” Lacy said. “It’s how you respond, and that’s something we didn’t do a great job doing. It’s a real long season , and we can’t let the outcome from today affect us for the rest of the year.”

Nonetheless, that didn’t mean Lacy left the Superdome without making a lasting impression Sunday night.

“He was behind me … at Alabama — can you believe that?” said Ingram, who rushed for a career-high 172 yards as well as a touchdown against Green Bay. “He had a great game — just shows you what type of playmaker he is.”

More impressive than the Saints’ home primetime game winning streak are Drew Brees’ numbers during it

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) calls out to the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) calls out to the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

After he and the Saints thrashed the Green Packers 44-23 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees’ numbers at home in primetime grew even more insane than they already were.

Brees has completed 73.1 percent of his passes for 4,580 yards, 46 touchdowns and only four interceptions the last 14 times the Saints have hosted a primetime game (counting the playoffs), all of which New Orleans has won. For context, Brees’ 71.2 percent completion rate for the 2011 season was the best all-time. The 327.1 yards per game he has during the streak would equate to 5,234 yards in a season, which would be the fourth-best all-time and the second-most in the career of Brees, who is the only NFL player to ever throw for 5,000+ yards in more than one campaign (he’s done it four times).

The aforementioned stats for Brees include his 27-of-32 passing for 311 yards and one touchdown throw each to rookie receiver Brandin Cooks, All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham and second-year tight end Josh Hill in Sunday night’s victory over the Packers (5-3), who had won four straight games before their trip to New Orleans.

“The Green Bay Packers are playing about as well as any team in the league right now,” Brees said. “We knew the challenge that was ahead of us.”

The Saints (3-4) were coming off a defeat at Detroit the previous week in which they squandered a 23-10 lead they seized late in the fourth quarter and lost 24-23. Brees contributed to the meltdown by throwing his seventh interception of the season to set up the Lions’ go-ahead score.

With Green Bay up next on the schedule, many did not believe a primetime home game winning streak that had reached 13 would survive for the Saints, not after they’d lost dropped of their first six outings this year. It wasn’t only that streak which seemed in jeopardy — the Saints had also won 19 consecutive home games with Saints coach Sean Payton on the sidelines before kicking off against the Packers.

But the Saints got 14 points off two interceptions thrown by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (28-of-39 for 418 yards, a touchdown and a rushing TD). They got another seven points off a Green Bay turnover on downs to help blow what had been a 16-16 halftime stalemate wide open, and they tied a season-high with three sacks of Rodgers (limited by a strained hamstring).

Saints running back Mark Ingram rushed for both a career-high 172 yards and a touchdown. And Brees handled much of the rest, being careful he did not throw an interception in the course of a game for only the second time this season.

“My grandfather always said, ‘There’s three types of people, three types of teams — those that make it happen, those that watch it happen and those who wake up one day and say, ‘What the heck happened?’” Brees remarked. “I feel like all this year we’ve been waking up and saying, ‘What the heck happened?’ And it’s about time we made it happen.”

Payton on Sunday night spoke for pretty much anyone who has seen Brees play each of the last 14 times there’s been a primetime game in New Orleans when he said in a news conference, “(Drew) was magnificent. He was spot on.”

The MVP of the Saints’ victory in Super Bowl XLIV, Brees on Monday was fourth in the NFL this season in passing yards (2,227). His 14 touchdowns have him in a four-way tie for ninth, and his passer rating of 97.4 is 11th.

Coach Sean Payton never doubted himself on crucial, successful challenge that helped Saints put Packers away

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton calls out from the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. The Saints won 44-23. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton calls out from the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. The Saints won 44-23. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

Perhaps the easiest question Saints coach Sean Payton answered in the news conference he held after his team pummeled Green Bay 44-23 on Sunday night was whether he had come close to not challenging the spot of a play that had been ruled a third-down conversion for the Packers — but had actually come up short.

“I haven’t met many I don’t like — challenges, that is,” Payton coolly told reporters.

That was a good thing for Payton on Sunday night. After deciding to successfully challenge that play, the Saints finished off the Packers (5-3) to bolster their 2014 record to 3-4.

The play in question occurred with the Saints ahead 23-16 with 4:19 to go in the third quarter. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (28-of-39 for 418 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions while playing with a hamstring strain for part of the game) completed a short pass on third-and-7 to receiver Davante Adams that the officiating crew led by Ed Hochuli originally said was just long enough to get Green Bay a new set of downs at its 41.

But Payton threw his red flag to challenge the spot.

“We knew he caught it — the question really was, ‘Was there a slight bobble before he secured it?’” said Payton, whose team had all three of its second-half timeouts. “It is one of those where you are looking at the timeouts, and it was close enough; it was significant enough being that it was a third-down call.”

After reviewing the play, Hochuli determined Adams had come up short of the first-down marker, reversing the call on the field and setting up Green Bay for a fourth-and-1 from its 40. Payton improved to 2-of-3 on challenges this year; and, when the Packers went for it on fourth down, Saints linebacker David Hawthorne and defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker stuffed running back Eddie Lacy (13 carries for 59 yards and eight catches for 123 yards) for no gain.

The Packers as a result turned the ball over to the Saints on downs. New Orleans ran three plays before quarterback Drew Brees hit All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham for a 22-yard touchdown pass that helped give the a 30-16 lead.

It was one of three touchdowns thrown by Brees (27-of-32 for 311 yards and no interceptions). The Saints would score two more touchdowns and concede only one TD to a Packers team before the game ended, meaning New Orleans outpaced its opponent 21-7 after Payton won his challenge of the referees’ decision to erroneously award Green Bay a first down.

“I’m glad,” Payton said, “we were able (to challenge).”

The Saints are now 76-43 in the regular season under Payton, who took charge of the franchise in 2006. They visit the Carolina Panthers (3-4-1) on Thursday night, where they’ll try to win on the road after losing nine of their last 10 regular-season away games.

If the Saints win, they’d be in first place of the NFC South after losing four of their first six games this season.

After late meltdown in Detroit, Saints’ Rob Ryan says mere improvement on defense means nothing without wins

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan watches from the sidelines against the Detroit Lions during a NFL football game in Detroit Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan watches from the sidelines against the Detroit Lions during a NFL football game in Detroit Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan addresses the media once a week; so, when he talked to reporters Friday, five days had passed since his subordinates had melted down late in a 24-23 defeat at Detroit.

That had not been enough time to get over the disappointment of that experience.

“I’m telling the truth — it was execution,” said Ryan, in his second year with the Saints. “That’s what it is.”

To build up a 23-10 lead with fewer than four minutes to go in their visit to the Lions, the Saints (2-4) had intercepted quarterback Matthew Stafford twice and sacked him three times. It was the first multiple takeaway game the Saints defense had delivered since an Oct. 27, 2013, victory at home against Buffalo; and the sacks represented a season high.

But then, on a third-and-14 from Detroit’s 27 with about 3:52 to go in the game, Stafford threw a short pass to the right to receiver Golden Tate. Saints cornerback Corey White leapt up for the ball, but Tate cut in front of him and hauled the pass in.

When White landed, he was out of position to wrap Tate up. Tate scored a 73-yard touchdown after evading White and the two other Saints who had any possibilities of stopping him: cornerback Keenan Lewis and safety Kenny Vaccaro, who had each picked off Stafford earlier in the contest.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw an interception on the ensuing drive, and Detroit took over at New Orleans’ 14. Stafford soon helped the Lions win the game after throwing a touchdown pass on a third-and-goal to unheralded receiver Corey Fuller in the back of the end zone.

“That is not good defense,” Ryan said in a matter-of-fact monologue on Friday. “We are in this thing together — nobody points fingers on our defense, and no one ever will.

“(But) we are not one of these teams that are OK with, ‘Well, we are getting better.’ … Bull crap — we are here to win, and that’s how it has to be.”

After holding opponents to the fourth-fewest yards in 2013 and helping New Orleans clinch an appearance in the divisional round of the playoffs, Ryan’s defense was 21st in the NFL in that category as it began preparing to host the Green Bay Packers (5-2) on Sunday night. The Saints were also 28th in points allowed after being fourth in that category in 2013 as they started readying themselves for an opponent led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who’s been incomprehensibly effective while throwing 18 touchdowns and just one interception this year.

“They are going to have some success,” Ryan said of the Packers. “We have to have our own success; and when we get that chance to make that play, we need to cash in and do it.”

They didn’t against Detroit, and they’re two games below .500 because of that.

Returning Eric Olsen relieved to learn he hadn’t merely imagined that the Saints liked him

Eric Olsen felt good about his chances of making the Saints for a second season in a row as a backup offensive lineman until he stepped on someone else’s foot during training camp in 2013 and suffered a Lisfranc injury.

Eric Olsen

Eric Olsen

Olsen then wondered whether his odds of cracking the roster were all in his head when the Saints soon waived him with an injury settlement — and he was relieved to learn that they weren’t when New Orleans re-signed him Tuesday, about 13 months later.

“I always had the feeling they still liked me here, and that it was an injury-related thing that ended up happening,” Olsen said Wednesday. “It was good to know that I wasn’t just imagining that and that they still know what I can do and still feel comfortable enough to bring me back.”

Olsen — a guard and center in college — entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft choice in 2010 for Denver out of Notre Dame. He was active for one game in Denver and was waived.

He then spent some time on Washington’s practice squad in 2011 before signing with the Saints for the postseason that year, and he was active for 16 games with the Saints in 2012 as an extra blocker.

The Saints then waived Olsen with an injury settlement in early September 2013 after he hurt his foot in the summer. The settlement provided him with money through the seventh week of the 2013 regular season, but he would’ve rather remained a member of the team on injured reserve.

“It’s frustrating to be (let go) — I would’ve liked to have been on IR for the year as a worst-case scenario,” said Olsen, who had been a free agent after brief stints with Pittsburgh and Tennessee following his initial tenure in New Orleans. “The circumstances were tough.”

But Saints center Jonathan Goodwin has left three of the last four games early with leg injuries. He may not be able to play when the Saints (2-4) host Green Bay (5-2) on Sunday night, and New Orleans turned to Olsen to add depth under Goodwin’s backup, second-year guard/center Tim Lelito.

Olsen had worked out for the Saints earlier this regular season.

“He has experience,” Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday when asked about repatriating Olsen. “He’s a versatile player.”

Giving offense good field position twice in Detroit, Saints defense focused on ‘Operation: Feed Drew’

The Saints offense twice experienced a luxury they haven’t experienced all year during Sunday’s 24-23 defeat at Detroit.

They started in their opponents’ territory.

New Orleans converted those opportunities into a touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Bees and a field goal that both nearly gave the team their third victory of the season. And the obvious benefits of creating takeaways that set up the Saints’ offense in enemy territory were cause enough for safety Kenny Vaccaro and his teammates to intensify their focus on what he dubbed “Operation: Feed Drew.”

“We have to keep taking those,” Vaccaro said Wednesday. “The more chances he gets to score the ball, the better chance we have at winning.”

The Saints (2-4) have a paltry four takeaways this season. Only Jacksonville (1-6) and Washington (2-5) have fewer than that.

Making things worse is that two of the Saints’ takeaways didn’t do much to improve New Orleans’ field position. A fumble recovery by cornerback Corey White in a Week 1 loss at Atlanta at the goal-line set up the Saints at their 20, though New Orleans then went on an 80-yard touchdown drive. An interception by cornerback Patrick Robinson in a Week 5 win at home against Tampa Bay set the Saints up at their 4, and they punted on the ensuing drive.

When the Saints got their best starting position of the season off Lewis’ interception, at Detroit’s 29, they scored a touchdown. Vaccaro’s pick had the Saints’ offense starting at Detroit’s 49, and it led to a 36-yard field goal.
But Lewis’ and Vaccaro’s interceptions didn’t do much to improve the Saints’ 31st-ranked average starting field position: between their 22 and 23. That isn’t conducive to the quick scoring drives that can make winning easier for any team.

Brees said the Saints’ offense never expects needing short fields to succeed.

“If anything, we’re going to expect to start at the 10-, 20-yard line and have to march it,” said Brees, who’s completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 1,916 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. “We always have to be ready to march the ball the length of the field. … We don’t control how we get the ball. We control what we do with it once we get it.”

Nonetheless, a second-year player with two interceptions, Vaccaro called it his goal to give the ball back to Brees more often and in much better positions than the quarterback has been getting it.

“Every time I get a pick, I might run and give it to Drew (myself) from now on,” Vaccaro said.

Following up on Saints coach Sean Payton’s criticism of the officiating in 24-23 loss at Detroit

DETROIT — My newspaper story on Saints coach Sean Payton’s objections to the officiating in New Orleans’ 24-23 defeat to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday didn’t permit me enough time or space to highlight all of the calls with which he likely took issue.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is seen on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is seen on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

So I wanted to follow up with a post that touched on a couple more of the plays that probably prompted him to criticize the performance of referee Terry McAulay’s crew in his news conference with the media afterwards.

The most obvious one I missed live from the press box was on a third-and-10 for the Saints at Detroit’s 18 with 5:35 left in the game and New Orleans leading 20-10. As quarterback Drew Brees dropped back to pass, Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley charged into the Saints’ backfield, grabbed Travaris Cadet by the helmet and yanked the Saints’ running back to the turf.

With no one open further up the field, Brees checked down to Cadet and looked to dump it off to him. But Cadet was on the ground, and Brees threw the ball away to avoid being sacked by Fairley. Readers viewing the game on television pointed out that both Payton and Brees were irate when Fairley wasn’t penalized, which would’ve given the Saints a new set of downs closer to the goal-line the Lions (5-2) were defending.

Instead, Brees’ incompletion stopped the clock with 5:29 to go, and the Saints settled for a 36-yard field goal by kicker Shayne Graham that gave New Orleans a 23-10 lead.

Of course, after surrendering a 73-yard touchdown reception, throwing an interception that set up Detroit at the Saints’ 14, giving up another TD catch (this one from five yards out), and then ceding the ball to the Lions on downs with 21 seconds left, New Orleans lost by a point and dropped to 2-4.

Another moment where the officials upset those in New Orleans’ corner was on a punt from the Lions’ Sam Martin with 3:46 remaining in the third quarter. The ball hit the pylon after the punt, and many thought it’d be a touchback that would give the Saints the ball at their 20. But, as Lions players pleaded with them, officials ruled the ball went out of bounds at the Saints’ 1, leaving New Orleans to face a 99-yard field.

The Saints still drove to Detroit’s 30 to set up a 48-yard field goal by Graham that armed New Orleans with a 20-10 lead with 13:38 left in the game.

Payton remarked that the officiating wasn’t the only reason his team lost in Detroit, but he did make it a point to criticize the refs post-game.

“I wasn’t happy with the way that game was officiated,” Payton said. “I’m going to leave it at that.”

The trip to Detroit marked the end of what many considered to be the easy part of the Saints’ schedule. Their first six opponents had a winning percentage of .475, and none made the playoffs in 2013.

The Saints lost to four of those teams, all of whom they visited: aside from Detroit, New Orleans suffered setbacks in Atlanta (2-5), Cleveland (3-3) and Dallas (6-1).

They beat Tampa Bay (1-5) and Minnesota (2-5) at home.

The Saints’ next four opponents have a winning percentage of .593, and all made the playoffs in 2013. Of those, the Saints will host three — Green Bay (5-2), San Francisco (4-3) and Cincinnati (3-2-1) — and travel to one, Carolina (3-3-1).

(H/T @steven3210 on Twitter)

Saints’ five-game winning streak coming out the bye is done for; their vaunted winning streak at home may be next

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is seen on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is seen on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT — Many had circled the Saints’ trip to Detroit on Sunday as a victory because it was the first game coming out of New Orleans’ bye for this season.

The Saints had gone 5-0 since coach Sean Payton in 2009 grabbed a page from NFL colleague Andy Reid’s book and allowed players to take the full bye week off. Granted, only one of those contests had been on the road, where the Saints are a frightening 1-9 in their last 10 regular-season away games; but many felt it was a good bet New Orleans would find a way to win with extra rest and time to prepare.

They didn’t, and Sunday’s 24-23 defeat at Detroit (5-2) brought a quiet end to that oft-cited streak, dropping the Saints’ record this season to 2-4.

“The tough thing about it is the work and the preparation leading into the game is everything we wanted,” said Payton, whose team has also lost at Dallas (6-1), Atlanta (2-5) and Cleveland (3-3) while winning at home against Minnesota (2-5) and Tampa Bay (1-5).

Before the game was over, All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham played in only 30 of the Saints’ 74 offensive snaps because of a shoulder injury and was unable to catch a pass on either of his two targets. Second-year running back Khiry Robinson lost a fumble.

But the Saints got 214 of their 342 pass receiving yards from Marques Colston (six catches for 111 yards) and Kenny Stills, who had five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. They got another touchdown catch from first-year fullback Austin Johnson, and kicker Shayne Graham was 3-for-3 on field goals.

On defense, the Saints had their first multiple takeaway game since Oct. 27, 2013, after interceptions by safety Kenny Vaccaro and cornerback Keenan Lewis. Pass-rusher Junior Galette, linebacker Parys Haralson and cornerback Corey White each had one quarterback takedown behind the line of scrimmage to give the Saints a season-high three sacks, and the Saints seized a 23-10 lead with 5:24 to go.

Then, New Orleans surrendered a 73-yard touchdown reception by Golden Tate on what seemed to be a low-risk third-and-14 situation. Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw his seventh interception of the season on the ensuing offensive drive, and Detroit took over at New Orleans’ 14. The Lions soon scored a touchdown that helped give them a 24-23 lead, and the Saints lost the ball on downs on their final offensive drive.

Thus ended one streak. And another may soon suffer the same fate.

The 5-2 Green Bay Packers this upcoming Sunday night are set to visit the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Saints have won each of their last 19 games with Payton has coached them there (including the playoffs). That excludes home games played in the 2012 season, when Payton was suspended in the wake of the bounty scandal and the Saints were 4-4 in New Orleans.

The Packers have won four consecutive games. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 18 touchdowns and a sole interception. Rodgers’ top target, wideout Jordy Nelson, led the NFL with 712 receiving yards and had six touchdowns (twice as many as anyone on the Saints has scored).

In Green Bay’s way at the Superdome will be a host that struggled to beat a bad Minnesota team 20-9 and then needed overtime as well as a favorable coin flip to finish off an even worse Tampa Bay squad 37-31.

“We … have to go out there and … win in our preparation during the week and come out against Green Bay and execute,” veteran Saints right guard Jahri Evans said in the visitor’s locker room after the Lions game.

If not, it’ll be time to bid adieu to Payton’s winning streak at the Superdome just seven days after the Saints’ five-game winning streak coming out of the bye was snapped.