Tag Archives: Bucs

Saints’ Brees reaches 5,000 yards for third straight season

Drew Brees has this 5,000-yard passing season thing down.

Prior to 2008, only one other NFL quarterback had thrown for 5,000 yards when the Miami Dolphins’ Dan Marino piled up 5,084 yards in 1984.

Brees joined him with 5,069 yards in 2008, then did it in 2011 (5,476) to become the only quarterback in NFL history to have more than one. He achieved it again in’12 (5,177).

Brees reached that mark for the fourth time in six seasons Sunday with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Robert Meachem in the second quarter of a 42-17 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome that put the Saints in the playoffs.

Brees, who needed just 219 yards going into the game, lofted a long pass down the right sideline that Meachem brought in while cornerback Darrelle Revis defended with 8:04 left in the second period — pushing Brees’ total for the season to 5,022 yards.

He went on to finish the game with 381 yards and the season with 5,162 yards — giving him three of the top five passing seasons all-time.

RECORD FALLS: While he reached 5,000 yards for the fourth time and the Saints won to clinch a playoff spot, the day wasn’t perfect for Brees.

His NFL single-season record of 5,476 yards he set in 2011 was broken by Peyton Manning in the Denver Broncos’ 34-14 win against the Oakland Raiders.

Manning went into the game with 5,211 yards, 265 shy of Brees’ mark. His 5-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas with 13 seconds left in the first half broke the record by 1 yard at 5,477, then did not play in the second half.

“Are you kidding me?” Brees said when told Manning broke his mark. “I guess if I had a hundred more yards, they would have kept him in and he certainly would have broken it anyway.

“A lot of credit to him, his preparation and level of play … it’s impressive. I thought I might have that one for a little big longer than just two years, but records are made to be broken.”

GIMME FIVE: With the win against the Bucs, the Saints qualified for the playoffs for the 10th time in franchise history — and the fifth time under coach Sean Payton, a club record.

Payton previously guided his team to the postseason in 2006, ’09, ’10 and’11.

The Saints also made the playoffs in 1987, ’90, ’91 and ’92 under Jim Mora and in 2000 under Jim Haslett.

ENDING THE DROUGHT: The Saints came out firing to start the game, scoring a touchdown on their first possession — a 44-yard pass from Brees to wide receiver Lance Moore — to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive.

It was the first score on the opening series of any half for the Saints since Garrett Hartley kicked a 28-yard field goal to start the second half of their Oct. 13 game against the New England Patriots.

Counting that game, they scored on 8 of 12 first-series opportunities. After that Hartley field goal, however, they were 0-for-18 in their next nine games until breaking through Sunday.

The also scored on their initial possession of the second half as Pierre Thomas had an 8-yard TD run to open the third quarter.

SIXTEEN FOR GRAHAM: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham reeled in his 16th touchdown pass of the season, a 10-yarder from Brees, with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter Sunday.

But Graham didn’t find the end zone again and came up one shy of tying the NFL single-season record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end.

The New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski set the NFL mark in 2011 with 17 touchdown catches.

INACTIVES: The Saints’ inactives were LB Keyunta Dawson, S Isa Abdul-Quddus, WR Nick Toon, DE Tom Johnson, RB Travaris Cadet, CB Terrence Ferderick and QB Ryan Griffin.

Inactives of note for the Bucs were three injured starters — SS Mark Barron (hamstring), G Carl Nicks (foot) and LB Dekoda Watson (groin). Nicks played with the Saints from 2008-11.

HOME SWEET HOME: The victory against the Bucs gave the Saints an 8-0 record at home this season, marking the second time in three seasons that they were undefeated in the Superdome.

They also did it in 2011, which means that Payton, who was suspended for the 2012 season, has won 16 consecutive regular-season home games — 17 when you count a wild-card playoff win over the Detroit Lions in 2010.

The only other team to not lose at home this season was the Cincinnati Bengals.

DEFENSE! DEFENSE!: The Saints’ defense allowed just 17 points in Sunday’s win, which was the seventh time in eight home games that they gave up fewer than 20 points.

They finished the season allowing 125 points at home for an average of 15.6 points per game.

LAGNIAPPE: Saints rookie left tackle Terron Armstead, who gave up three sacks in his first NFL start last week, allowed none Sunday as Brees was dropped just once. … The Saints were 10-1 this season and 49-3 since Payton arrived in 2006 when allowing fewer than 20 points. … Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who was elected to his first Pro Bowl on Friday night, was chosen by Brees to start the Who Dat! chant after the opening coin toss. … The Bucs had just one field goal in the second half, giving them just 83 points after halftime of their 16 games.

Saints QB Brees back to full participation in practice

OK, Saints fans can take a deep breath and relax now.

After coach Sean Payton listed quarterback Drew Brees as being limited in Wednesday’s late-afternoon practice with a knee injury, Brees worked fully Thursday.

Wednesday’s practice report was released after Payton and Brees had already addressed the media, causing much consternation among the team’s fans.

On Thursday, Payton said Brees had a bruise on his right knee.

“He’s fine. … He was full today,” Payton said, adding that Brees was able to move with no trouble. “There was nothing more to it.”

In the portion of practice open to media, Brees went through the pre-practice stretch and moved around normally in individual drills before reporters were escorted out of the indoor facility.

“There’s nothing more to it than that,” Payton reiterated. “Yet we thought it was best we limited the amount of snaps he’s getting (Wednesday).”

PRACTICE REPORT: Like Brees, the other eight players on the practice report all had full participation Thursday.

They were WR Marques Colston (back), G Jahri Evans (knee), RB Pierre Thomas (eye), T Terron Armstead (shoulder), S Rafael Bush (ankle), LB Keyunta Dawson (calf), TE Josh Hill (hamstring) and LB Kevin Reddick (shoulder).

For the Bucs, G Carl Nicks (foot) and LB Dekoda Watson (groin) did not practice along with DE Da’Quan Bowers (knee). Nicks will not play, and Bowers was put on injured reserve Thursday.

S Mark Barron (hamstring) and LB Ka’Lial Glaud (knee) were limited.

BUSH CLOSER: For the first time since being injured in a Dec. 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Bush had full participation in Thursday’s practice after being limited Wednesday.

“It feels like it’s been forever,” Bush said after practice. “I’ve just been working hard all this time getting treatment. But I want to get back out there with my teammates.”

The return of Bush for Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Bucs would be a boost for the Saints’ defense, who lost rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro to a fractured fibula last week.

“I’m taking it day by day, so it depends on how I feel in a couple of days,” Bush said when asked if he could play Sunday. “I want to go out there and be an asset for my team and not a liability. I have to make sure I’m able to trust (the ankle).”

HAWKINS HAPPY: Former Southern University wide receiver Charles Hawkins, who had a tryout with the Saints last spring, was thrilled to be back with his hometown team after being signed to the practice squad.

“It’s great. I watched this team growing up,” said Hawkins, a St. Augustine High School graduate. “I watched them win the Super Bowl in my dorm room (at Southern). So it’s great to be here.”

Hawkins was with the Arizona Cardinals in training camp and also was on the Detroit Lions’ practice squad for two weeks this season.

He takes the practice-squad spot of wide receiver Chris Williams, who was signed by the Chicago Bears.

PRO BOWL PICKS: The Pro Bowl players for the new-look 2014 all-star game will be announced at 8 p.m. Friday on the NFL Network.

For the first time ever, the Pro Bowl will be “unconferenced.” Players were selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and their peers, and will be divided into teams during the first Pro Bowl Draft on Jan. 22.

The 2014 Pro Bowl will be in Honolulu at 6 p.m. Jan. 26.

Saints’ game with Bucs switched to 3:25 p.m. kickoff

The NFL announced Sunday night that the Saints regular-sesason finale on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Bucs in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will kick off at 3:25 p.m. instead of noon.

in addition to flexing a game to the NBC Sunday Night Football time slot, the league has the option of switching games that have a bearing on the playoffs to accommodate network broadcast patterns. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles will meet in the prime-time slot.

The Saints (10-5) could be playing the Bucs for a playoff berth if the San Francisco 49ers (10-4) win Monday night’s game with the Atlanta Falcons.

All the Saints need is a win to qualify for the postseason, but they can also get in with two 49ers losses or a loss by the Arizona Cardinals (10-5). The Saints hold the tie-breaker over both teams.

Despite Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Saints can still win the NFC South and the NFC’s No. 2 bye on Sunday. That would require the Panthers to lose to the Falcons, in a game that will begin at noon CST, and the Saints to beat the Bucs.

Saints RB Sproles says Goldson tried to hurt him

Saints running back Darren Sproles said Tampa Bay Bucs safety Dashon Goldson tried to hurt him when he delivered a helmet-to-helmet blow to Sproles in the second quarter of Sunday’s game.

Speaking with reporters after Thursday’s practice, Sproles said, “He tried to hurt me on the play. … But he didn’t, so it’s all good.”

Sproles, who was trying to catch a pass from Drew Brees when he was struck, said Goldson’s history shows he “tries … a lot of dirty hits. But that’s football, though.”

Sproles comments echoed those of Brees, who spoke out Wednesday after the one-game suspension Goldson was given Monday for repeated violations of NFL safety rules was overturned. He was fined $100,000 instead.

Goldson was also fined $30,000 in Week 1 for a hit on New York Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland. The unnecessary roughness penalty Goldson drew for striking Sproles was his fifth since 2011.

Meanwhile, Bucs safety Ahmad Black told Tampa reporters he was fined $21,000 for a late hit on Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Black hit Graham as he was being tackled from behind by a defender after an incomplete pass.

BACKING VACCARO: Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro said he received words of support and  more from many fans after he was fined $7,875 last week for his Week 1 hit against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

Vaccaro was penalized and subsequently fined for hitting Ryan, who gave himself up by sliding down after scrambling for a first down.

“A lot of fans reached out on Twitter,” Vaccaro said Thursday. “Some said they would pay it for me. I don’t know if they would have, but I couldn’t let anybody do that. It was my fine, but it means a lot for them to back me up like that.”

PRACTICE REPORT: The Saints had only one change on Thursday’s practice report as defensive end Glenn Foster (ankle) was limited after not working Wednesday.

Not participating for the second straight day were RB Mark Ingram (toe), G Jahri Evans (hamstring), S Roman Harper (knee), NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf), DE Tom Johnson (hamstring) and S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle).

DE Tyrunn Walker (knee) was limited again Thursday as the Saints continued preparing for Sunday’s game with the Arizona Cardinals.

FITZGERALD SITS: Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald did not participate in practice for the second straight day on Thursday.

Fitzgerald has a hamstring injury that limited his snaps in Sunday’s 25-21 win against the Detroit Lions.

Also not practicing Thursday were LB Kevin Minter (hamstring) and RB Rashard Mendenhall (toe). Minter, a rookie, is a former LSU player.

TE Rob Housler (ankle) was limited.

ARIANS GETS HIS CHANCE: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is getting his first shot as a full-time head coach after going 9-3 a year ago, which earned him NFL Coach of the Year honors, when Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano was being treated for cancer.

The 60-year-old Arians was on the Saints’ staff in 1996, coaching tight ends for Jim Mora.

“I never thought I’d have the opportunity to be a head coach, and to be able to go back to the places I was an assistant at is always very special,” Arians said of returning to New Orleans on Sunday.

“He’s done a great job offensively wherever he’s been,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Clearly, in his role last year in Indianapolis, he did a fantastic job and is well deserving of a head coaching job.”

FAMILIAR FACES: In addition to cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu and linebacker Kevin Minter, who all played at LSU, the Cardinals have three coaches with Baton Rouge ties.

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell was the head coach at Southern University (2010-12), while quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens (2000) and offensive line assistant Larry Zierlein (1993-94) are former LSU assistants.

EARLY ARRIVAL: Saints quarterback Luke McCown and wife, Katy, welcomed the arrival of their sixth child — a girl they named Leah Denise — last Saturday morning.

The baby was due on Oct. 1, but called an audible and arrived just a few hours before the Saints’ chartered plane departed for Tampa.

JONES TO APPEAR: Former Saints cornerback Reggie Jones will make an appearance at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum before Sunday’s game from 10-11:15 a.m.

Admission to the museum, located at Gate B on the Plaza level of the Superdome, is free to ticket holders for three hours before and 45 minutes after each home game.

Saints, Bucs endure long weather delay

TAMPA, Fla. – Just minutes after starting Sunday’s game under a sunny Florida sky, the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Bucs found themselves in a weather delay that lasted 1 hour and 9 minutes.

As the Saints neared the end of an opening drive that resulted in a 44-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley, the sky southeast of Raymond James Stadium turned dark blue and a bolt of lightning flashed over the east upper deck — sending fans scrambling for cover.

After the ensuing kickoff, referee Bill Leavy announced the game was being suspended and sent both teams to their respective locker rooms just as a heavy rainstorm began to move into the area.

According to Saints’ public relations officials, the last time a game involving the Saints was affected by weather was a Sept. 4, 1971 preseason game with the Philadelphia Eagles in old Tulane Stadium. Lightning forced officials to call the contest with 33 seconds to play in a 34-0 Eagles’ win.

FAST START: After a 16-14 win over the Bucs, the Saints are 2-0 for the first time in three seasons and only the ninth time in the franchise’s 47-year history.

It’s the fourth time in Sean Payton’s seven-year tenure that the Saints have started a season with back-to-back wins. They also did it in 2006, his first season with the team, and in 2009 and ’10.

The other five times it happened were in 1988, ’91 and ’93 under Jim Mora, 1998 under Mike Ditka and 2002 under Jim Haslett.

BAD PLAYS: The second quarter was a disaster for the Bucs’ defense, which picked up three personal foul penalties — two in a span of three snaps — for helmet-to-helmet hits.

The first was against defensive end Adrian Clayborn on a sack of Drew Brees, which wiped out a fumble recovery by the Bucs, and safeties Dashon Goldson and Ahmad Black were also flagged for banging into Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham, respectively.

Goldson was fined $30,000 in last week’s season opener for a hit on a defenseless receiver.

TOON INACTIVE: Wide receiver Nick Toon, the fourth wideout on the field in the season opener with the Atlanta Falcons last week, was inactive for Sunday’s game.

Toon replaced wide receiver Robert Meachem, who had been signed by the Saints just five days before the game with the Falcons, on the inactive list.

Toon did not have a reception in the 23-17 season-opening win against the Falcons.

INACTIVES: The Saints’ other inactives were NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf), DE Tyrunn Walker (knee), DE Glenn Foster (ankle) S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle), T Terron Armstead and RB Khiry Robinson.

Among the Bucs’ inactives were G Carl Nicks (foot) and CB Michael Adams (knee).

Nicks, a former Pro Bowl pick for the Saints, returned to practice on a limited basis this week after being sidelined a month with a staph infection. Adams, a former UL-Lafayette standout, had surgery on his knee this week.

INJURIES: For the Saints, DE Tom Johnson left the game in the first quarter after grabbing his right hamstring on a 13-yard scramble by Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman. … CB Patrick Robinson was carted off early in the third quarter with an injury to his right leg. Before being taken off the field, Robinson’s leg was immobilized with an inflatable cast.

JENKINS, GALETTE START: The Saints had two new starters on defense for Sunday’s game as rookie John Jenkins replaced Bunkley at nose tackle and Junior Galette started for Parys Haralson at outside linebacker.

It was the first career start for Jenkins, who was the second of two third-round draft picks for the Saints this spring.

LAGNIAPPE: Saints free safety Malcom Jenkins had an interception off Freeman in the third quarter. Jenkins’ first NFL interception as a rookie in 2009 also came against Freeman in Raymond James Stadium. … The Saints are now 8-4 at RJS since the teams were placed in the NFC South in 2002. … Bunkley, a Tampa native, is a graduate of Chamberlain High School — which is located five miles from the site of Sunday’s game. … Ex-LSU and Bucs defensive tackle Booger McFarland, who hosts an afternoon radio show in the Tampa area and does some work for Sirius XM NFL Radio, was in the press box covering the game.

Saints WR Nick Toon among inactives for game with Bucs

TAMPA, Fla. – Saints wide receiver Nick Toon, who was the fourth wideout in last week’s game with the Atlanta Falcons, is one of the team’s seven inactives for today’s game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Toon replaced wide receiver Robert Meachem, who had been signed by the Saints just five days earlier, on the inactive list. Toon did not catch a pass in the 23-17 season-opening win against the Falcons.

The Saints’ other inactives are NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf), DE Tyrunn Walker (knee), DE Glenn Foster (ankle) S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle), T Terron Armstead and RB Khiry Robinson.

Not dressing out for the Bucs are CB Michael Adams (knee), G Carl Nicks (foot), TE Tom Crabtree (ankle), RB Peyton Hillis, DE William Gholston, DE Steven Means and QB Dan Orlovsky.

Nicks, a former two-time Pro Bowl pick for the Saints, returned to practice on a limited basis this week after missing a month of training camp and the regular-season opener last week with a staph infection.

Saints’ Harper, two others added to injury report

Saints coach Sean Payton and Bucs coach Greg Schiano on Friday issued their final injury reports for Sunday’s game in Raymond James Stadium.

The Saints added three more players to the report on Friday, including strong safety Roman Harper. He did not practice Friday with a knee issue and is listed as questionable for Sunday.

Also added to the Saints’ list were defensive ends Akiem Hicks (knee) and Tom Johnson (foot). They were limited in practice and are listed as questionable for Sunday.

Here is the complete final injury report for Sunday’s game:

SAINTS

Out: DE Tyrunn Walker (knee), NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf), S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle).

Questionable: S Roman Harper (knee), DE Akiem Hicks (knee), DE Tom Johnson (foot), DE Glenn Foster (ankle), CB Corey White (illness), CB Jabari Greer (back), CB Patrick Robinson (foot).

Probable: LB Curtis Lofton (knee), LB Martez Wilson (elbow), LB Junior Galette (hamstring), WR Marques Colston (foot), T Zach Strief (neck), G Jahri Evans (back).

BUCS

Out: CB Michael Adams (knee), TE Tom Crabtree (ankle).

Questionable: G Carl Nicks (foot), CB Rashaan Melvin (hamstring).

Probable: DE Adrian Clayborn (hip), RB Erik Long (calf).

Saints’ Payton returning to scene of sideline accident

After his season-long suspension a year ago, Saints coach Sean Payton will be walking the sideline in Raymond James Stadium on Sunday for the first time since fracturing his leg there in an Oct. 16, 2011 game with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Payton had to undergo surgery after he fractured his leg and tore the medial collateral ligament in a sideline collision with three players — including Saints tight end Jimmy Graham — on the third play of that game.

Payton’s leg was pinned underneath Graham when he and two Bucs defenders all rolled out of bounds after a catch by Graham.

Payton tried to call plays from the bench while watching the game on the stadium’s Jumbotron for the remainder of the first half, which quarterback Drew Brees said was challenging, and eventually turned the duties over to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.

Brees said he can now chuckle about what happened when Payton tried to call plays off what he was seeing on the Jumbotron rather than from his usual spot on the sideline.

“I haven’t even thought about that to be honest with you, the fact that we are going back to Tampa — the scene of the crime,” Brees said Wednesday. “He was in extreme pain and he goes over where the offensive linemen sit and he’s sitting with his leg propped up calling plays from the Jumbotron.

“All of a sudden, the field flips and we are no longer going the way he was looking. So as he’s looking at the hashes everything is flipped around. There were times when he would start a play and it was the wrong hash and I’d flip it. But he hung in there as long as he could to stay with us.”

PRACTICE REPORT: Five players did not participate Thursday as the Saints continued to prepare for Sunday’s game.

Not working for the second day in a row were DE Tyrunn Walker (knee), NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf) and S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle). DE Glenn Foster (ankle) and CB Corey White (illness) were also out.

Limited were LB Curtis Lofton (knee), CB Jabari Greer (back) and CB Patrick Robinson (foot), while LB Martez Wilson (elbow) and LB Junior Galette (hamstring) were among those practicing fully.

ADAMS OUT: Bucs cornerback Michael Adams, a former UL-Lafayette standout, did not practice Thursday and was listed as out by coach Greg Schiano.

Also not practicing was TE Tom Crabtree (ankle), while G Carl Nicks and DE Adrian Clayborn (hip) had limited participation.

HITTING A HUNDRED: The 23-17 win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was the 100th as an NFL starting quarterback for Brees.

Brees, who is in his 13th season, is now 100-70 as a starter with the Saints and San Diego Chargers. Brees was 30-28 with the Chargers and is 70-42 with the Saints in the regular season.

JUMPING VINNY: With 357 yards against the Falcons, Brees now has 46,276 passing yards in his career — moving him past Vinny Testaverde (46,233) and into seventh place on the league’s all-time list.

In two or three games, Brees will pass Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, who piled up 47,003 yards in his career, and into sixth on the all-time list.

THOMAS’ MILESTONE: Saints running back Pierre Thomas went over the 3,000-yard mark in rushing for his career in Sunday’s game against the Falcons when he picked up 43 yards on nine carries.

Thomas, a seven-year veteran who made the team as an undrafted free agent, now has 3,017 rushing yards for his career. That has him in seventh place on the club’s all-time list, just 113 yards behind Ricky Williams (3,129).

VACCARO DRAWS FINE: Even though it won’t officially be announced until Friday, Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro was fined by the NFL for his late hit on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in Sunday’s game.

Ryan scrambled for a first down in the first quarter and was in the process of sliding to the turf when Vaccaro came up and made the hit. Vaccaro was fined $7,875 by the league.

Five Saints held out of Thursday’s practice for Bucs

Five players did not participate in the Saints’ practice on Thursday as they continued to prepare for Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Bucs in Raymond James Stadium.

Not working for the second day in a row were DE Tyrunn Walker (knee), NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf) and S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle).

They were joined on the sidelines by DE Glenn Foster (ankle) and CB Corey White (illness). Foster was limited in Wednesday’s practice, but White was able to participate.

Limited for the second straight day were LB Curtis Lofton (knee), CB Jabari Greer (back) and CB Patrick Robinson (foot).

LB Martez Wilson (elbow), WR Marques Colston (foot), LB Junior Galette (hamstring), T Zach Strief (neck) and G Jahri Evans (back) all had full participation in practice.

Saints’ Payton credits Falcons’ defense with stopping run

Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday that at least part of his team’s inability to run the ball effectively during Sunday’s game with the Atlanta Falcons can be attributed to the Falcons’ defense.

Even though they won 23-17, the Saints’ halfback rotation of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles netted just 78 yards and a 2.7 average on 29 carries after they averaged just 98.6 yards a year ago. Ingram, a third-year pro, was held to 11 yards on nine attempts.

“We had some tough looks,” Payton said of the Falcons’ defense. “I think, by and large, that’s something we talked about just improving on in general. I wouldn’t point at one player.

“More than anything else, there were some plays there where we had some decent gains and some plays that weren’t as good. That’s something we’ll continue to work on.”

On Tuesday, Payton was asked during an appearance on Pro Football Talk Live if the low numbers are a reflection on Ingram or the rushing game in general.

“It’s a good question because we try to look at that and make sure that, ‘Hey, is this the right play or player?’” Payton said. ‘“Did he have a chance?’ One weak-side lead play, he slips on the turf and gets a minus-2 where we think it’s well blocked.

“So that’s something I’m sure he’s frustrated with. Then, there’s a  run or two where it’s tough for any of our backs.”

GETTING DEFENSIVE: It was only one game, but the Saints have something different to show for their efforts on defense against one of the better offenses in the NFL in Sunday’s win against the Falcons.

After giving up an NFL single-season record 7,042 yards and allowing 440.1 yards per game last season, the Saints gave up just 367 yards to the Falcons.

That ranks them 18th in the league after one week. They’re also 19th against the run and 20th against the pass after giving up 88 and 279 yards, respectively, Sunday.

BUCS’ NICKS RETURNS: Carl Nicks, a former Saints’ All-Pro guard who missed the season opener with a staph infection in his foot, had limited participation in Wednesday’s practice for the first time since contracting the infection in August.

Bucs coach Greg Schiano said he doesn’t know when Nicks will return to the lineup after missing the second half of last season with a toe injury.

“He did some things, so that’s good … that’s more than he has done,” Schiano said. “This is really going to play out as a day-to-day thing. We’ll figure it out at the end of the week.”

PRACTICE REPORT: Only three players didn’t participate for the Saints in Wednesday’s practice as DE Tyrunn Walker (knee), NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf) and S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle) were held out.

Walker and Bunkley were both injured in Sunday’s game.

LB Curtis Lofton (knee), CB Jabari Greer (back), CB Patrick Robinson (foot) and DE Glenn Foster (ankle) all had limited participation.

For the Bucs, CB Michael Adams (knee) and TE Tom Crabtree (ankle) did not work, while Nicks, CB Rashaan Melvin (hamstring) and RB Erik Long (calf) were limited.

OLSEN WAIVED: The Saints reached an injury settlement with guard/center Eric Olsen, who had a foot injury in the preseason, and waived him after he was put on injured reserve on Aug. 31.

Olsen was signed by the Saints at the end of the 2011 season and played in all 16 games a year ago. He made four starts while lining up extensively as an extra tight end, but played mostly on special teams.