Tag Archives: Eagles

Saints’ Thomas tops list of inactives for playoff game

PHILADELPHIA – There are no big surprises among the inactives for the Saints for Saturday night’s wild-card playoff game with the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field.

Saints coach Sean Payton listed running back Pierre Thomas as out for the game after Thomas missed practice all week with a chest injury that he sustained week against the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Linebacker Keyunta Dawson, who was added to the injury report on Friday with a calf injury that he’s been dealing with for more than a month, is also inactive.

The other inactives are safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, defensive end Tyrunn Walker, wide receiver Nick Toon, cornerback Terrence Frederick and quarterback Ryan Griffin.

For the Eagles, only one player — center Julian Vandervelde (back) — is inactive because of injury.

The other inactives are wide receiver Damaris Johnson, cornerback Curtis Marsh, safety Keelan Johnson, tackle Dennis Kelly, running back Matthew Tucker and quarterback Matt Barkley.

Johnson is a native of Norco who played at Destrehan High School.

Saints recall first playoff win under Sean Payton against Eagles

Over the past eight seasons, the most-tenured Saints coaches and players have been a part of eight big postseason games — most notably a win in Super Bowl XLIV.

But those who were around for Sean Payton’s first season in 2006 will tell you their first playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 13, 2007 was a pretty big one.

In a way, that 27-24 divisional round win against the Eagles, whom the current Saints face in the wild-card round on Saturday night in Lincoln Financial Field, set the stage for things to come.

Running back Deuce McAllister put the team on his back that night and scored two touchdowns while rushing for 143 yards to spark the franchise’s second playoff win, sending them to the NFC title game against the Chicago Bears — which they lost 39-14.

“That was the biggest game of all of our careers at the time,” quarterback Drew Brees recalled. “There were a lot of guys that had come from different places. I know we were kind of labeled as castaways and a lot of (other) things.

“Coming here was a fresh start for a lot of us,” he said. “To have that opportunity, then to host the divisional round game and to beat Philly in the fashion we did and have an opportunity at the NFC championship, those are all great memories.”

HELLO AGAIN: Saturday night’s game with the Eagles will actually be the third postseason matchup with that franchise for the Saints.

The Saints previously dropped a 36-20 decision to the Eagles, also in the Superdome, in a wild-card game following the 1992 season.

The Saints, who won 12 games that year, led 20-7 in the third period before the Eagles stormed back to win and advance to the divisional round.

It would be eight more years before the Saints reached the playoffs. That year, in 2000, they picked up their first postseason win in the 34th year of the franchise’s existence.

DOING IT WITH ‘D’: In order to advance to the divisional round against the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks, the Saints will somehow have to at least slow down the Eagles’ up-tempo offense.

Unlike last season, the Saints have been more than adequate on that side of the ball under first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who’ll be coaching in the playoffs for the first time.

The Saints allowed the fewest yards (305.7) and points (19.0) per game in the Payton era and also had the most sacks (49). The sacks total is the most for the franchise since they had 53 in 2001.

Previous bests under Payton were 306.3 yards and 19.2 points — both in 2010 — and 38 sacks in 2006.

PRACTICE REPORT: Only one Saints player missed practice Thursday as running back Pierre Thomas did not participate for the second straight day with a chest injury he sustained in Sunday’s game withTampaBay.

Safety Rafael Bush, who played Sunday after missing three games with a high ankle sprain, was limited Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s workout.

For the Eagles, the only player to miss practice was guard Julian Vandervelde (back).

STILLS FINED: After drawing a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration after Lance Moore’s 44-yard scoring catch in their win against the Bucs, Saints rookie Kenny Stills was fined $7,875 by the NFL.

Moorereplicated a skit from a Comedy Central show that features a football player named Hingle McCringleberry and his unique touchdown celebration.

Stills arrived seconds afterMoore’s touchdown and closely watched the act. As game officials looked on, Stills pulled his towel out and pretended to penalizeMoorelike in the skit.

“They got me because I threw my towel like a (penalty) flag,” Stills said. “They saw the skit (on TV) and asked me about it. They were laughing, so it was fun.”

GOING BACK: Saints All-Pro guard Jahri Evans and outside linebacker Junior Galette will be going back “home” when the Saints face the Eagles.

Evans grew up just down the street from the Philadelphia Sports Complex that houses Lincoln Financial Field and later starred at nearby Division II Bloomsburg State.

Galette played his first three seasons atTempleUniversity, which plays its home games in Lincoln Financial Field, before being dismissed from the team after the 2008 season. He finished his college career atStillmanCollegeinAlabama.

“It’s very ironic that I’ll be playing on the same field that I played on for three years withTemple,” Galette said. “I can’t wait to get up there and eat a cheesesteak (sandwich). But it’s not about me, it’s about getting this win for this team.”

TANKING UP: At least five players found large plastic gas cans in their lockers Wednesday, an old trick Payton has used before to remind them to make sure they have fuel left in the tank for the playoffs.

Among the players who got them were Brees, Moore, wide receiver Marques Colston, nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley and linebacker Parys Haralson.

Haralson, who is new to the team this season, acted like he didn’t know the meaning of the can when reporters asked about it.

“What does the can mean? You tell me,” Haralson said. “It depends on how you look at it, but it’s a ‘don’t-run-out-of-gas-league.’”

JUST VISITING: Former Saints offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who left last January to become the Chicago Bears’ offensive coordinator, visited with some of his old friends Thursday at the Saints’ training facility inMetairie.

Kromer was in town to watch his son, Zak, serve as a student-coach forOklahomain the Sugar Bowl on Thursday night. Zak Kromer, who played wide receiver and was a long snapper at Mandeville High, is a sophomore who works with the quarterbacks under Sooners offensive coordinator Jay Norvell.

CHANGING THEIR LUCK: WhenNew Orleans native and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen president Ralph Bower heard that Saints players believed eating his company’s fried chicken on the team plane might solve their recent road doldrums, he acted swiftly.

He arranged to help personally deliver 100 three-piece meals with sides of red beans and rice to the team as it boards its chartered flight Friday afternoon toPhiladelphia.

“When you just look at our brand, we wear our pride about where we came from on our sleeve,” said Bower, grew up in Uptown and used to sell parking spaces at his house when the Saints played in Tulane Stadium.

Saints must cut down on road turnovers against Eagles

Much has been said — and certainly will be said the rest of this week — about the Saints’ road woes going into Saturday night’s playoff game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

After crafting the NFL’s best road record from 2009 through their first two road games of this season at 23-11, the Saints went off the track in dropping five of their last six games away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Part of the reason for their 1-5 mark, since winning atTampaBayin September andChicagoin early October, is giveaways.

While only three teams had fewer turnovers than the Saints, with 19 in 16 games, 10 of them came in road losses to New England, the New York Jets,Seattle,St. LouisandCarolina.

Those 10 turnovers were converted into 41 points, which is big since they lost those games by a combined 51 points — making ball security in a win-or-go-home playoff game more crucial. Six of the 10 turnovers came in the first half.

“If you can score points and get a lead, that’s great,” Drew Brees said. “One of our things is we really haven’t started fast on the road. That’s something certainly we can improve on, something we are focusing on.

“I definitely say there’s something with momentum on the road, especially when you’re in a hostile environment,” he said. “Don’t give them a reason to get excited … don’t give their fans a reason to stand up and get crazy.”

GETTING READY: As they normally do for a road game during the regular season, the Saints worked on their outdoor grass fields Wednesday to prepare for an outdoor game on the natural turf at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Saints worked on the field for the first time since clinching their playoff spot with Sunday’s win against the Tampa Bay Bucs.

“We got a lot of good work outside on the grass,” coach Sean Payton said. “We did some of the teaching progression to start off in the walkthroughs and then moved it outside. I thought today was pretty smooth.”

IT’S COLD UP THERE: The Saints are also preparing for the wintry blast that thePhiladelphiaand most of the East Coast is expecting Thursday.

As of Wednesday night, the forecast called for 3 to 5 inches of snowfall for Thursday and another inch Friday when a high temperature of 19 is expected.

On Saturday, the high will be 32 with temperatures dropping to the mid- to upper-20s by game’s end.

“We’ve played in cold weather before, we’ll get used to it,” said Payton, whose team is 2-7 when the temperature is 40 or below at kickoff. “Our guys will be able to adapt to it. We have a lot of players who have played in cold climates in college.”

CATCHING ON: The Saints are usually more concerned about wind, which could play havoc with their second-ranked passing game and Brees’ ability to get the ball to his targets.

That’s important because the Saints had four players with 70 or more receptions this season, which is the first time that’s happened in NFL history.

Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham had 86 receptions, while running back Pierre Thomas had a career-high 77 catches. Wide receiver Marques Colston (75) and running back Darren Sproles (71) rounded out the group.

They accounted for 309 of Brees’ 446 completions and 3,275 of the team’s 5,162 gross passing yards.

PRACTICE REPORT: The only Saints who did not participate in practice Wednesday were running back Pierre Thomas (chest) and safety Rafael Bush (ankle).

Payton usually doesn’t discuss injuries, which made it unclear if Bush, who returned last Sunday after missing three games, suffered a setback with his high-ankle sprain or was just resting it.

For the Eagles, guard Julian Vandervelde (back) and safety Earl Wolff (knee) did not practice.

ROSTER MOVE: The Saints waived safety Eric Frampton, who was signed on Dec. 18, and promoted linebacker Kyle Knox from the practice squad.

They also signed defensive back Eddie Whitley to the practice squad to take the spot vacated by Knox.

BREES, STILLS NOMINATED: Brees is a candidate for the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week award and Stills is up for the Pepsi Next NFL Rookie of the Week honor.

Fans can vote for both at www.NFL.com until Friday morning.

Saints’ Ingram, Ivory get more playing time with Sproles out

NEW ORLEANS — With running back Darren Sproles out with a broken left hand, the Saints were forced to go deep into their stable of halfbacks for Monday night’s game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sproles is out indefinitely, which gave more carries to Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory. Meanwhile, Sproles’ kickoff return duties were handled by rookie running back Travaris Cadet with wide receiver Lance Moore dropping back on punts.

ROBINSON’S SPARK: After a shaky start for the Saints’ run defense, cornerback Patrick Robinson provided a much-needed spark for his team with an interception off Michael Vick and 99-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

It was the first defensive touchdown of the season for the NFL’s 32nd-ranked defense and also was the first of Robinson’s three-year career.

The 99-yard interception return tied the club mark set by free safety Darren Sharper in a 24-10 victory over the New York Jets on Oct. 4, 2009.

COLSTON MOVES UP: Saints wide receiver Marques Colston caught a 1-yard scoring pass from Drew Brees with 1:13 to play in the second quarter, which moved Colston into second place on the club’s all-time list with 54 touchdowns.

Colston, who set the franchise record for receiving touchdowns in a victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs on Oct. 21, broke a tie with running back Dalton Hilliard and moved to within one score of Deuce McAllister’s club mark of 55 touchdowns.

BREES’ STREAK: With the short scoring toss to Colston, Brees extended his NFL-record streak with at least one touchdown pass to 51 consecutive games.

Brees broke Johnny Unitas’ all-time record with a touchdown pass in 47 straight games in the Saints’ last home game against the San Diego Chargers.

INACTIVES: In addition to Sproles, the Saints inactives were WR Courtney Roby (shoulder), LB David Hawthorne, DE Turk McBride, CB Elbert Mack, DT Tyrunn Walker and T Bryce Harris.

Inactives of note for the Eagles were G Danny Watkins (ankle), WR Mardy Gilyard (hamstring) and S Nate Allen (hamstring). Watkins is the Eagles’ starting right guard.

INJURIES: For the Saints, DE Junior Galette injured an ankle in the first quarter and did not return, but X-rays were negative. … Also, DT Brodrick Bunkley left with an undisclosed injury in the second quarter, but returned. … T Zach Strief left with a groin injury in the third period and didn’t return.

Eagles’ RT Todd Herremans limped off in the first quarter and didn’t return.

LAGNIAPPE: The Saints have won 12 consecutive games and 14 of their last 15 games played in the month of November. Their last loss in that month was on Nov. 30, 2008. … The Saints are 10-2 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football since that network took over that time slot in 2006. … Center Matt Tennant, a 2010 fifth-round draft pick of the Saints, is the Eagles’ backup center. He was waived by the Saints at the end of training camp. … The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Pride of Acadiana Marching Band provided the halftime entertainment Monday night.

Saints’ Sproles to miss Monday night game with broken hand

The Saints’ 32nd-ranked rushing offense took another hit Friday when interim coach Joe Vitt revealed that running back Darren Sproles has a broken hand and will not play in Monday night’s game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sproles was absent from practice for a second straight day Friday, one day after Vitt said he missed practice with a hand injury. But he did not elaborate on the severity of the injury.

When Vitt was asked about Sproles during his daily news conference Friday, he said that he has a broken hand and gave no timetable for his return although he will be re-evaluated next week.

The loss of Sproles is a blow to the Saints’ running game, which nets just 72.6 yards per game, as well as the passing and return games.

A versatile scatback who set an NFL single-season record with 2,696 all-purpose yards in 2011, Sproles is the team’s third-leading rusher with 117 yards and a 4.5 average and is the second-leading receiver with 39 catches for 323 yards and four TDs.

He also averages 6.6 yards per punt return and 28.7 yards per kickoff return.

Rookie running back Travaris Cadet will likely get a chance to return punts and kickoffs even though wide receiver Lance Moore could also get a shot on punts.

Running back Chris Ivory, who has been a healthy inactive for five games and has not played in the two games he was active for, could be in line to get his first carry of the season behind Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram.

Saints’ Vitt says don’t expect schematic changes on defense

METAIRIE Even though they’re on pace to give up an NFL-record 7,595 yards — which would be about 800 more than the 1981 Baltimore Colts — don’t expect drastic changes from the Saints’ defense.

It may not be what fans want to hear from a unit that’s allowed 474.7 yards per game and has given up 400 yards in each of its first seven games, but interim coach Joe Vitt said it’s much too late to make sweeping changes as the Saints approach the midway point of the season.

Vitt said there will be new wrinkles here and there, but it’s impossible to implement a scheme and work on it throughout the offseason and training camp and then make a change halfway through the season.

“If you have dramatic changes and you have erratic changes, that’s when panic sets in,” Vitt said Thursday as the Saints began preparing for Monday night’s game with the Philadelphia Eagles. “If you put panic in, the players can smell the house burning before the match is ever lit.

“We’ve got to play better, we’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to execute better. That being said, if we think we can do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, that’s the definition of insanity. … But we’re not going to rewrite the playbook.”

STILL A SAINT: The trade deadline came and went Thursday with the Saints not making any deals, which wasn’t totally unexpected.

There was speculation they might try to move running back Chris Ivory because he has not played this season and was a healthy inactive for five of seven games as the fifth halfback on the depth chart.

“There was going to be a decision made if I was going to be here, or if I was going to be somewhere else,” Ivory said when asked if he was surprised to still be with the Saints. “It was out my hands and I’m still here today.”

Vitt said Ivory had a good practice Thursday.

“Chris Ivory is ready, he’s prepared to play,” he said. “He practiced well today, so we’ll see where this leads us. We like Chris Ivory.”

PRACTICE REPORT: The Saints may have to rely on Ivory for the first time this season in the game with the Eagles as running back Darren Sproles did not participate in Thursday’s practice because of a hand injury.

Vitt did not elaborate on Sproles’ specific injury or its severity.

Wide receiver Courtney Roby (shoulder) also did not practice, while linebacker David Hawthorne (hamstring) and wide receiver Joe Morgan (chest) had full participation after being limited last week.

ROSTER MOVE: The Saints did make one roster move Thursday as they terminated the contract of veteran tight end Daniel Graham and signed wide receiver Greg Camarillo.

Graham injured his knee last week and didn’t play Sunday night against the Denver Broncos. Camarillo has been signed and released three times since initially joining the team in training camp.

RUNNING GAME WOES: According to the latest NFL stats, the Saints, who rank 32nd in the league with just 72.6 yards per game, are being out-rushed by five backs who have played the same number of games.

Houston’s Arian Foster (659 yards), Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles (595), Denver’s Willis McGahee (554), Baltimore’s Ray Rice (524) and Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller (523) all have more yards than the Saints’ team total of 508.

SANDY’S AFTERMATH: After going through Hurricane Isaac in late August, Saints backup safety Isa Abdul-Quddus’ family went through a similar situation earlier this week when Hurricane Sandy plowed into the northeast.

Abdul-Quddus grew up about 10 miles from Hoboken, N.J., which experienced severe flooding from the storm surge from Hudson River.

“There wasn’t a lot of rain around my way, but the wind knocked the power out,” Abdul-Quddus said. “My folks still don’t have any, but they’ve gone to stay with family friends that have.”

Advocate sportswriter Ted Lewis contributed
to this report.

Saints-Eagles Scouting Report

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

TV/RADIO: ESPN/WTGE (100.7-FM), WWL-AM (870-AM, 105.3-FM)

RECORDS: Eagles, 3-4; Saints: 2-5

LAST WEEK: Eagles lost to the Atlanta Falcons, 30-17; Saints lost to the Denver Broncos, 34-14.

COACHES: Eagles, Andy Reid, 14th season (139-94-1); Saints, Joe Vitt, 2nd season (4-8)

NFL RANKINGS

Offense (league rank in parentheses)

Points: Eagles, 17.1 (t28); Saints, 27.1 (6)

Total yards: Eagles, 363.4 (17); Saints, 388.6 (8)

Rushing: Eagles, 117.7 (10); Saints, 72.6 (32)

Passing: Eagles, 245.7 (15); Saints, 316.0 (1)

Defense (league rank in parentheses)

Points: Eagles, 22.1 (16); Saints, 30.9 (30)

Total yards: Eagles, 339.6 (12); Saints, 474.7 (32)

Rushing: Eagles, 110.4 (17); Saints, 170.1 (31)

Passing: Eagles, 229.1 (14); Saints, 304.6 (30)

KEY PLAYERS

Eagles: QB Michael Vick, RB LeSean McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Trent Cole, MLB DeMeco Ryans, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Saints: QB Drew Brees, WR Marques Colston, TE Jimmy Graham, MLB Curtis Lofton, FS Malcolm Jenkins, P Thomas Morstead.

EAGLES SCOUTING REPORT

Offense: They’re sputtering badly, scoring more than 20 points just twice so far. Michael Vick, who’s been sacked 20 times, has committed 13 turnovers, which has Andy Reid mulling a change to rookie Nick Foles. Vick, however, does have the ability to hurt defenses and the Eagles have big-time players in running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Defense: Even though they rank 12th in total yards allowed, Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo two weeks ago. They’re also around the middle of the pack in rushing defense and passing defense as well as points allowed. Their high-priced secondary was torched for some easy scores Sunday, giving them concern going into a game with Drew Brees.

Special teams: While kicker Alex Henery has been solid in hitting 12 of 13 field-goal attempts and punter Mat McBriar averages 49.1 yards per kick, the Eagles haven’t distinguished themselves in kick returns and coverage. They net just 5.6 yards per punt return and 20.2 yards on kickoffs, while allowing 12.3 and 27.0 yards, respectively.

EAGLES FACTS

The Eagles have only one Louisiana native on the active roster — backup tackle Demetress Bell. … Chalmette native and former Saints assistant Bobby April is the special teams coordinator and his son, Bob, serves as his assistant. … Former LSU player and strength coach Barry Rubin is in his third season as the Eagles head strength and conditioning coach. … The Eagles have scored just seven points in the first quarter this season. … The Eagles lead the all-time series in the regular season, 15-10, with the teams splitting their two playoff meetings.

Compiled by Sheldon Mickles

Saints’ offense drops five spots in NFL rankings

Monday night’s matchup between the Saints and Philadelphia Eagles in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will bring together two teams a lot of people thought would be much better than they are when the season started.

As October turns to November, however, both the Saints (2-5) and Eagles (3-4) find themselves with their backs to the wall, facing a must-win situation to keep their seasons afloat.

Both teams will be looking for bounce-back performances this week after the Saints dropped a 34-14 decision to the Denver Broncos, while the Eagles fell to the Atlanta Falcons, 30-17.

The Saints struggled on both sides of the ball against the Broncos.

Their offense dropped five spots in the NFL rankings to eighth after picking up a season-low 252 yards. The defense didn’t drop because they couldn’t and remain last in the league in allowing 474.7 yards a game after the Broncos piled up 530 yards.

Here are the pertinent numbers for Monday night’s matchup (NFL rank in parentheses):

SAINTS

Offense: Total yards, 388.6 (8); rushing, 72.6 (32); passing, 316.0 (1); scoring, 27.1 (6).

Defense: Total yards, 474.7 (32); rushing, 170.1 (31); passing, 304.6 (30); scoring, 30.9 (30).

EAGLES

Offense: Total yards, 363.4 (17); rushing, 117.7 (10); passing, 245.7 (15); scoring, 17.1 (t28).

Defense: Total yards, 339.6 (12); rushing, 110.4 (17); passing, 229.1 (14); scoring, 22.1 (16).