Saints revert to old ways against Ravens

Published 7:37 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2006

There was an overriding theme to new Saints coach Sean Payton’s approach to turning around a 3-13 team.

Smart, hustling, mistake-free football would overcome deficiencies in talent and make New Orleans competitive, maybe even winners.

That theme played out well until the Saints (5-2) hosted the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

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Even though New Orleans managed wide advantages in several statistical categories, the Saints never challenged on the scoreboard in a 35-22 loss.

“This was the worst we played this season from a mistake standpoint,” Payton said after reviewing game film Monday at the Saints training headquarters. “I don’t think it was because they didn’t give effort. You can give effort and still be offsides or still be called for pass interference or still fumble the football and throw interceptions.

“All that being said, it just takes you down. Your effort goes to waste,” Payton continued. “They’ll see that today and we’ll make the corrections, but I think it’s always disappointing when you have those things come up and you’re trying to preach and coach and eliminate those things.”

New Orleans outgained Baltimore 403 yards to 293 and Drew Brees threw for a career-high 383 yards.

But as is often the case when a team gains 100-plus yards more than an opponent and still loses, turnovers, penalties and a failure to execute critical plays cost the Saints dearly.

“The way I look at that is, it should have been 500 (yards passing) and we should have scored about six touchdowns as opposed to three,” Brees said. “They’re a solid defense. They’ve been that way for a long time. But we got a lot of big plays on them. … I look to that as just blown opportunities on our part that would have made that game a lot closer.”

New Orleans turned the ball over five times on four interceptions and a fumble. Four of the turnovers resulted in Baltimore touchdowns. Two Ravens scores came on interceptions deep in Saints territory that were returned for easy touchdowns and two others capped drives that followed the fumble and another interception.

While the Saints lost by about two touchdowns, there three New Orleans drives inside the Baltimore 20-yard line that ended with no points. One stalled on an interception thrown by running back Reggie Bush in the end zone and two on incomplete fourth-down passes as the Saints tried to come back.

The series of plays that led to Bush’s interception seemed to set the tone for the game in the first quarter. A long pass to rookie Marquess Colston — who had two touchdowns and seems to play well whether the Saints win or lose — helped get to the Saints to the 8-yard line. Then came a 5-yard penalty for 12 men in the huddle, followed by a false start penalty.

Suddenly the Saints were on the 18, and Payton found himself resorting to a trick play that fizzled when Bush overthrew Colston in the end zone.

“If I just took all the drives we scored field goals or touchdowns on, generally the one thing those drives have in common is that they come without any blemishes,” Payton said. “Maybe there’s a penalty and you overcome it, but when there is a penalty, it’s hard then in that drive to score points.”

Saints linemen last week had predicted that Baltimore’s confusing array of defensive schemes and blitzes would challenge them, but Saints center Jeff Faine did not believe he and his teammates were either unprepared or intimidated.

“Those false starts were inexcusable mistakes,” Faine said. “It definitely was uncharacteristic of our team. We usually play pretty smart and usually don’t make many mental mistakes and turn the ball over, but that’s something we did yesterday.

“What I told the team after the game is I think we’re a good team. I’ve been on plenty of bad teams. We’re a good team that just had a bad game,” added Faine, who came to the Saints from Cleveland.

New Orleans also had won with a good balance of running and throwing this season. But falling behind by three touchdowns in the first half rendered that approach futile. The Saints ended up running the ball only 14 times for 35 yards, and three of those were scrambles by Drew Brees.

Bush ran for 16 yards and Deuce McAllister 11. In all but the Saints’ only other loss, at Carolina, the pair combined to surpass 100 yards on the ground. “At some point in the season everybody kind of has a game like this or faces adversity like this. So this is something that obviously we’re not taking lightly, but we understand that this is part of the game sometimes,” Brees said.

“After coming in and watching the film today I want to play (Baltimore) again. I don’t walk away from this going, ’Man glad this is over,”’ Brees continued. “We’re going to learn from this. We’re going to be stronger because of this. This has happened to us for a reason and it’s just to wake us up a little bit and say, ’Hey, you’ve got to be ready every week, no matter who you’re playing, no matter where you’re playing them.”’

• Also, Reggie Bush said his left ankle injury against Baltimore was more of a re-aggravation of a sprain that occurred in Week 1 at Cleveland — something he expects to keep playing with as he has all season.

“I’ll be ready for Tampa,” Bush said Monday between meetings and treatment at the New Orleans Saints’ training headquarters.

The sprain is “something that’s kind of been lingering since that first game and hasn’t been 100 percent since,” Bush said. “I’ve just been kind of playing through it. … It just kept getting better and better every week, and I got to the point where I was feeling pretty good, and now I’m right back to the point where I started.

“But even then I was able to play through it, so it’s really just a matter of me taking care of it,” Bush said. Bush, a Heisman Trophy winner in college and the second overall pick in last spring’s NFL Draft, left the Saints’ 35-22 loss to Baltimore on Sunday in the fourth quarter after being tackled by Bart Scott, who rolled over Bush’s lower legs as the two spun down.

Bush said he was unsure how the pain would affect his practice schedule and that he would follow the orders of coaches and trainers.

“In Reggie’s case we’re in pretty good shape,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Everything’s clean in the X-ray and the MRI.”

Bush has been effective much of this season both running and receiving, getting clutch first downs that have helped sustain scoring drives, but he has rarely broken off big gains.

His only touchdown was a crucial one, however, coming on a 65-yard, late-game punt return that lifted the Saints (5-2) to a victory over the Buccaneers three games ago. The Saints meet the Bucs again Sunday..