Talk of the demise of Saints, Brees and Pay­ton may have been pre­ma­ture

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY MARK MASKE

Per­haps Sean Pay­ton, Drew Brees and the New Or­leans Saints aren’t quite done yet.

It has be­come fash­ion­able lately to call the Saints’ run of suc­cess fea­tur­ing Pay­ton and Brees over. There has been re­cent spec­u­la­tion that other NFL teams could pur­sue Pay ton af­ter this sea­son for to-be-va­cant coach­ing jobs and at­tempt to per­suade the Saints to let him out of the re­main­der of his con­tract in New Or­leans. There has been talk that Brees, at age 36, no longer is ca­pa­ble of be­ing a top quar­ter­back.

All of that might turn out to be true. By sea­son’s end, it might be time for the Saints to con­sider mov­ing on and start­ing over. But on Thurs­day night, at least, they put such no­tions on hold and knocked the At­lanta Fal­cons from the ranks of the NFL’s un­beaten teams with a 31-21 tri­umph at the Su­per­dome.

The Saints en­tered the game with a record of 1-4. They were 8-13 since the start of last sea­son. They were com­ing off an ugly ,22- point de­feat at Philadel­phia last Sun­day. There was lit­tle rea­sonto sus­pect they had such a spir­ited per­for­mance in them.

“Ev­ery time out, you want to win,” Brees said in a postgame in­ter­view with CBS, which car­ried the game. “But ob­vi­ously com­ing home af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing loss last week, kind of the sit­u­a­tion we’ve been in early on in the sea­son, we needed a win like this against a very good op­po­nent, an un­de­feated Fal­cons team.

“The team re­ally came to­gether and played great tonight in all three phases. Can’t say enough about our de­fense. They did a phe­nom­e­nal job — got a bunch of take­aways, which was big time. Of­fen­sively we were able to sus­tain drives, get points when we needed to. Cer­tainly I think we left a few out there still. But that’s some­thing to build on.”

The Saints still have a long climb back to re­spectabil­ity. But Brees, who missed a game ear­lier this sea­son be­cause of an ail­ing throw-

ing shoul­der, was back to his old, pro­duc­tive self Thurs­day, con­nect­ing on 30 of 39 passes for 312 yards and a touch­down.

Vet­eran tight end Benjamin Wat­son did a pretty good im­per­son­ation of Jimmy Gra­ham, the once-pro­lific pass catcher traded to Seat­tle in the off­sea­son. Wat­son had 10 catches for 127 yards and a touch­down. He prob­a­bly would have had an 11th catch and a sec­ond touch­down if Brees had not zipped a throw too high to­ward Wat­son late in the first half for an in­com­ple­tion.

“That’s my guy,” Brees told CBS. “Prob­a­bly one of the great­est team­mates you could ever ask for. He’s a phe­nom­e­nal worker. He’s a great leader, a great per­son. He’s a great fam­ily man. He’s every­thing you want in a team­mate. I look up to him so much. It mo­ti­vates me and in­spires me ev­ery day. For him to have a night like tonight was fan­tas­tic. I wish I could have brought that ball down a lit­tle bit for him in the two-minute drill be­cause he would have caught that and scored.”

The Fal­cons have been one of the league’s most pleas­ant sur­prises in the early go­ing this sea­son, but they gave a sloppy per­for­mance Thurs­day in Dan Quinn’s first loss as an NFL head coach. They lost three fum­bles. They al­lowed quar­ter­back Matt Ryan to be sacked five times. They sur­ren­dered a first-half touch­down on a blocked punt.

When they pulled to within 24-14 early in the fourth quar­ter on a touch­down run by tail­back Devonta Free­man, an­other Fal­cons come­back seemed pos­si­ble. Four of their five vic­to­ries this sea­son have come in games in which they over­came fourth-quar­ter deficits. But the de­fensec­ouldn’ t get the stop that At­lanta needed.

The Fal­cons area good team that should stay in the thick of the NFC play­off race all sea­son. But they aren’t an NFC heavy­weight on even foot­ing with Green Bay or Ari­zona, at least at this point. That much was ev­i­dent Thurs­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.