Saints taking critical look at first win
METAIRIE, La. (AP) The New Orleans Saints are taking a critical look at their first victory of the season.
While they're relieved they've finally won after a pair of close loses to open the season, they're not entirely happy with how they played in their home opener against Minnesota.
''Obviously a ton of stuff to keep working on and I don't think anyone is satisfied with how the game ultimately unfolded, and yet we're happy with the win,'' right tackle Zach Strief said. ''Nobody is celebrating. Nobody's patting themselves on the back.''
New Orleans' next test comes back on the road this Sunday night at Dallas. When the Cowboys, who've won two straight, review the Saints' latest performance this week, they'll see the Vikings keeping Drew Brees and Co. from scoring throughout the entire second and third quarters.
Indeed, Minnesota was in position to retake possession, down only four points, at the end of the third quarter on Captain Munnerlyn's third-down sack of Brees, but an unnecessary roughness penalty gave the Saints a first down.
The drive continued until Brees found Marques Colston for a touchdown.
''You're looking to see where we're deficient, what do we need to improve on,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday, after reviewing video of the game. ''There's a lot of room for us to get better. I say that in a positive way.''
New Orleans' defense was far more effective against Minnesota than it had been against Atlanta or Cleveland, allowing just 247 yards and three field goals. Yet Minnesota was missing star running back Adrian Peterson, while quarterback Matt Cassel left the game with a broken foot early in the second quarter.
''Our coach always says that when you win, all our mistakes don't get amplified as much,'' Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro said. ''They get downplayed.''
Defensively, the Saints also have been looking to produce more turnovers, but have not created on since their lone forced fumble in Week 1.
''We've got to come together as a unit and figure out how we're going to get takeaways,'' safety Jairus Byrd said.
Byrd, who had 22 interceptions in his first five NFL seasons, noted that opponents have seemed reluctant to throw deep, reducing chances for him to make plays on balls in the air.
''I've got to figure out how teams are attacking us and how I can affect that and create turnovers, whether it's interceptions, forced fumbles, whatever,'' Byrd said. ''If teams aren't taking shots, you've got to kind of adjust your game and figure out opportunities when they present themselves.''
Payton said increased turnovers usually results from doing other things well, such as pressuring quarterbacks and getting multiple tacklers to ball carriers.
''I don't think you can just hand out a tip sheet and say we need more takeaways,'' Payton said. ''The better question is: All right, how do we create more takeaways? And there are a lot of things that go into that.''
Still, Payton seemed pleased by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's effort to simplify his scheme, recognizing that some of his more complex calls weren't getting the desired results because of players botching assignments.
''It needs to be clear, it needs to be simplified. With that, you reduce variation and you reduce the variables that go into execution,'' Payton said. ''I thought Rob and the staff did a good job.''
Offensively, Payton wants to see the Saints maintain the type of third-down and red zone efficiency they had against Minnesota. The Saints converted nine of 13 third downs and might have scored touchdowns on all three trips inside the Minnesota 20 had they not chosen to run out the clock in the final instance.
And while the Saints' 108 yards rushing and 3.4 yards per carry were not spectacular, Payton liked that the Saints were able to run well while running out the clock.
''I was happy we were able to finish the game running the football (and then) taking a knee, because that's often times challenging in our league,'' Payton said.
Notes: Payton did not provide any update on the status of C Jonathan Goodwin, who hurt his left ankle Sunday. The coach did say Tim Lelito, Goodwin's replacement during the game, ''settled in and did some good things'' following his errant first snap in shotgun formation.
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