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John DeShazier: Key takeaways from Coach Sean Payton's Monday teleconference

Hightower earned his carries

A few items of note from New Orleans SaintsCoach Sean Payton'sMonday teleconference:

  1. It's pretty obvious that Tim Hightower'sperformance Sunday against Seattle – 26 carries for 102 yards, as the primary running back after Mark Ingramlost a fumble for the second time in as many weeks – likely earned the veteran more carries in the immediate future. Hightower's season high in carries (five) and yards (39) had been in the previous game, against Kansas City. "Yeah, definitely," Payton said. "He's someone that I think has been a consistent performer for us since he's gotten healthy. Each week, we look at the opponent and we'll look at the game, and how we want to distribute the touches. That's always a challenge for the position. But it was good to see him go in there and play well."
  1. Hightower's production doesn't signify that Ingram will be packed away for the final nine games. "I think it was really the way Tim began running (that kept Ingram sidelined Sunday)," Payton said. "The ball security was such an important part of playing those guys. The intention at the beginning was not to not return (Ingram). But we just felt the way Tim was running, he was getting into a pretty good groove and that's the way it unfolded. We'll see each week. Mark's got an important role with our team and our offense."
  1. The current run of three victories in four games matches the Saints' best run of last season; twice, they were able to win three-of-four in 2015. "I think we've had pretty good time of possession, I think offensively we've done pretty well on third downs," Payton said. "That's helped us play a complimentary game. Conversely, defensively, our numbers in those wins have been good. Our ability up front to hurry the quarterback or apply some pressure to the quarterback has helped as well. I think there's a back and forth that can take place between the offense and defense, and it's important that we complement each other."
  1. For the first time since the regular-season opener against Oakland, the projected starting offensive line was intact. While center Max Unger, right guard Jahri Evansand right tackle Zach Striefhave started each game, left tackle Terron Armsteadand left guard Andrus Peathave nursed injuries and missed time. Peat played left tackle for a stretch during Armstead's absence, and Senio Kelemetesubbed in for Peat at left guard. "I think there's some really good bright spots (from Sunday's game)," Payton said. "We were able to establish the line of scrimmage. There are some areas still that we'll want to clean up but I think we'll have that opportunity with that group together. But overall, our pass protection was good. There were a number of times where Drew(Brees) was able to get to the second or third target."
  1. A determination will be made later this week on whether rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankinswill be active for Sunday's road game against San Francisco. It's the first game for which Rankins will be eligible to play after being placed on injured reserve when he broke his fibula during training camp. He progressed well and Payton said he doesn't know that there have been any restrictions.
  1. Word leaked on Sunday that the Saints and Dolphins will play in London next season, with Miami being the home team (the Saints will retain all eight home games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome). New Orleans last played in Wembley Stadium in 2008, when it beat San Diego 37-32. "It's always better if it's someone else's home game. Our experience, having been over there once, was you get a real good fan base of all sorts of teams, so it becomes a little bit more of a neutral game, if you will. But I think we gain something going over there. As an organization, it gives you a chance to bring your team closer together and also, a chance to bring the organization closer together. Our experience was good. The way we handled the itinerary and how we practiced in preparing for that game ended up working out well. Obviously, when you win the game your recollection is a positive experience."
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