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John DeShazier: Takeaways from Coach Sean Payton's Monday teleconference

Running game, time of possession in Saints favor second quarter of season

Saints players celebrate their Week 9 victory over the 49ers in San Francisco.

A few snippets from New Orleans SaintsCoach Sean Payton'sMonday teleconference:

  1. As one might suspect, there has been a noticeable difference in the Saints' performance from the first quarter of the season (1-3) to the second (3-1). "No. 1, I think we're rushing the football more efficiently," Payton said. "And our time of possession, ball-security numbers – those, I think, are better. And I also think, when you look at the snaps defended – when I talk about that offensive and defensive complimentary game – I would be willing to bet the considerable number of snaps we defensed in Weeks 1 through 4, that number would be higher than 5, 6, 7, 8. So that time of possession, all of the other things kind of fall in place there as well."
  1. As Payton noted, a big part of the improvement in the running game – 22 carries for 104 yards against Kansas City, 35 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown against Seattle, and a Payton-era high 248 yards and two touchdowns on 42 carries against San Francisco. The Saints haven't had to veer away from the ground game because of the score. "We've been in different type of games than the first quarter of the season," Payton said. "You fall behind, it's a little bit more difficult to do. There's been a good balance and I think our players have fed off that, too."
  1. Second-round picks Michael Thomasand Vonn Bellwere expected to contribute as rookies, and they haven't disappointed. Both are entrenched as starters, with Thomas (a receiver) leading the Saints in receptions (57) and receiving touchdowns (five), and second in yards (573), and Bell (a safety) fifth with 38 tackles, as well as a forced fumble, fumble recovery and half-sack. The former college teammates from Ohio State came from a competitive environment. "There's that level of competition and expectation," Payton said. "I think, not only the major-college level, but the winning environment which they have has helped them, I'm sure."
  1. The Saints are plus-4 in the turnover ratio, among the league leaders (tied for sixth). Of their 13 takeaways (nine fumble recoveries, four interceptions), nine have occurred in three games (four against San Francisco, three against San Diego and two against Carolina). When turnovers have occurred, they've seemingly come in bunches. "It's certainly something that they believe and understand," Payton said. "They know and they recognize the significance of possessions in an NFL game and when there's one turnover, you add and you minus and you just do the math. That's why that statistic is so telling. That was good to see the takeaways (against the 49ers) and the security on the other side (no turnovers against San Francisco)."
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