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Quarterback Derek Carr drives productive second halves for New Orleans Saints offense

'We've made good corrections and just self-critiquing at halftime'


Obviously, Derek Carr wants to start games faster, as do his New Orleans Saints offensive teammates.

The plan isn't to trudge but to strike quickly, and that had been an emphasis for the Saints even before this week, when New Orleans (2-0) will face the Packers (1-1) on Sunday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

But while New Orleans has been slow to warm offensively in first halves this season, scoring just 12 points on four field goals, the Saints and their quarterback have cooked much better in the second, scoring 24 points and all three of their touchdowns.

Carr has led that charge, and it has been a tale of two halves for him and the offense: he has completed 26 of 46 passes (57 percent) for 244 yards and no touchdowns, with two interceptions and seven sacks in the first half, and has blistered the second half while completing 18 of 23 passes (78 percent) for 289 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions and one sack.

"We make good corrections," Carr said Wednesday. "I hate saying it, because you want to be so on it, like we have been in the last two second halves, all the time. But we've made good corrections and just self-critiquing at halftime.

"A little rusty on some things and making a dumb decision there or a bad throw there. And it's like, 'Guys, we're going to get it corrected. I'm going to do this, you guys do this and we'll do that.' For me, there was a moment with the receivers where we made a little correction at halftime and, boom, we go in the second half and those three or four plays were big plays for us.

"Hopefully, we're getting to the point now where we can just come out and start fast. Big emphasis on starting fast in practice early in the week. Getting your body back, you want to start fast early in the week and finish strong. We had a great day today, hopefully that leads to starting faster and more efficiently as an offense. But our coaches and our players have great adjustments at halftime, which shows that we know what to do and we can win, but hopefully we can just clean it up from the get-go."

The halftime conversations don't have to be long, Carr said, in order for them to be effective.

"There's definitely time where you're sitting there, and it's a quick conversation," he said. "It may be on the way to the bathroom. But there's things where things are going through your head, your process of years of experience, coaches telling you something and you're having those conversations.

"There's a good five- to seven-minute window where there's time to talk and, 'Hey, this is what I'm going to do better, this is what I'm going to do in this half, y'all do this and I'm going to do this and let's be better together.' And our guys have done a good job of making those corrections so far."

Coach Dennis Allen said the slow starts partly can be credited to the caliber of defenses New Orleans has faced in Tennessee and Carolina.

"I don't think there's one particular factor that goes into it," Allen said. "I think we've played a couple of pretty good defenses the first couple of weeks of the season.

"I really look at it, I'd say, particularly (Monday night) and even in the Tennessee game, I felt like there were some times where we moved the ball. (Monday night) we had a couple of drives, long drives that got the ball down in the red zone, we kind of stalled out there. I think that's an area that we've got to improve in offensively, in being able to come away with touchdowns and not have to settle for field goals in those situations.

"But I think our offense is going to continue to get better as we keep going throughout this season, I feel good about where we're at."

The Saints had drives of 65 and 51 yards in the first half against the Panthers, resulting in Blake Grupe field goals of 28 and 23 yards. Against Tennessee, a 67-yard drive stalled and resulted in a 26-yard field goal.

In the second half, with the adjustments, the Saints have capitalized and cashed in several chunk plays – a 45-yard pass to Chris Olave in the third quarter and a 41-yarder to Rashid Shaheed in the fourth quarter of the season opener, and a 42-yard hookup with Olave in the third quarter and a 45-yarder with Shaheed in the fourth quarter Monday night.

Carr said it takes time and strategy to set up deep passes.

"We hit Mike on a 'go' ball, we hit Chris on a 'go' ball," he said. "And that same question: 'Why can't we hit Rashid on one?' It's like, bro, we just threw two. They're not going to give you 30 of them.

"There's a lot that goes into it, and a lot that's set up. We threw a couple of quick games (against Carolina) , just trying to feed that a little bit, feed it in the third quarter, feed it a little bit early in the fourth. All of a sudden, boom, perfect timing. There's a flow when you're a play- caller, that you just can't rush something. I thought (offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael) called it at the perfect time."

The perfect time, in another near-spotless second half.

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