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Saints Waste Little Time and Start Prepping for Eagles

    <span style="">On the heels on their most lopsided opening day win in the team's 43-year history (45-27), the Saints (1-0) returned to work this morning as the prepare for what will likely be one of the marquee match-ups in the NFL this week against the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0).  

New Orleans, sporting a clean 1-0 record for the second straight season, must endeavor to clean up some spotty issues across the board in order to see improvement this week said Head Coach Sean Payton.

Despite the dominating performance from both the offense (515 yards of offense; 6 touchdowns; 7.5 yards per play average) and defense (231 total yards allowed; 4.0 yards per play allowed), Payton was particularly galled by the Saints' three turnovers (one interception and two lost fumbles) and spotty play from special teams (blocked field goal and two long returns against on special teams).

"They're fixes," Payton stated this afternoon. "After the big kickoff return we gave up and Malcolm (Jenkins) made a great play to come back and make the tackle and defensively we held them to a field goal, it took that to where all of a sudden the next time we covered two kicks really well. There isn't one guy to where you sit here and say 'Hey' – it's a series of playing the down hard and playing the correct technique and trusting the technique that we're coaching. Even some of our core guys on special teams – and I said in the team meeting that if you're making this roster and coming to the games a special teams core player, then you need to excel in that area. There were some things that we just didn't do consistently and when that happens and there are some integrity lapses, that ends up hurting you and it did yesterday."

The Saints' players received the message loud and clear from their head coach and position coaches this morning and clearly understand the importance of cleaning up the mistakes as they prepare to venture into one of the most hostile venues in the league on Sunday. To compound matters, the Eagles' were absolutely dominant in their 38-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte yesterday.

"We had a lot to look at and quite a few things that we need to clean up," said starting outside linebacker Scott Fujita, who tied for the team-high yesterday with seven tackles. "We looked at it and understand where the breakdowns were. We've put that game in the rear view mirror and moved on. Our focus is on Philly at this point. We talk about wanting to be considered an elite team in the league, well, this week we are playing a team that certainly falls into that category. It's going to be a great test here right off the bat."

The Eagles forced seven turnovers and relentlessly blitzed the Panthers quarterbacks throughout the afternoon and had the Panthers on their heels throughout the afternoon. In fact the Philadelphia defense harassed Panthers QB Jake Delhomme so much that he was pulled in the third quarter of the game. Eagles linebacker Chris Gocong said, "The combination of hitting him, and him (Delhomme) throwing a couple picks, it seemed like he got a little streaky. We kind of got him on his heels a little bit. It was a tough day for him."

On the other side of the coin, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was on his toes all afternoon, tossing a club-tying six touchdowns passes and guiding the team to a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. The Saints' signal-caller hit eight different receivers with passes on the afternoon for a combined 358 yards in passing yardage and helped Mike Bell and the Saints' rushing game churn out 157 yards on the ground for a highly-respectable 4.5 rushing average.

Equally as importantly, the Saints' defense was downright stringy, as they allowed a scant 33 yards on the ground on 20 carries for a 1.7 rushing average with the longest rush coming on a nine yard carry. The Black-and-Gold pass coverage was also strong, surrendering 205 yards, but intercepting Lions' rookie Matthew Stafford three times and dropping him with one sack. The Saints were not overly blitz happy, as defensive coordinator Gregg Williams mixed and matched the defensive looks with regularity and kept Stafford off balance all afternoon. The Lions' lone big play on offense came via a 64-yard catch and run to star receiver Calvin Johnson early in the third quarter after he broke a tackle cutting across the middle of the field and took the ball inside the Saints' five yard-line. If that play is subtracted, the Lions averaged only 2.9 yards per play on 57 plays. Regardless, the play led to a Stafford one-yard run and pulled the Lions to within 11 points of the Saints' lead at the time (28-17), something that caused some moments of anxiety in the Superdome.

Philadelphia offers their own deep threat in the passing game in the form of second-year wide receiver Desean Jackson, who also doubles as the team's punt return specialist and ripped off an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown yesterday. The Eagles ground game pounded their way to 185 yards on the ground yesterday and feature the ever-dangerous Brian Westbrook in the backfield and impressive rookie running back LeSean McCoy.

"They can hurt you a lot of different ways," said safety Darren Sharper. "They are the furthest thing from a one dimensional team as could be. They pass it well, they run it well and they play great defense and special teams. They are very solid across the board and offer a big, big test."

Of course the story of the week will most likely focus on the availability of seasoned quarterback Donovan McNabb. The veteran and ever-dangerous signal-caller suffered what Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid called a "broken rib," after getting hit by Panthers cornerback Richard Marshall as he crossed the Panthers' goal line to put the Eagles ahead 38-10 in the third quarter. Some reports have already listed McNabb as out, but Reid said the team would use the week to evaluate McNabb's status. Speaking at his Monday press conference, Reid said that McNabb is "going battle through [his injury] this week and we'll see how it goes."

"We will prepare for McNabb," Fujita said. "He's a tough guy and we have to expect that we will see him. If not, I guess it will be Kolb and we'll study him, as well. They are different guys but we trust what our coaches will prepare for us and it's up to us to study and get ready for the game."

Payton said that the Saints have to prepare for any options the Eagles have, but that he certainly understands the importance of McNabb to the Philadelphia offense. "It goes without saying that any team that loses its starting quarterback is different. I've seen McNabb for years now, having been in New York and Dallas and here we've played Philly three times with all three games in New Orleans. He's extremely important to what they do, he's a good leader, and we have a ton of respect for him. It's something that we really can't control. By Wednesday or Thursday we begin our practice for the Eagles and probably on Wednesday at this time won't know any more. It's something that we can't control, but if a team loses its starting quarterback, it's pretty significant. He's one of the top quarterbacks in the league I think and has been for the last six or seven years and when you look at their record over the last seven to ten years since he has been the starter, it's probably first or second in the NFC."

If McNabb does not play in the Eagles' home opener against the Saints, QB Kevin Kolb would likely get the nod, as current back-up Michael Vick serves the last game of his league-imposed suspension. The Eagles, on Monday, agreed to terms with a former player, Jeff Garcia, most recently of the Oakland Raiders, and before that, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Payton also spoke about Kolb and was asked to compare the third year quarterback from Houston to McNabb. ""It would be hard to compare someone to a guy like Donovan McNabb," Payton said. "You have years on tape of the offense and there are a lot of weapons there; a lot of talented players. Andy (Reid) and his staff and Marty (Mornhinweg) and those guys do a great job. It would be hard to draw a comparison from Donovan to Kevin. I think the biggest thing is paying close attention early in the week to the system and being on top of the personnel. They have a handful of people that have great speed; they have always moved the ball and been very good offensively. They have been a real good screen team. In our games here in '06 and '07, those games were well-fought. This is a big challenge for us."

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