New Orleans Saints will focus on themselves during bye week

Les East, The Sports Xchange
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton reacts during the first half of a game against the Baltimore Ravens on October 21 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton reacts during the first half of a game against the Baltimore Ravens on October 21 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints will open their post-season prospects Jan. 13 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

If the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles win at Chicago this weekend they will return to the Superdome, where the Saints whipped them 48-7 on Nov. 18.


If the Bears win, the No. 1 seed Saints will host the winner of the other wild-card game that features Seattle at Dallas. The Cowboys beat the Saints 13-10 on Nov. 29 in Arlington, Texas, and the Saints and Seahawks did not face each other this season.

So New Orleans, which lost to Carolina 33-14 on Sunday in the Superdome to finish 13-3, will spend its bye week focusing on itself as it practices Wednesday and Thursday before taking the weekend off and learning of its next opponent.

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"The focus is improving ourselves," head coach Sean Payton said Monday. "It is not at all anything to do with opponent driven. With the way we played yesterday and some of the things that we've done offensively recently, our focus is going to be strictly on Saints and the fundamentals and techniques we need to improve on. We've got a lot of things we want to improve on and this week gives us a chance to do that."


The Saints played without five offensive starters Sunday, including quarterback Drew Brees and running back Alvin Kamara, who were given the day off to avoid the risk of injury. But even prior to Sunday, the offense had been less productive in the past month than it was earlier in the season.

As for the defense, it was at full strength Sunday and allowed the Panthers' offense, which was being run by rookie third-string quarterback Kyle Allen, to score 24 points on its first four possessions.

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"There are things there that are very fixable, things that can be corrected," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "You get excited about that because you know you've got a week to work just worrying about yourself, get back to the basics, get back to fundamentals, technique, the things that got us to these 13 wins. We'll grind it out this week and we'll go from there."

The Saints didn't appear to suffer any significant injuries Sunday and the break could allow offensive linemen Terron Armstead, Larry Warford and Jermon Bushrod, who were held out of Sunday's game because of injuries, to return for the playoff opener.


New Orleans hopes the added preparation time helps it regain the form it showed during a 10-game winning streak between a season-opening loss to Tampa Bay and the loss to Dallas.

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"No one-seed guarantees you nothing, except you host a playoff game," Rankins said. "For us it's business as usual. It's football. The only difference is it's obviously a sudden death tournament.

"We'll go out there and play as hard as we played every game and attack each team the way we've attacked each team. We'll rest knowing that if we go out there and execute the way we know we can execute, we'll have a chance to win every game."



QB Drew Brees failed to extend an NFL-record streak but secured another record while he sat out Sunday's game. His record streak of 12 consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards came to an end. Brees was just eight yards short of the milestone but watched from the sideline as Teddy Bridgewater ran the offense. On the other hand, Brees' completion percentage stayed at 74.4, which surpassed the NFL record of 72.0 that he set last season.



RB Dwayne Washington's 108 rushing yards were a career-high for the three-year veteran as he matched his season-high for carries. His most productive previous game came against Chicago when he carried 16 times for 64 yards as a rookie with Detroit.


WR Michael Thomas broke the Saints record for receiving yards in a season, finishing with 1,405. That surpassed the 1,399 yards that Joe Horn had in 2004. His 125 catches were the fifth most in NFL history.


DE Marcus Davenport, the Saints' No. 1 draft choice, finished the season with 4.5 sacks, the most for a New Orleans rookie since Will Smith had 7.5 in 2004.


LB Manti Te'o was active for the first time in nine games and made five tackles.

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