It was not the normal Tuesday at the New Orleans Saints training facility as the team had to get right back to work following their 28-13 win over the Philadelphia Eagles Monday night. The message was clear as the team convened in the morning that the win was nice but that the team still has room to improve and must do so quickly in preparing to face the undefeated (8-0) Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta has won close games and won games handedly this season as their defense is much improved from a year ago and the Falcons offense has been able to use the run and pass. “They’re playing with great confidence,” Vitt says. “I just know this, every time we play them when we've had undefeated teams going in there, we’ve had real good teams going in there, it’s always come down to the last play or overtime to win the game. It’s always been a hard-fought contest. Both teams have great pride but they are the better team so far this year. We’re chasing them.”
The two rivals will do battle in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at noon on Sunday.
It came on the second play of the Saints first drive of the game. The dome started to stir as they there lining up behind quarterback Drew Brees was running back Chris Ivory. He was all alone in the backfield which means there was a very good chance it was going to be a run. Tight end Dave Thomas then false started and off the field came Ivory.
Fans would have to wait until the Saints second drive of the game and it came in the second quarter when on the first play of that drive Ivory ran off the right side for a gain of 9 yards. The dome exploded. Fans have called sports talk shows, tweeted, posted, took to message boards all wondering when and what it would take to see Ivory again.
Ivory has been a fan favorite since rushing for 716 yards back in 2010.
Staying healthy however has always been a concern as he only played in six games last season mainly due to injury. This year however no injuries just no game time which prompted Ivory to tell reporters he was frustrated but was a team player. Ivory said he would patiently wait his turn. That patience paid off six plays after his first carry of the season as he again went off the right side this time for 22 yards and a touchdown. Needless to say the Who Dats went nuts in between telling anyone who would listen “I told you so.” Ivory finished the night with 48 yards on 10 carries.
No doubt those fresh legs of having not played this season helped. “He should. I should look well rested after coming off a seven-week suspension. He should,” Vitt smartly answered a reporter who asked if the rest helped his performance. “I have said this all along, we like Chris Ivory. We know what Chris Ivory can do. He is one of those backs that can combine power and speed and elusiveness. He is doing a better job with ball security. He understands our run game. He understands some pre-snap reads now, so we like Chris. It was good to get.”
Ivory could once again be used as part of the game plan as the Falcons defense are 14th in the league at stopping the pass but 24th in stopping the run.
Sunday morning’s news that the NFL voided Sean Payton’s contract as head coach of the New Orleans Saints has led pretty much every Saints fan or media member that covers the team to offer up an opinion one way or another. The one common thread for sure is the Dallas effect.
Jones himself however could be a reason though Payton doesn’t bolt for Big-D just yet. Jones has not only been the owner of the team also the general manager. Dallas has won just two playoff games since the team’s last Super Bowl appearance back in 1995. In fact, since 1997 the Cowboys are 123-124.
While Payton isn’t the Saints general manager, he and Mickey Loomis have a very good working relationship and share a common view of the direction the franchise should go. Jones has been scrutinized for being too involved with his team and Tuesday on his radio show on KRLD-FM he put to bed however any shot of someone else being the team’s general manager. “We are not structured that way,” Jones said. "We didn't structure it that way with my ownership. There's no way that I would be involved here and not be the final decision-maker on something as important as players, and that is a key area. That's never been anybody's misunderstanding. It's been a debated thing, but it's just not going to happen."
That’s not saying he wouldn't be willing to share those duties or really listen if say a Sean Payton were to be involved which is why Saints fans are concerned. Following the game on Monday night, assistant head coach Joe Vitt was asked about the Payton contract story. “This team loves Sean, and Sean loves this team. This city loves Sean, and Sean loves this city. I think that’s a tough combination to beat.”
Tuesday when asked again about the contract tried to make sure he got his point across this time. “I haven’t seen the report, I have only heard speculation of what the report is,” Vitt said. “I want to say this again so hopefully I am not asked about this question again, our football team loves Sean Payton. Sean Payton loves this football team. Sean Payton loves this city and this city loves Sean Payton. That goes a long way. That’s what I know. I don’t understand anything about a contract being voided, who made the report, where did the report come from, is there accuracy in the report or are we just selling ratings.”
While the veteran coach clearly was letting reporters know he wanted no part of the story, he was asked he had talked to the team about Payton’s contract being voided. “So we’re getting ready to play the Philadelphia Eagles on a Monday Night Football game and you think I want to address that to the football team? No,” said Vitt. “Sean would be very disappointed if I did. We’re in the business of winning games, not spreading gossip.”
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was back at the training facility today for the first time since the regular season started. Loomis had to serve an eight-week suspension for his role in the bounty scandal.
Loomis is now back being well the general manager so will things change now that he is back in the building? “Yes, I am going to become the General Manager and he is going to go out there with a whistle and practice the team,” Vitt said jokingly. “How is it going to change? No. He manages and I coach, nothing changes. He comes back and is the leader of our organization.”