ST. LOUIS -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton took an unprecedented step to try and stop the bleeding during his team's 27-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. He yanked left tackle Charles Brown out of the starting lineup -- something no one could remember Payton having done before.
"I saw enough. I saw enough, period," Payton said. "It was enough penalties, pressures, sacks. It was enough. At some point you can't just keep watching it. Feelings get hurt, it is tough."
Brown had been decent this year in his first year as the Saints' full-time starter. Certainly some highs and lows -- but nothing to this extent. He was burned repeatedly Sunday by Rams end Robert Quinn -- one of the top defensive players in the league this year.
Quinn beat Brown on the first play of the game, hitting quarterback Drew Brees and forcing an interception. Later, Quinn also sacked Brees twice (once forcing a fumble). Brown also was penalized twice (once for holding, once for illegal hands to the face).
Brown politely declined comment after the game. Teammates showed faith in him, though.
"I don't recall if it's happened before or not. I know this, we'll rally behind Charles," Strief said. "You can't … I personally don't judge a guy by one game, by a half. Coach Payton does what he thinks is best for this team, and we're 100 percent behind whatever it is that he chooses. Yet at the same time, it's our responsibility as a group to lift those guys up and to perform when your number's called."
"I've got a lot of confidence in Charlie Brown. And he had a tough day," Brees said. "But I've got a ton of confidence in Zach Strief, and really that entire group. So Bryce Harris comes in and does a great job. I've got a lot of time on task with all those guys. I've got a lot of confidence in all those guys."
Payton didn't indicate whether he'll make a permanent switch at left tackle. "I don't think now is the time to discuss it," he said.
Beyond that, the Saints will ultimately have to make an even greater decision on Brown's long-term future since he's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. But that will obviously be a decision for a later date.
Brown, 26, who had battled injuries throughout his first three NFL seasons, has started every game this year. He wasn't perfect, but he was solid -- especially in recent weeks. Before Sunday, Brown had allowed between five and 6.5 sacks on the year, depending on the statistical service. And he had been flagged for six holding penalties (three declined) and two illegal hands to the face penalties.
St. Louis has proven to be a nightmare destination for Brown. He allowed two sacks at St. Louis in 2011 and suffered what turned out to be a season-ending injury, calling it the worst game of his pro career earlier this week.