Sunday, September 22, 2013
Locker Room Buzz: New Orleans Saints
By Mike Triplett
NEW ORLEANS -- Observed in the locker room after the New Orleans Saints' 31-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Welcome, Vaccaro: As expected, rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro's teammates tried to keep him humble after his first career interception in the fourth quarter. “Everybody said I’ve got to work on my return skills,” said Vaccaro, though he did manage to gain 29 yards on the runback. “I’m just glad I got the first one out of the way. So the next one I can get fancy with it, maybe.”
Second-year cornerback Corey White did mob Vaccaro on the field to celebrate his accomplishment, but that was news to Vaccaro after the game. “Is that who that was?” Vaccaro said. “I was like, ‘'Who is on top of me?’ I thought it was an Arizona guy congratulating me [since] he tackled me.”
Welcome back, Meachem: Receiver Robert Meachem's 27-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter wasn’t really anything new, since it was his 25th career TD catch as a Saint, including the playoffs. But Meachem admitted it was a terrific feeling for him. He had a tough 18-month stretch after leaving as a free agent last year to sign with the San Diego Chargers, where he struggled and was eventually cut this summer. And he said he’s felt like he’s “home” since re-signing with the Saints in Week 1.
Quarterback Drew Brees said coach Sean Payton actually foreshadowed Meachem’s touchdown on Saturday night when they were reviewing the game plan one last time. “Obviously there were a couple of shot plays in the game plan for Meachem,” Brees said. “And [Payton] said, ‘Hey, Meachem, when’s the last time you scored a touchdown? We’ve got to break the seal and get you back in the end zone.’ And sure enough, it happened on the first drive.”
Tough to watch: All-Pro guard Jahri Evans had to watch Sunday’s game from the sideline -- for the first time in his eight-year career. Evans was active, but only as an emergency option. He did not play because of a hamstring injury, ending his streak of 114 consecutive starts (which was tied for the third longest in the NFL). Evans said he’s hoping to return to the field as soon as next Monday night against the Miami Dolphins.
“It was good while it lasted,” Evans said of the streak. “But a win is more important. And playing as many games as I can in a season and over a career is more important. The question is, ‘Do I miss one or do I miss four?’”
Positive spin: Nobody was too down about the Saints’ run-game troubles against the Cardinals. In fact, there was some optimism about the way they finished the game with 76 rushing yards in the fourth quarter when they were trying to run out the clock. The Saints had a total of minus-6 rushing yards on four carries in the second half. But Payton said he’s not concerned. The Saints coach said that was a conscious choice to adjust to the heavy fronts they were seeing from the Cardinals.
Nevertheless, the Saints had five rushes that went for negative yardage Sunday (not including kneel-downs). And primary tailback Pierre Thomas gained just 17 yards on his first 10 carries. So the run game clearly remains a work in progress.
No Ingram: Saints tailback Mark Ingram, who was inactive Sunday with a toe injury, was not available in the locker room to address a pregame report that he may seek a trade in the coming weeks.