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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; http://www.nola.com/saints/t-p/index...3878091880.xml JUGGLING ACT CONTINUES Just as soon as the Saints' defense gets healthy, injuries begin to mount on offense Tuesday November 18, 2003 By Jeff Duncan Staff writer Mike McCarthy has called plays in 60 games as the Saints' offensive ...

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Old 11-18-2003, 12:05 PM   #1
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Just as soon as the Saints' defense gets healthy, injuries b

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JUGGLING ACT CONTINUES

Just as soon as the Saints' defense gets healthy, injuries begin to mount on offense


Tuesday November 18, 2003


By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer


Mike McCarthy has called plays in 60 games as the Saints' offensive coordinator.

He has never called a more problematic game than Sunday's 23-20 overtime win against Atlanta.

From one play to the next, McCarthy didn't know which 11 players were ready, willing or able. One minute his receiving corps was flush with starters. The next it resembled a M.A.S.H. unit. Right guard LeCharles Bentley started. Then left the game. Then came back. Then left again.

"We had people going in left and right," McCarthy said. "In the second half, I was looking in the huddle to see which receivers were in there to call plays. (Offensive line coach) Jack (Henry), (running backs coach) Dave Atkins and (receivers coach) Hubbard Alexander did a great job getting things sorted out on the sidelines."

The lengthy injured list Monday tempered the optimism sparked by Sunday's exhilarating, come-from-behind win, the Saints' fourth in the past five contests.

Most of the damage occurred on offense, particularly the perimeter group in the passing game.

Tight end Ernie Conwell fractured the fibula in his lower right leg in the first quarter and is out for the rest of the regular season.

Wide receiver Joe Horn is hobbled by a painful bone bruise in his left knee. The three-time Pro Bowler played sparingly against Atlanta and was limited to three catches for 21 yards.

Wide receiver Donté Stallworth has a twisted ankle. He left Sunday's game but returned down the stretch. Saints officials are confident Stallworth will play this Sunday at Philadelphia.

Horn's injury, which has bothered him for most of the season, has prevented him from practicing several times in the past three weeks.

Stallworth played for the first time in four weeks but was ineffective. He failed to make a catch.

"It was really hard calling the game," McCarthy said. "And the guy that is affected by it more than anybody is the quarterback."

It took Aaron Brooks and the rest of the offense a half to find its bearings. Drive after drive was short-circuited by dropped passes, sacks or penalties.

In the first half, Brooks completed 10 of 19 passes for 95 yards, was intercepted twice and sacked four times. In the second half and overtime, he completed 11 of 18 passes for 133 yards.

"It (the injuries) puts pressure on us, but, at the same time, we've still got a job to do," Brooks said. "It's tough as a perimeter group to keep that rhythm going. When your No. 1 guy gets 85 percent of the balls and a tight end that has been pretty solid . . . it's tough to replace those guys. But this is an opportunity for other guys to step up."

Third-year veteran Boo Williams will start at tight end against Philadelphia, Haslett said. Veteran Walter Rasby, a blocking specialist, and rookie free agent Zachary Hilton, who has been inactive for six weeks, also could play more.

"It's a big blow," McCarthy said. "Ernie has given us the consistency that we haven't had at the position. We're just going to have to play to the strengths of the other guys."

With Horn and Stallworth limited, Michael Lewis has gotten more playing time as the third receiver the past two games and has made the most of the opportunity. Against Tampa Bay and Atlanta, he made seven receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown.

"He's always been a dependable receiver," Brooks said. "Next to Joe, he's probably the most consistent, most reliable guy that we have out there. Not taking anything away from Jerome (Pathon) and Donté, but Michael does exactly what's asked of him."

The offensive line also has been hit hard. Bentley is day to day with a hyperextended left knee. Left guard Kendyl Jacox is out for two to three weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Monday. Left tackle Wayne Gandy has played the past month with a strained right hamstring.

"Some of the greatest careers in the National Football League originated on an opportunity to get to play because someone was hurt," McCarthy said. "Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game. This is Week 12. The defense went through it at the beginning of the season, and we're going through it now. We'll just try to play to the strengths of who's playing and move on."

. . . . . . .
Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3405.
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