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saint5221 11-30-2003 09:33 AM

Haslett Rips into team for shoddy play

Its about time someone on the staff got pissed about all the sloppy play.

Saints seek to cut back on errors vs. 'Skins

Sunday November 30, 2003
By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Saints have met the enemy, and it wears a black and gold fleur de lis on its helmet.

If they fail to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season, the Saints know they have only themselves to blame. That is the grim reality as they stand at a disappointing 5-6 entering today's 3:05 p.m. game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

A long list of transgressions, from dropped passes to penalties to turnovers, has left them needing help as the playoff race tightens.

"I do not think that we are playing to our capabilities," said running back Deuce McAllister, who will try to become the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards or more in nine consecutive games. "I know that we are a better team than our record shows."

The Saints have been a mistake-prone team throughout the Jim Haslett era. But in the past they usually have been talented enough to overcome it. This year, the self-inflicted wounds have been too critical.

They have lost an NFL-high 15 fumbles. They have dropped an untold number of passes. Coaches won't reveal the actual total but it likely ranks among the league leaders. Forty-two of their 78 penalties have occurred before the snap -- false starts, illegal motion, delay of game and defensive encroachment. Those are the kind that drive Haslett mad.

The spree of mistakes and turnovers led to an unexpected turnover Monday, one day after an ugly 33-20 loss at Philadelphia. Haslett erupted during a team meeting, ripping into the squad for its lackadaisical attitude and shoddy performance. At one point, Haslett tossed the speaker's podium on the stage, nearly causing harm to No. 3 quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan.

"I couldn't take it any more," Haslett said.

Does he think he reached the team?

"I don't know," Haslett said. "We will find out (Sunday)."

Several players this week said they welcomed the outburst and hoped it would kick-start the team to a strong finish.

"We've got to continue to be accountable for our own actions," said Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, who leads the team with seven lost fumbles. "I have to show more discipline. Coach has always instilled that in us. It's basic fundamentals of football. We've just got to learn from it."

At 5-6, the Saints have no room for error. They probably have to win their remaining five games to gain a playoff berth.

"If we lose one more, they are going to kick us out," cornerback Fred Thomas said.

Added defensive end Darren Howard: "It's game by game. You can't think about the whole table. You've just got to eat what's in front of you right now and try to take care of the game that is coming up. If you start thinking about five or six games, then the load becomes too heavy."

The Saints received some help Thursday when playoff contenders Green Bay (6-6) and Dallas (8-4) were upended. Nonetheless, seven teams still have better records than the Saints, including three teams that own tie-breaker advantages in head-to-head competition: Carolina, Seattle and Philadelphia.

"We're still in a good position," Brooks said. "There's a lot of teams that are going to be fighting for that one spot come playoff time. We're still in it. Were still battling with Tampa, San Francisco, Green Bay. There are plenty of teams that are in the same predicament we are in. This just makes it less room for error."

In Washington, the Saints might have met the perfect opponent. They have committed 90 penalties, second most in the NFC, and rank among the league's bottom-feeders in third-down conversion rate (34 percent) and red-zone defense (23 touchdowns in 35 trips).

After a 3-1 start, the Redskins have lost six of their past seven games, including a bitter 24-23 defeat at Miami last Sunday night when they lost a 23-10 lead in the third quarter.

The loss was the Redskins' fourth by three points or fewer this season.

"I saw Coach Haslett say something in the paper that games are won and lost by discipline and attention to detail," Spurrier said. "He's exactly right. We just have enough undisciplined play here or there to make us a loser, and that's where we've been for the last couple of games anyway."

The Redskins are expected to start journeyman Tim Hasselbeck at quarterback because regular starter Patrick Ramsey is out with a foot injury. Hasselbeck had attempted only three career passes before completing 15 of 30 passes for 150 yards against Miami last week.

"I'm really proud of Tim," Spurrier said. "Patrick's our starting quarterback as long as he's healthy. But if he's hurting a bit, we have a lot of confidence in Tim."

. . . . . . .
Jeff Duncan can be reached at or (504) 826-3405.

[Edited on 11/30/2003 by saint5221]

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