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NFC South: Saints becoming kings of the comeback

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; NFC South: Saints becoming kings of the comeback By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor (Sports Network) - At some point in time, luck turns into skill. By most accounts, the New Orleans Saints should not be off to the best ...

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Old 11-10-2009, 10:55 PM   #1
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NFC South: Saints becoming kings of the comeback

NFC South: Saints becoming kings of the comeback
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - At some point in time, luck turns into skill.

By most accounts, the New Orleans Saints should not be off to the best start in club history; 8-0 should be 7-1, maybe even 6-2.

Yet, here New Orleans stands as one of two undefeated teams left in the NFL, along with the Indianapolis Colts. And with games versus the Rams and Buccaneers on the horizon, it is now realistic to get excited about the Saints' meeting with the Patriots on November 30, when New Orleans could be 10-0 and getting ready to face a New England club that finished the 2007 regular season 16-0.

After blowing out their first five opponents, the Saints have not made it look easy as of late. They have had to rally for their last three wins, capturing victory after victory on even their worst days.

New Orleans trailed by 14 points at the end of the first quarter Sunday versus Carolina. The Saints won, 30-20.

On October 25, New Orleans was down 24-3 to the Miami Dolphins before rallying for a wild 46-34 victory. The following week, a 14-7 deficit to the Atlanta Falcons morphed into a 35-27 triumph.

"The more you win games like this, the more confidence you gain," said quarterback Drew Brees after Sunday's victory. "You just feel like you're going to come back and you're going to do it."

Brees has been playing with fire as of late, but not getting burned. After turning the ball over four times in New Orleans' first five games, the Pro Bowl quarterback has thrown five interceptions and lost three fumbles in the last three weeks.

Brees has his defense to thank for coming to his rescue. A unit that has scored seven touchdowns this year has had its offense's back. Just over two and a half minutes after John Carney kicked a go-ahead field goal for the Saints on Sunday, defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove recovered a fumble on the doorstep of Carolina's end zone for a one-yard touchdown return and a 10-point victory.

"The game is 60 minutes," said Hargrove. "That's why the game is four quarters. No matter what the score is at halftime, we have to fight to the end. We try to play hard. That was the difference in the game."

One has to wonder when the Saints are going to put themselves into a hole they can't get out of, but few deficits are hard to overcome when you lead the league in scoring. New Orleans hasn't seen an insurmountable one yet, and that is why it is 8-0 for the first time.

"It's great," Brees said of the start, "1967 (the franchise's first year) until now, and we're the only team to have done that. I feel like we have a special group of guys. We feel like we have what it takes to continue to win, as long as we take care of the little things, continue to get better. In these last three games, we've come out in the fourth quarter and taken the game over."

FALCONS: Every team usually has a player that it can feed off of for energy. Brian Dawkins used to do it in Philadelphia, Ray Lewis still does it in Baltimore.

Not very often is that source of energy the head coach. However, that is how the Falcons feel about Mike Smith.

"He's always like that," said center Todd McClure of his coach. "I love playing for him. I think everybody in this locker room does. He�s always got your back. He is always looking out for his guys."

Smith's emotion was on full display in Sunday's 31-17 victory over the Washington Redskins. After his quarterback Matt Ryan took a late hit from Redskins safety LaRon Landry. Smith became visibly upset at the play, which also drew the attention of former Falcon and current Redskin corner DeAngelo Hall.

Smith and Hall appeared to exchange words on the sideline while, according to Hall, other Falcon coaches starting grabbing the defensive back.

"I ran over there to help my guy, and next thing I know, one of their strength and conditioning coaches started grabbing at me, putting his hands on me," said Hall after the game. "Then other guys put their hands on me. The whole time I'm trying to get them off me."

It wasn't shocking that Hall was involved, given that he was unhappy about how his tenure with the Falcons, which ran from 2004-07, ended.

"I was on the other side of the field, so I saw the commotion, and I had a feeling that [Hall] might have had something to do with it," said wide receiver Roddy White, a former teammate of Hall's in Atlanta.

Smith didn't offer too much information of the melee after the game.

"There were a bunch of guys on that sideline. Some of them were wearing black helmets and some of them were wearing maroon helmets," said the coach. "I can't tell you anything more about it. It was very, very hectic on that sideline. There were a lot of things going on, and my main goal was for the safety of our football team and restoring order."

While the league will likely look into the incident, the main thing the Falcons can take out of it is that they have a coach that has their back. Smith's inspired defense notched a club record-tying five first-half sacks en route to a 24-3 halftime lead, while running back Michael Turner notched a season-high 166 yards running, including touchdown runs of 30 and 58 yards.

Atlanta needs all the help it can get if it hopes to stay in contention for the NFC South title. At 5-3, the Falcons are three games back of the 8-0 Saints for the top spot and visit the 3-5 Carolina Panthers this weekend.

PANTHERS: The Carolina Panthers gave it their all in a game versus the New Orleans Saints this past weekend that nobody expected them to win. That loss, though, wasn't the only thing that hurt the club's longshot chances at a playoff spot.

Linebacker Thomas Davis suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee, the latest injury blow to a Panthers squad that can ill afford to lose any more players.

Davis, who had 61 tackles, two interceptions and a safety in seven games, suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 30-20 setback during a Saints' pass play. It is the same knee in which the 26-year-old suffered a sprained MCL during in training camp, but that injury did not cause him to miss the start of the season.

"He's played very well," head coach John Fox said on Monday of Davis. "I feel bad for the young man because he's put a lot into it. He was playing at a high level."

Because of new contracts handed out this year to quarterback Jake Delhomme and offensive lineman Jordan Gross, and a franchise tender signed by defensive end Julius Peppers, the Panthers entered 2009 with thin depth at a few positions. The club has already placed defensive tackles Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Corvey Irvin on injured reserve along with quarterback Josh McCown, while safety Charles Godfrey, fullback Brad Hoover, wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad and tight end Dante Rosario are all currently dealing with injuries.

Davis' might be the biggest blow, though, as he has developed into one of the top outside linebackers in football. Landon Johnson replaced him in the Saints game and also did so versus Buffalo in Week 7, when Davis missed that game because of a hamstring ailment.

"I'm concerned when anybody gets hurt," said Fox. "We've got a long list. We've got other guys that hopefully are a week closer to being able to play."

This is the last thing the Panthers needed after finally showing signs of turning their season around. After starting the season 0-3, Carolina had won three of four prior to the loss.

Carolina jumped out to a 14-0 lead versus unbeaten New Orleans, but saw the Saints slowly creep back and eventually move ahead when kicker John Carney booted a 40-yard field goal with 4:36 to play.

The final blow came when running back DeAngelo Williams fumbled at his own one-yard line, a gift the Saints took to the end zone for the 10-point victory.

"We've got half the season left, half the race left," said Fox. "We'll define where the body of work is after 16 [games]. Nobody comes and rescues you. We've got to man up and get better."

Carolina will look to do so this weekend, when the team hosts Atlanta before getting a visit from Miami just four days later in a Thursday night clash.

BUCCANEERS: For the first time this season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got back to work on Monday following a victory.

That last team in the NFL to earn a win in 2009, the Buccaneers got head coach Raheem Morris that elusive first one on Sunday, a 38-28 come-from-behind triumph over the Green Bay Packers.

Tampa Bay has to be pleased with how this first victory came about, with 2009 first-round pick Josh Freeman rallying his club in his first career start. Although they put him on the field earlier than anticipated, Freeman showed he was up to the task.

"It was what we thought," said Morris of Freeman's outing. "It was why we brought him in here, why we brought him in to lead this franchise. I am sure you guys [the media] can feel how poised he was out there, never really rattled."

Freeman threw three touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter. His second came early in the final period to get the Bucs within five points, while the go-ahead score was a nicely-placed seven-yard pass to wide receiver Sammie Stroughter on fourth down with just over four minutes left to go.

With a 0-7 mark heading into the game, Morris didn't think twice about going for it on fourth down.

"It was a no brainer for me," he said. "We were out there playing to win."

Although it might be too late for the Buccaneers to save their 2009 season, the experience Freeman will get this year should pay off next year. And hey, maybe the Kansas State product can spark some excitement along the way.

Freeman, who at 21 years and 299 days old became the youngest player to start and win a game in club history, threw for 205 yards on 14-of-31 passing with an interception. He also helped the Bucs snap an 11-game losing dating back to last year. That was the longest in franchise history since it opened NFL play by losing its first 26 games from 1976-77.

Coincidentally, the 2009 Tampa Bay squad did so wearing the same creamsicle Orange uniforms that it donned during the epic slide.

"We have all been putting in a lot of work and really haven't been seeing a lot of results," said Freeman, the 17th overall pick of the past draft. "It was just a big load off a lot of people�s shoulders with the win."

Tampa Bay gets a shot at win No. 2 this Sunday at 3-5 Miami.

The Sports Network - National Football League


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Old 11-10-2009, 11:13 PM   #2
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Re: NFC South: Saints becoming kings of the comeback

OMG The panthers are on a roll.
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