[SAINTS] Taking stock
By Chris Pika, September 20, 2004; 4:03 pm (Updated: 10:45 am), NewOrleansSaints.com
Sep 20, 2004 – 10:45 pm
Saints Coach Jim Haslett addressed the media on Monday afternoon as the Saints begin preparations for this Sunday's game at St. Louis (Noon CT; FOX, WWL 870-AM, WFNO 830-AM [Spanish], Saints Radio Network).
Haslett assessed his team's status after New Orleans defeated San Francisco, 30-27 on Sunday afternoon.
DE Darren Howard and CB Jason Craft may be able to practice and return to the field this week, but the Saints will have to do without RB Deuce McAllister for up to five weeks with a high ankle sprain.
The injury is a sprain of his ligament in the same ankle his hurt two years ago.
"Our doctors said this is a little different; it's got more inflammation in it, it's the second time," Haslett said. "We'll see how it goes, but it's a little worse than it was the first time."
Haslett described how the injury took place.
"Bryant Young made a great play and he just kind of rolled on it (McAllister's ankle)," Haslett said. "It didn't look bad on tape; it's not like his leg was planted in the ground. He got twisted and then the ball came out. It didn't look that bad, but obviously it was; he felt a pop in it also. He thought he broke a bone, but it's the ligament and not the bone. They don't have to do surgery; it's a strained ligament."
Aaron Stecker, who replaced McAllister in the lineup after his injury on the team's first series, also suffered a ankle sprain and a quad contusion and finished the contest.
RB Ki-Jana Carter, who had his contract terminated on Saturday in favor of DT Shaun Smith, will be re-signed by the Saints, according to Haslett, and he will form a tandem with Stecker in the backfield.
"We'll use both of them," he said. "We'll package them kind of like we did our first year when we had Terry Allen and Chad Morton. We'll package them up based on what they do best. I think both of them have good qualities; both of them are good running backs. I think Aaron showed yesterday that he has got pretty good running skills, he's tough. You can see why Ki-Jana Carter was the number one pick in the draft. He's got great vision, he's lost a little bit of speed but he's a good football player."
"We'll use them both on regular downs; again it's based on what we feel they do best," Haslett continued. "K-J takes things downhill, he's pretty solid, he's strong, he doesn't have the speed he used to, but has great vision. Aaron is more of a hop guy, he runs draws, he can get outside, but he'll still run the power and all that."
Haslett was very pleased with the work of QB Aaron Brooks, who took the Saints to their 12th come-from-behind victory since he became a starter in 2000.
"I don't know if its one of the best games he's played here; he's played a lot of good games here," Haslett said. "He ran the two-minute drill with precision, he handled the blitz, he stepped up in the pocket and he ran when he had to. I think Aaron is really just very comfortable with what we're doing and the offense and he's just going out and playing football."
Haslett also said the game tape gave him a good idea of what the team did well and what they will have to work on this week to be ready for the trip to St. Louis.
"The game was kind of frustrating especially when you look at it on film, because the first half was excellent," he said. "The offense did a nice job moving the ball down the field and we scored a lot of points in the first half. The defense played well if you take away four or five plays. That 60-yard run was the combination of the safety and the three techniques not playing very well, the linebacker not going over the top. But then, Tebucky Jones made one of those great plays he's made. We stop them at the five; we played great red zone defense and made them kick a field goal."
According to Haslett, the letdown in the third quarter was due to several factors.
"So the first half we played good ball and also in the fourth quarter," he said. "The third quarter was a combination: we put the ball on the ground too much, we had two bobbled snaps, we had a couple of penalties that put us in first and long. And then we played poor on defense in that one stretch and then Monty (Montgomery) had that blunder on the punt team all in the third quarter. So if you could somehow cut out that third quarter, then we played pretty good football in the other three quarters."
After the Saints took the lead late on Brooks' 16-yard TD pass to WR Donte' Stallworth, the defense was helped by a key pass interference penalty on San Francisco which negated a 37-yard reception down to the one-yard line with 12 seconds left. TE Brian Jennings was flagged as he engaged Saints CB Fred Thomas before QB Ken Dorsey's screen pass to FB Terry Jackson was released.
"Jennings was down blocking before the ball was in the air, and the guy that was supposed to make the play (Thomas) was getting blocked," Haslett said. "So, it was the right call. We had two guys responsible for the play and one of them was getting blocked, so it was the right call."
Haslett said that the missing players made for a sweeter outcome for New Orleans..
"No one mentioned that we won the game without Deuce the whole game, without Brian Young, without Darren Howard and without Jason Craft," he said. "All I hear is they were missing a couple of guys, but we were missing guys too. I thought our offense did a nice job; guys like Aaron stepped up and I think his play can get even better. Donte' had the best game he's had as a pro, Joe (Horn) has been solid and he's on pace to do what he's been doing, Jerome and Ernie (Conwell) played a nice game, and we got to get Boo more involved. I think those guys understand what we need to do."
SAINTS NOTES: The other injuries reported by Haslett were as follows. "(Kendyl) Jacox has a hip flexor, he should be okay. Fred Thomas had a groin pull the whole game, (but) finished the game and fought through it. Mitch Berger has a groin injury and probably punted better than he ever has. Darren Howard will resume practice Wednesday, he'll be in full pads and we'll see how he comes out of practice before we determine whether he will play this week or not. Aaron Stecker had an ankle sprain and he also had a quad contusion and he should be alright. (Deveron) Harper reinjured his hamstring, but he should be okay. Howard Green had an (injured) ankle but was okay. Jay Bellamy had the side of his face go numb, but he should be okay, all the x-rays were negative. Jason Craft worked today; we'll see how he is, whether he can go Wednesday or not. Brian Young did a little bit today and he'll be day-to-day."