Inside slant: New Orleans Week 8 review

Here's the "Inside Slant," your twice-weekly source for news about the Bucs' NFC South rivals. Today's edition wraps up Week 8's games, including personnel news and exclusive unit grades for the New Orleans Saints, who beat San Francisco. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

Here's the "Inside Slant," your twice-weekly source for news about the Bucs' NFC South rivals. Today's edition wraps up Week 8's games, including personnel news and exclusive unit grades for the New Orleans Saints, who beat San Francisco. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

If Sunday's game with the San Francisco 49ers is any indication -- and coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees certainly hope it is -- the Saints wide receivers might be catching on.

For a group that was plagued by inconsistency and dropped passes earlier this season, the Saints wide receivers made quite a splash in their 31-10 clubbing of the 49ers in Monster Park.

Saints receivers were running free most of the afternoon and Brees made the 49ers pay with his accuracy as he connected on 31 of 39 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. It was easily his finest game of the season, in part because his receivers held on to the ball.

Starting with their first play from scrimmage, a 43-yard throw to David Patten, the Saints put the pressure on the 49ers defense. In the end, the Saints wide receivers had 18 catches for 237 yards and the four touchdowns.

Second-year pro Marques Colston, who had been quiet in their first six games, caught eight passes for 85 yards and a career-best three scores. He had a 17-yarder on the Saints' first possession, a two-yarder and finished the game with a 15-yarder on a spectacular, leaping grab -- making sure to tap his feet down before falling out of the end zone.

Patten also had a big day, catching five passes for 109 yards -- his second 100-yard day in the last three games. All of his damage came in the first half when the Saints built a 24-0 halftime advantage against the 49ers.

But they weren't the only ones. Devery Henderson, who had as many drops (eight) as receptions in the first six games, caught two balls and reserve Terrance Copper got into the act with a two-yard touchdown catch.

Payton wanted to be aggressive against the Niners, but he also wanted to show some confidence in his receiving corps after that shaky start to the season. They led the league in drops after the first four games, but they should get more opportunities if they continue to play like they did on Sunday.

"Overall, it was our most complete game this season," said Brees, who was the triggerman when the Saints led the NFL in passing and total yards a year ago. "I feel like we could have played a little better in the second half, but we were under control a little bit."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Saints got off to an impressive start in their 31-10 beating of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, scoring on their first possession for the first time in seven games this season.

They needed just four plays to go 73 yards, thanks to a 43-yard pass from Drew Brees to David Patten on their first play from scrimmage. Three plays later, the Saints reached the end zone on a 17-yard throw from Brees to Marques Colston.

The score was also the first for the Saints on their opening possession in nine games (counting two playoff games). The last time they did it came on Dec. 31, when they jumped on the Carolina Panthers for a touchdown in the regular-season finale.

--For Sunday's game with the 49ers, the Saints were without the services of one starter but welcomed the return of another after three weeks out of the lineup.

Center Jeff Faine, who had started all 24 regular-season and postseason games since coming to the Saints in the spring of 2006 in a trade with the Cleveland Browns, was inactive because of a strained left pectoral.

Faine was injured in the first half of last week's 22-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons and was ruled out of the 49ers game on Friday. Jonathan Goodwin made his first start as a member of the Saints in Faine's place against the Niners.

On the other side, cornerback Jason David started after missing the last three games with a fractured left forearm. David played with a soft cast and got through the game with no problems.

--Faine's absence in the middle was only the second missed start for a Saints' offensive lineman in Sean Payton's 25-game tenure as head coach -- and the first this season.

When the Saints rolled to the NFC South title last season, the offensive line, which was made up of left tackle Jammal Brown, left guard Jamar Nesbit, Faine, right guard Jahri Evans and right tackle Jon Stinchcomb, started 15 of 16 games in the regular season and both playoff contests. The only player to miss a start was Brown, who was sidelined by a sprained ankle for a game against the Tampa Bay Bucs.

--Because the Saints were down a lineman, rookie guard Andy Alleman was active for the first time this season. Alleman and tackle Zach Strief were the only backup linemen dressed for the game.

--The Saints' 91-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter was their longest this season, besting the 86-yard TD march they put together at Seattle two weeks earlier.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB Reggie Bush left Sunday's game late in the third quarter with a bruised rib, but is expected to be OK for this week's matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

--LDE Charles Grant sprained his right ankle early in the game at San Francisco, but returned late in the first half.

--WLB Scott Shanle strained a hamstring in the second half Sunday and should know more when the Saints return to practice Wednesday.

--C Jeff Faine was inactive Sunday against the 49ers because of a strained left pectoral muscle. He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

--RCB Jason David played for the first time since having surgery to repair a fractured left forearm. He played with a soft cast and got through the game in good shape.

REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS

PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus -- It couldn't have been much better for the Saints, who are hitting their stride after struggling early in the season. Drew Brees was near perfect in going 31 of 39 for 336 yards and four TD passes with a long of 43 yards. He didn't throw an interception, was not sacked and had a passer rating of 136.8. Brees recorded season highs in completions, yards, TDs, passer rating and completion percentage (79.5) in distributing the ball to nine different receivers. Marques Colston caught eight balls for 85 yards and TDs of 17, 3 and 15 yards, while David Patten had five receptions for 109 yards -- all in the first half when the Saints bolted to a 24-0 lead.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Again, the Saints weren't great but they ran the ball effectively at times. Against the 49ers, they rushed for 102 yards and a 3.8 average on 27 carries. Reggie Bush had 64 yards on 10 attempts with a long of 20 yards. Aaron Stecker added 35 yards on 12 carries, with most of them coming after Bush left the game with a bruised rib late in the third quarter. Undrafted rookie Pierre Thomas also continued to do a good job even though he had only nine yards on three carries.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Saints probably had their best day of the season even though 49ers quarterback Alex Smith completed 22 of 43 passes for 190 yards with one TD. But 85 of those passing yards came on their only touchdown drive of the day after the Saints extended their lead to 31-3 midway through the fourth quarter. The Saints harassed Smith, who was coming off a separated shoulder, all day and sacked him twice. The 49ers' two longest pass plays of the game netted 20 and 19 yards as the Saints were willing to give up the short stuff while Smith struggled.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The 49ers never could get their running game going with a hobbled Frank Gore getting swallowed up every time he touched the ball. The Niners were limited to 83 yards on 21 carries, marking the sixth straight game the Saints had held an opponent to under 100 yards. Gore managed 41 yards on 12 attempts with a long of nine yards. The Saints also ended a 49ers' scoring threat on their second possession when free safety Josh Bullocks knocked the ball loose from Maurice Hicks and linebacker Scott Fujita plucked the fumble out of the air.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- This was a wash for the Saints as they didn't cover kicks well and didn't have a great day in the return game. Former teammate Michael Lewis returned one punt for 23 yards and the 49ers also averaged 23.0 yards on three kickoff returns. For the Saints, Lance Moore averaged 6.3 yards on four punt returns and Pierre Thomas returned one kickoff for 19 yards. Steve Weatherford averaged 39.8 yards on four punts and had a net of 34.0 although he did drop two punts inside the 20. Olindo Mare kicked a field goal for the first time in three games, making a 26-yarder in the first quarter.

COACHING: A -- Sean Payton came out wanting to throw the ball, making it a point to challenge the 49ers on their first play. Brees' 43-yard pass to Patten not only set up the first touchdown three plays later, but it also set the tone for the game. Payton also showed the razzle-dazzle play-calling that he displayed at times last season, calling for a double reverse and a flea-flicker on back-to back plays in the second quarter. The reverse failed, but the flea-flicker drew a pass-interference penalty two yards from the goal line and the Saints ended up scoring a touchdown.


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