Inside slant: New Orleans Week 10 review

Here's the "Inside Slant," your twice-weekly source for news about the Bucs' NFC South rivals. Today's edition wraps up Week 10's games, including personnel news and exclusive unit grades for the New Orleans Saints, who lost to St. Louis. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

While the Saints had to live through their first loss in five games on Sunday, a growing injury list was a bigger concern Monday in the wake of a 37-29 setback against the St. Louis Rams.

The Saints were already without running back Deuce McAllister and three defensive starters -- defensive end Charles Grant (ankle), defensive tackle Brian Young (knee) and weak-side linebacker Scott Shanle (hamstring) -- when they took on the Rams.

Sunday's game took an even greater toll when All-Pro left tackle Jammal Brown and running back Reggie Bush went out with injuries. While coach Sean Payton expects both to be back for Sunday's game with the Houston Texans, they had scary injuries.

Bush was woozy from a helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter, but returned late in the game. Brown left late in the first period with an injury to his lower left leg. He was blocking for quarterback Drew Brees when Brees fell on the back of Brown's leg while being sacked.

Initially, Brown appeared to be more severely injured than Bush considering he was bent backward while engaging a blocker. Bush was down for several minutes after taking a shot to the head during a running play. He got up and jogged to the sidelines, then sat out the rest of that series before returning later in the contest.

"You get dinged like that and our trainers and doctors are very sensitive to that type of injury," Payton said Monday. "He felt better after about a series, so we were fortunate there.

"It's something we pay close attention to and the league has in the last year-and-a-half or so spent a lot more time defining the protocol, so we're on top of it," Payton said. "Fortunately it wasn't a more serious concussion or something that would have kept him out for a long period of time."

Brown's injury was described as a muscle strain in his lower left leg. He wore a protective boot in the locker room after the game and was limping around the locker room at the team's practice facility on Monday without crutches.

"All the news was good," Payton said of Brown's tests. "I think he'll be ready to go."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Saints did not issue an official injury report when running back Reggie Bush left Sunday's game with the St. Louis Rams after taking a shot to the head in the fourth quarter.

Bush returned to the game after sitting out the rest of that series, however, but did not speak with reporters after the game because he wasn't feeling well. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Bush's stepfather, LaMar Griffin, said Bush suffered a mild concussion and was a "little woozy" after the game.

Bush was hurt when he was sandwiched on a tackle by linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and cornerback Fakhir Brown. He lay on the ground for a while before running from the field under his own power.

"You can kind of tell when a guy is (knocked) out," Witherspoon said. "His eyes kind of rolled back in his head. He was kind of rigid and frozen in position. I didn't see how it happened, but I heard it happen."

--The Saints' streak of holding opposing teams to under 100 yards rushing ended at seven, which had tied the team record set in 1991, when the Rams picked up 133 yards on 34 carries in their 37-29 win.

Steven Jackson, who scored the Rams' first touchdown on a one-yard run in the opening quarter, gained 76 yards on 22 attempts, while rookie Antonio Pittman added 53 yards on seven carries. Pittman had a 43-yard run late in the third quarter to the Saints' 1 to set up the Rams' final touchdown.

Pittman was a fourth-round draft pick of the Saints this spring, but was cut before the season opener because he was outplayed in training camp and the exhibition season by undrafted rookie Pierre Thomas.

--Several Saints starters who sat out the game against the Rams could return Sunday against the Houston Texans.

Defensive end Charles Grant missed the first game of his career with a sprained left ankle, while linebacker Scott Shanle was sidelined with a sore hamstring. Grant had played in 88 consecutive regular-season games since being a first-round draft pick in 2002.

"We'll see where Charles Grant is at. I am hopeful that he will be ready, as well as

Defensive tackle Brian Young sat out the game following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week. Payton said after the surgery Young's recovery could take longer and would be "week-to-week."

--Because Grant and Young weren't available for the game with the Rams, the Saints made a roster move to add some depth to the defensive line.

They signed defensive tackle McKinley Boykin, a first-year player who's been on their practice squad all season, and waived tight end John Owens.

Boykin was worked into the defensive line rotation in the first quarter and got several snaps in spelling starters Hollis Thomas and Antwan Lake, who started in place of Young.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--LT Jammal Brown is expected to be ready for this week after suffering a muscle strain in his lower left leg in the first quarter of Sunday's game with the St. Louis Rams.

--RB Reggie Bush left the game with the Rams and was woozy after taking a shot to the head in the fourth quarter. Bush returned to the game, however, and should play Sunday against the Houston Texans.

--LDE Charles Grant did not play against the Rams because of a sprained right ankle, but he could be back for Sunday's matchup with the Texans.

--WLB Scott Shanle could return against the Texans after missing two games in a row with a strained left hamstring.

--CB Usama Young missed the game with the Rams because of a hamstring injury, but the Saints hope to have him back for Sunday's game.

--DT Brian Young will likely miss his third game against the Texans after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last Wednesday. He is listed as week-to-week.

--C Jeff Faine returned to the starting lineup against the Rams after missing the last 2 1/2 games with a strained left pectoral muscle.

--DT McKinley Boykin was promoted from the practice squad Saturday and played against the Rams because of the injury to Brian Young.

--TE John Owens was cut to make room on the 53-man roster for Boykin.

REPORT CARD VS. RAMS

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- After four better-than-average games, the Saints took a step back Sunday. While Drew Brees completed 25 of 36 passes for 272 yards and three TDs, most of that came in the fourth period when the Rams held a commanding 34-7 lead. The Saints did not handle the Rams' defensive pressure well and the result was two interceptions, a sack and a number of quarterback hurries. Brees was nine of 14 for 68 yards in the first three quarters with a passer rating of 36.3. Marques Colston caught eight passes for 129 yards with a long of 36, but had just two receptions for 12 yards going into the fourth quarter.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Because they had the ball for just more than 20 minutes and 48 plays, the Saints didn't have much of a chance to run the ball against the Rams. They finished with just 43 yards on 11 carries with Aaron Stecker leading the way with 26 yards and a TD on three attempts. Reggie Bush added 17 yards on seven carries and also scored a touchdown. The Saints, however, managed just 3.9 yards a carry.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- This was nothing to write home about as the Rams had receivers running free all day long. Marc Bulger found his comfort zone early, and even though he was sacked four times, he burned the Saints by hitting on 27 of 33 passes for 302 yards and a pair of TDs. He had a long completion of 40 yards and posted a passer rating of 125.0. Running back Steven Jackson also threw a two-yard TD pass to tight end Randy McMichael. Torry Holt caught eight passes for 124 yards with receptions of 40, 31 and 21 yards -- all over cornerback Jason David. Isaac Bruce added 62 yards and a TD on four catches.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Saints weren't terrible even though they gave up more than 100 yards to an opposing team for the first time in their last eight games. The Rams finished with 133 yards and a 3.9 average on 34 carries, although the average was skewed by a 43-yard dash by Antonio Pittman. Jackson averaged just 3.5 yards a carry in rushing for 76 yards on 22 attempts. He had a one-yard touchdown on the Rams' second possession of the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The Saints averaged 8.0 yards on punts and 29.1 yards on eight kickoff returns with rookie Pierre Thomas posting a career-high 64-yard gain in the first quarter. The coverage units were better as the Rams returned two kickoffs for a 22.5 average and had to fair catch two of Steve Weatherford's three punts. Weatherford averaged 43.0 gross yards with a net of 36.4.

COACHING: C -- Sean Payton gets a little credit for trying to tell everyone the Rams weren't really an 0-8 team heading into Sunday's game. He was correct as the Rams looked more like an 8-0 team in demolishing the Saints and ending their four-game winning streak. After the game, Payton pointed a finger at himself for struggling with his play-calling and not being able to snap his offense out of a funk when the Rams were taking control of the game in the second quarter.


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