News and Notes 12/20

News and Notes stemming from the Panthers and Saints matchup.

--They didn't exactly draw it up in the dirt with a stick, but Steve Smith's 20-yard touchdown run on a reverse Sunday against New Orleans was the result of some drastic last-minute changes.

About two hours before the start of the game, offensive coordinator Dan Henning decided if the Panthers were to use the play in the game he wanted Smith to run it, not Keary Colbert.

The problem is the Panthers hadn't practiced it that way all week.

"It was actually one of those adjustments we made right before the game," Smith said. "(The coaches) came in and said they were going to switch it up. I think it actually was a run play. And they said we were going to adjust it. It was a totally different formation; we just switched it up and they gave me the ball. We made the adjustments in warm-ups."

Smith said last-minute changes to Carolina's game plan are extremely unusual.

"But it worked out great," he said. "I got some great blocking from the offensive line."

Said quarterback Jake Delhomme: "It's just when you don't rep it during the week you aren't sure. We want to make sure it's done right so when you get in the game you feel good about it."

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--Safety Mike Minter quietly predicted to beat reporters last week in the locker room that he would get his first interception against the Saints, and he did.

It was Minter's first since 2003.

"I didn't have none last year because of my hands," Minter said. "I dropped six or seven last year and said I have to work on the hands. This year I haven't had any opportunities - the other team has been smart. So I got an opportunity today and took advantage of it."

Cornerback Ken Lucas, who was eavesdropping on Minter's conversation with reporters, repeated over and over again in the background, "His hands are terrible! His hands are terrible!"

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--Field conditions at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge on Sunday bordered on unsafe.

"The field was awful," fullback Brad Hoover said. "I mean, it was awful. The footing was terrible from the first kickoff until the very end. But they had to play on the same field. We just had to go out there and do what we had to do to win."

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--Coach John Fox did not have a weekly press conference on Monday because of the short week coming up.

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--KR Rod "He Hate Me" Smart was benched on Sunday in favor of Jamal Robertson. Smart came into the game averaging just 21.2 yards per kickoff return, which ranks 31st in the league. Smart was inactive on Sunday. "We just felt like we wanted to look at somebody different on kickoff returns, and I thought Jamal did a good job in that area," coach John Fox said. "But again, each one of these (games) takes on its own personality, so nothing is etched in stone. But I thought Jamal did a good job."

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--KR Jamal Robertson averaged just 22 yards per return in place of Rod Smart.

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--PK John Kasay's bad luck continued on Sunday when he hit the crossbar on a 50-yard field goal attempt. Kasay has now missed eight of his last 10 field goal attempts from beyond 40 yards.

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--DE Mike Rucker recovered a fumble for Panthers on Sunday.

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--CB Ken Lucas continued his outstanding play on Sunday, shutting down Joe Horn and making a perfect defensive play in one-on-one coverage near the end zone, picking off a Todd Bouman pass.

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--FB Brad Hoover injured his calf on Sunday, but returned to the field.

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Saints quarterback Todd Bouman got his first start since 2001 on Sunday because Aaron Brooks was struggling through his worst season as a pro.

But Bouman didn't do anything to make the Saints feel any better about their disappointing season with five turnovers in a tough outing against the NFC South-leading Carolina Panthers.

Bouman performed poorly in the exhibition season and his troubles continued Sunday when he replaced Brooks, who made 82 straight starts for the Saints. Two of Bouman's giveaways were turned into 10 points, and another Carolina field goal came off a fumbled punt by Az-Zahir Hakim in the Panthers' 27-10 win over the Saints (3-11).

After completing his first six passes and taking the Saints to a touchdown on their second series, Bouman became a turnover machine. Five of the next eight series ended with Bouman mistakes - four interceptions and a fumble.

"I made some good plays and I made some bad plays," said Bouman, who had a passer rating of 37.6 in hitting 17 of 34 passes for 193 yards with one touchdown. "We had some opportunities and I missed a couple of receivers. That's just part of the game."

Two of Bouman's interceptions were not bad plays. Defensive end Al Wallace grabbed a deflected Bouman pass as he lay on the ground. Bouman also had a Hail Mary pass picked off by Chris Gamble on the last play of the first half.

However, the other two interceptions came deep in Carolina territory. Panthers free safety Mike Minter ended one threat when he stepped in front of Donte Stallworth, and Ken Lucas picked off another pass for Stallworth in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

"Besides the two interceptions, I thought he did OK," Haslett said of Bouman. "Besides that, I thought he did a lot of good things. I thought he was poised around the offense. They protected for him really well.

"I thought Todd was cool throughout the game," he said. "He was into the game and only made the two bad decisions. And he came over and admitted it."

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--The Saints committed six turnovers in their 27-10 loss to the Panthers, which tied their season-high, set in a 27-10 setback to the New York Giants in Week 2.

The six turnovers pushed the Saints' season total to 39 in 14 games - already 13 more than they had all last season. It's also the most they've had since Jim Haslett took over in 2000 (they had 35 in 2001).

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--A 44-yard field goal by Saints kicker John Carney in the fourth quarter was the 384th three-pointer of his career, moving him past Nick Lowery into third place on the NFL's all-time list.

Carney, a 16-year veteran, now trails only Gary Anderson (538) and former Saints kicker Morten Andersen (520).

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--The Saints' Mitch Berger, probably is the team's lone candidate to make the Pro Bowl, unleashed a 69-yard punt in the third quarter of their loss to the Panthers.

The kick was the longest this season for Berger. He had a 65-yard effort in the Saints' loss to the Atlanta Falcons last Monday night.

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--Saints free safety Steve Gleason and his "One Sweet World Foundation" began distributing 7,000 backpacks Monday to help New Orleans public school students prepare for the new semester in January.

The program, named "Backpacks for Hope," began with a distribution at Ben Franklin Elementary School - the first New Orleans public school to re-open after Hurricane Katrina.

The backpacks are filled with school supplies and books collected with the help of Gleason's mother, Gail, at Washington State football games earlier this fall. Gleason played at Washington State.

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--Kevin Mangum, a member of the Saints' training staff for the past 25 years, worked his 500th game for the organization on Sunday.

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--RG Jermane Mayberry left late in Sunday's loss to the Carolina Panthers with an elbow injury. An MRI was negative, but he'll likely miss a couple days of practice this week.

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--WR Joe Horn re-injured the left hamstring that caused him to miss three games and most of another earlier this season, but he should be ready for Saturday's game with the Detroit Lions.

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--LG Kendyl Jacox missed Sunday's game against the Panthers because of a knee problem, but should return to practice this week.

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--LG Montrae Holland moved over from his starting spot at right guard to replace Kendyl Jacox against the Panthers.

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--LT Wayne Gandy has a left calf contusion and will be limited in practice this week.

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--SLB Sedrick Hodge missed the game with the Panthers, but may return to practice Wednesday on a limited basis.

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--SLB T.J. Slaughter made his first start for the Saints when he replaced injured Sedrick Hodge in the lineup against the Panthers.

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--FS Josh Bullocks has a shoulder injury, but should be ready for Saturday's game with the Lions.

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--WR Az-Zahir Hakim has a hip problem and a hyperextended right knee and will be limited this week in practice.

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--C LeCharles Bentley has an elbow problem and is expected to be limited in practice, but should play against the Lions.

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--RDE Darren Howard was inactive for Sunday's game because of a sore right knee. He is not expected to play in the final two games.

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--TE Shad Meier was inactive for the last week's game with the Panthers because of a knee problem and will be questionable once again for Saturday.

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