Mike McKenzie #34 of the New Orleans Saints breaks up a pass intended for Chris Chambers #84 of the Miami Dolphins on October 30, 2005 at Tiger Stadium on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Dolphins defeated the Saints 21-6. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Inside The Saints
By Site Staff
A bye week gave Saints coach Jim Haslett an opportunity to reflect, as difficult as that may have been, on one of the toughest seasons any sports team could ever imagine.
Haslett knew things were going to be rough when his team, which began training camp with aspirations of reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2000 season, was chased from its home by Hurricane Katrina in late August.
But there's no way he could have imagined what was to come - a 2-7 record, a five-game losing streak for the first time in his career and injuries galore. On top of that were the distractions about where his team would play this year and where it will play in 2006.
"I've never been 2-7 as a coach at any level, and I don't know how to handle it," Haslett said. "If you stay in this league long enough, you'll have a few of them (long losing streaks).
"It's hard on me, it's hard on the players, it's hard on the coaches," he said. "It's hard probably on everybody in this building. It's not fun to go through. With everything going on and besides your record, it's a hard deal."
Still, Haslett hasn't given up on the 2005 season. Before taking a four-day break last weekend to return to his home outside New Orleans, he vowed to do whatever he can to salvage something from this miserable season.
The rest may be just as tough as the first nine weeks, however. The Saints have seven games remaining, starting with a road game Sunday against the two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. But Haslett isn't worried about his team not playing hard.
"The one thing I do like about our football team is they'll come out and practice hard, and they will play hard," he said.
It's difficult to find anything positive in the Saints' 2-7 season, which began with a promising win over the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 11. But that's about all they can savor from a season gone bad.
Losers of five straight for the first time under coach Jim Haslett and the first time since Mike Ditka's final season in 1999, almost everything that could have gone wrong has.
If there's anything the Saints can be pleased about, it's the play of the secondary. Even though they have given up some big plays, they've been much better than in past years despite injuries to cornerback Fakhir Brown and strong safety Jay Bellamy.
Free safety Dwight Smith, who moved to strong safety when Bellamy was lost for the season, and rookie Josh Bullocks, who was inserted into Smith's spot, have proven to be ballhawks and have teamed with cornerbacks Mike McKenzie, Fred Thomas and Brown to hold teams to 167.8 yards passing a game - which ranks fifth in the league.
It's easy to see why the Saints are in the predicament they're in when you look at two key statistical categories: turnovers and penalties.
After nine games, the Saints are at the bottom of the takeaway-giveaway table at minus-13. That number is driven up by a league-high 27 giveways, but more important are the points - 103 - opposing teams have scored off those mistakes. On the other hand, the Saints have scored just 22 points off their 14 takeaways.
The Saints also have committed 82 penalties for an average of 9.1 per game. Only Oakland (10.1), Tampa Bay (9.8), Baltimore (9.6) and Miami (9.6) had averaged more penalties than the Saints going into Week 10. As a result, the Saints are well on their way to breaking the club records (129 penalties, 1,141 yards) they set last season.
Shaky quarterback play, poor offensive line play and a running game that hasn't produced like the Saints thought it would have also contributed heavily to their 2-7 record.
--WR Nate Poole, who was injured in the Saints' last game with the Chicago Bears on Nov. 6, will have surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and a torn patellar tendon in his right knee.
--MLB Courtney Watson will likely miss Sunday's game with the New England Patriots because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee.
--TE Ernie Conwell will probably be sidelined for the Patriots game with a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and could be out for up to three more games.
--TE Shad Meier, who did not play in the game with the Bears because of a hip injury, will likely be questionable for the Patriots' game.
-- WLB T.J. Slaughter has missed the last five games with a pulled abdominal muscle and will be questionable for the Patriots.
--RB Antowain Smith had a sore knee last week, but should be ready for Sunday's game with the Patriots.
--DL Tony Bryant has a knee problem, but is expected to play against the Patriots.